Reviewed by Helyce
Laura Nilsson had been covering the war overseas for years when she was kidnapped one night while doing a live broadcast. Known as the “Baghdad Babe”, her stellar reputation for reporting the truth made her both loved and hated. Her horrific kidnapping by Al Qaeda was only compounded by her reported death soon afterward.
Javier Corbray is a SEAL with the teams. A few years back, while on a break in Dubai, he happened to be in a restaurant where Laura Nilsson was having a meal. When a couple of men started harassing her, he stepped in and what followed was the best weekend of sexual exploration he’d had in his life. But, they agreed that this would be no strings, and they parted at the end of the weekend. Just a short time later, he would hear of her kidnapping and subsequent death.
Eighteen months later, Javier is on another mission. They’ve learned the whereabouts of Al-Nassar, the man behind more than just Laura’s kidnapping. Javier fought hard to be included on this mission. Though he has personal reasons for wanting to be the one to bring Al-Nassar down, no-one, not even his closest friends, know about his time with Laura.
Once in the compound, everything is going as planned when a woman breaks away from the crowd of huddling women all covered in burkas and runs toward the soldiers screaming that she is American. When Javier approaches the woman and rips off the burka he can’t believe his eyes. It’s Laura, alive.
There is no question that Pamela Clare’s I-Team series has caught and kept my attention over the years. This series, revolving around a group of journalists and their friends, has always brought a well rounded story, with super realistic elements that flow well, keeping the suspense high throughout the story to bring the “edge of your seat” feel to the book. I always enjoy trying to figure out who the bad guy is and how it will come together and I’m always surprised when the villain is revealed. Additionally, the romance side of the story is always satisfying giving us strong characters who usually have some sort of obstacle to overcome before they can be together, but when they do, it always feels right.
Striking Distance had all of that, but for some reason this particular installment just did not compare to its predecessors. I’ve tried to pinpoint exactly what it was that didn’t work for me, and I’m pretty sure I’ve narrowed it down and will include it under a spoiler tag in a bit. But first, lets talk about what did work.
I loved Javier and Laura. After Laura’s rescue, two years pass before they once again “meet” at a mutual friend’s barbecue while Javier is on a two month medical leave. At this point, they cannot keep their previous acquaintance from their friends. Of course, Laura has no clue that Javier was part of her rescue team and he needs to keep that secret. Laura’s life is still in danger and even after all this time, Javier realizes that he still has feelings for Laura and his protective instincts and his need to keep her safe this time come roaring to life.
Javier and Laura’s romance has no choice but to go slowly. Laura endured rape, beatings, and was told daily that she would be beheaded while in captivity. She doesn’t see herself as a sexual woman, but she longs to reclaim that part of her life. After her weekend in Dubai with Javier, she always regretted that they’d not exchanged phone numbers, and Laura is happy to have Javier in her life again even under such dire circumstances. But Laura has a secret and her fear of Javier finding out keeps her walls up. Once Laura reveals her fears, Javier takes charge and what follows was a really well done, slow romantic ride, to Laura reclaiming her sexuality.
The conflict in this story, in my opinion, was really drawn out and felt loooooong. Two years after Laura’s rescue, she must testify against Al-Nassar. At his sentencing he publicly calls to his “followers” in a rant that of course is captured for all to hear. Soon after, Laura’s place of work is bombed and while the initial thought is that it is terrorist related, the clues do not line up. Laura, being an investigative reporter takes it upon herself to look for the answers. Laura’s quest was intriguing and I enjoyed watching her process of trying to put the pieces together. Several attempts on her life are made and through all of this she keeps her head up and her goal in front of her. This I liked; a strong heroine who came back from her horrific experiences and was a true survivor.
Now for what I didn’t like:
During her time in captivity, Laura has a baby;Al-Nassar’s baby. When the baby girl is born, it is taken away from her and given to one of Al-Nassar’s other wives to raise. Laura never sees her. In fact, when she tells the story to Javier she claims that she didn’t even know she was pregnant and during the birth thought she had been poisoned. Bits and pieces come back to her, though, and she realizes that she left her baby daughter behind when she is rescued. Being half Swedish, Laura uses the Swedish government (instead of the American government) to research and learns that her daughter is with Al-Nassar’s brother. Once Al-Nassar’s family learns that Laura is trying to get to her daughter, they go into hiding. Later in the story, Javier gets a team together (not sanctioned by the government in any way) and finds the girl, retrieves her, and then brings her to the Swedish Prime Minister’s doorstep. Laura is brought there, and then decides to give the baby (now toddler) up for adoption so that she can be raised without the stigma of her birth.
Ummmm, What? In my opinion, this whole side story could have been left out and was completely unnecessary. Why include it, just to have her give the baby up? And don’t even get me started on the epilogue. Ugh.
We are given glimpses of our previous couples and that, as always for me, was a treat. Getting caught up with new babies and what’s going on with couples we watched fight to be together and seeing that all is well is just an extra plus for me. Javier and Laura get their HEA, of course. Javier’s sacrifices so that they can be together kind of happen in the background, though, and I think I would have appreciated it more if we had “seen” it.
We waited over two years between full length relases–two short stories being released in between. The second, First Strike, is the story of Javier and Laura’s sexy weekend in Dubai before her kidnapping. I did not read it. Some reviewers have stated that it should be read before Striking Distance, but my dis-satisfaction with this story did not come from our couple in any way, so I can’t speak to that.
Other than the item hidden under the spoiler, I can only say that this story did not pack the punch I’ve come to expect from Ms. Clare. It felt too drawn out and while I was intrigued by Laura’s part of the quest for the truth behind the attempts on her life, the attempts to keep us off track were too drawn out. Will I continue this series? Probably–we still have Horny Holly to look forward to!!!
More Pamela Clare Reviews