It all started innocently enough – my vacation was over and I wanted something entertaining to read as my brain shifted back to work mode. The new Radclyffe was out, so I figured that would be the thing to read in the evenings while I sat on the patio, waiting for the humidity to break (that’s where the hot and sticky comes in – honestly, get your minds out of the gutter). Perfect. Until I reached Chapter 2. The damned book features Cam and Blair from the Honor series – at their wedding. I’d read the first Honor book (Above All Honor) years ago and never followed up with the others. Being the obsessive reader that I am, I couldn’t just continue reading Oath and hope that I could figure out whatever happened with the Secret Service Agent and the President’s daughter (other than that they had lots of hot monkey sex and lived happily ever after … with enough angst and conspiracies to fill seven freaking books). No – I had to go and read the whole damned series… in order … plus re-read Tomorrow’s Promise because characters from that one popped up in the Honor series as well. So my fluffy evening’s reading turned into a marathon Radclyffe session, spanning nine smoldering romances over seven days (I read fast). And, yes, the humidity did finally break.
There’s something about Radclyffe – I may bitch and moan about her books; but, I’ve read just about every one of them. I consider her stuff to be a comfort read. I know what I’m going to get – strong female protagonists with tortured pasts, a good dose of angst, smoldering build-up to romance and a pretty fast-paced plot. Plot gaps, a bit of cheese and some pretty big suspension of disbelief seem to take a backseat to the enjoyment I get from reading them. I have been a bit disappointed by some of her more recent publications, but there are enough books in her back catalogue that still are a welcome re-read.
Honor Series by Radclyffe
(Above All Honor, Honor Bound, Love and Honour, Honor Guards, Honor Reclaimed, Honor Under Siege, Word of Honor)
Note: I think the first two or three books were the original online versions I had on my e-reader, so I’m not sure how much change there was between them and the published versions. For that reason I’ll leave the comments around typos and overwrought dialogue out.
The Honor series revolves around Cameron Roberts, brooding but honorable Secret Service Agent, and Blair Powell, willful and wild President’s daughter. Do I need to mention that they are both smoking hot? Probably not – this is Radclyffe. Cam is assigned to head up the secret service agents who protect the First Daughter, Blair Powell. Blair has been raised in politics as her father rose from Governor to President and chafes at the intrusion into her privacy and the constant public scrutiny. She regularly ditches her protective detail and pretty much is a spoiled little brat free-spirited artist who yearns to live her life on her own terms.
Cam is the first Security Commander who doesn’t fall for Blair’s shenanigans and her whole focus is on ensuring Blair’s safety, whether Blair understands the risks her actions put both herself and her agents in or not. Of course there’s a strong attraction underpinning their antagonistic relationship that neither one is willing to acknowledge. Enter a stalker, and things start to heat up. The first two books focus on Blair and Cam and as the series progresses, new pairings are introduced so that everyone gets hooked up with someone – all have the patented smoking hot looks with either dark pasts or angst-ridden presents. Blair and Cam remain the focal point though – and despite some arguments, their relationship remains strong. The stalker plot evolves into a greater conspiracy involving domestic terrorism intent on toppling the current President through harming his daughter. Cam and her troop of Secret Service, FBI and CIA lesbian agents manage to thwart the plots, but the villain always seem to get away or lead to bigger and badder villains who will just try again. This is a pretty good plot device; because, if Powell is elected to a second term, we’ll have four more years of danger and intrigue and god only knows how many more lesbians we can find in Washington during that time. Rad does take a bit of a risk in the series and includes the events of 9/11 into her overall plot – linking it with her big bads. It works, but I’m not sure how well received it was when she wrote it.
I didn’t really like Above All Honor the first time I read it (years ago). The cliff-hanger ending and Blair irked me. Re-reading it as part of the whole series, it grew on me and I found myself pounding through the pages to find out what would happen next – and starting the next book as soon as I finished the first, second, third, etc. I have no idea how accurate any of the stuff Rad put into the books around security may have been, but she gave me enough that sounded credible so I was willing to completely suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the ride. Her actions series are fast-paced (Justice is another one that goes like gangbusters) and she writes in such a way that the reader doesn’t really get a chance to catch her breath and think about the story line – instead the reader is dragged along, desperately turning the pages to keep up. Cam and Blair’s romance simmers quite nicely until it hits full boil and acts as a great counterpart to the outside dangers that are simultaneously pushing them together and pulling them apart. As the series progresses, their romance continues, but it is now a sure thing (of course) and new characters are introduced to start-up new slow burn romances with familiar secondary characters.
I have a few issues with Rad’s series, and they all pop up in this one as well. The books follow one upon the other, almost to the second – so even though it’s been about eight years for the series to develop, it has been less than a year on the page. If I hadn’t been reading the books back-to-back, I would have thrown a few of them across the room in frustration because they ended in obvious cliff-hangers. That is one of the benefits of binge reading. I like the idea of having new pairings in the books, but as the series progresses, every other pairing has to make an appearance and prove that their own romance is still going strong by having breathless declarations of love and sex every other chapter. I can’t believe I’m going to say this … but it gets in the way of the story. If all the paired characters weren’t having sex on the page, seven books could have been condensed into three or four. It slows the overarching plot. Yes, I read them for the plot.
The stories are formulaic – no doubt about it. But it is a formula that works well. I’m not sure if I’ll go back and re-read the series, but I am glad that I read it (as it adds more checkmarks to my Goodreads list) and it definitely provided a respite from the bland and boring technical documents I was reading during the day.
Tomorrow’s Promise by Radclyffe
I read the online version (I’ve had this on my e-reader for a *very* long time) and I’m not sure how it compares with the published version in regards to changes to plot, writing, dialogue, etc. I would be interested to know if there was any marked change between the two, but the overall story didn’t grab me enough to go back to Amazon to order a copy.
On extended medical leave from the Navy, Adrienne Pierce rents a house on Whitley Island to get away from the turmoil of the last year and to figure out what she is going to do with her future. She has a few encounters with the young and wild Tanner Whitley, heir to a massive fortune, who spends her days partying with a bunch of other disaffected rich kids or sailing her boat. There’s an instant attraction, some angst, wild sex, a bit of sailing and then more noble angst before the final page is turned. I didn’t feel the investment in the characters or their stories as I have in other Rad books, and I’ll put that down to this being an early online version. There are a few things that I would have liked to have seen explored in more detail – Adrienne’s recovery, the age difference, perhaps Tanner growing up a bit more. As I said, this was the online version so I don’t know if it got fleshed out in the published version – and I can only hope that Tanner’s dialogue was toned down a bit.
Do you need to read this to follow the Honor series? No. Adrienne and Tanner are minimal characters in the series, so missing out on their story won’t leave you lost if you’re reading the series. If you are obsessive about reading all of Rad’s books – check it out. If you haven’t read Radclyffe yet, I’d suggest starting with something else – one of her medical romances where I think that she has some of her best books – as this is not one of her stronger books.
Oath of Honor by Radclyffe
So finally I get to the book I wanted to read. Eight books later. Oath is billed as being part of the First Responders Series which are standalone romances about, well, first responders (EMT, Firefighters and uhm, the First Doctor). I think that this should have been marketed as the eighth Honor book. The novel’s protagonists are Captain Wes Masters and Secret Service Agent Evyn Daniels, but Cam and Blair are very much present in the story as well – their paths don’t cross often, but the book follows directly after Word of Honor and continues the conspiracy, domestic terrorism plots from the Honor Series. We even have Emory and Dana showing up (from Word of Honor). I always find it odd how it seems to always be a six four two degrees of separation for all lesbians in a series – and how many lesbians there appear to be in the government agencies (or small towns). I think I need to change jobs – or move.
I enjoyed the book well enough, but similar to my issues with the other Honor books (the switching between the Wes/Evyn and Cam/Blair storylines) I think that there wasn’t enough of a build-up of the romance between the new pair. The story itself is fast-paced – with short chapters highlighting the dastardly doings of the villains to keep the tension up and let you know bad things are coming – but at times I thought that there wasn’t as much going on as there could be with the main pair and we spent a bit too much time with Wes doing her sim training (which was kind of interesting – no clue if it would be true).
If you’ve read the Honor series – you have to pick this one up. If you haven’t, I’d recommend you read the series first. This isn’t the strongest of Rad’s romances, but it makes for a good fast read. And if you haven’t read the series … it will make for a good read over several hot summer nights.