Promise to Defend by Diana Gardin
Series: Rescue Ops, #2
Released: September 12, 2017
Reviewed by Sheena
Favorite Quote: “When it comes to work, I’m there for my brothers. I always have their back and I always will. But personally, when it involves something like this…I’ve been dead. For seven long years. So when I hold Olive in my arms, when the soothing words come naturally as I whisper in her ear, I’m not even sure how I’m managing it. Not when I thought that part of me was gone. But this woman? She’s bringing it—me—back to life.
I’ve read a few tough-widower-gets-a-second-chance-at-life-and-love books over the years and when one comes along with an original and promising plot, I check it out.
In Promise to Defend, I was promised a smoking hot, widower, ex-Army Ranger hunk of hero and a super square, straight-laced, reluctant damsel heroine with a secret that could rock their entire world- the two of them oddly, yet perfectly matched.
What I got instead was a cardboard cut out of a broken and broody Army Ken, complete with matching cardboard Damsel in Ridiculous Distress Barbie. Needless to say I found the plot and characters unmoving, and I was left unimpressed, unconvinced. More “un” words to describe this story you say? Unreasonable, underwhelming and unsatisfying.
Ronin is entrusted with Olive’s protection when her sister and new brother-in-law leave for their honeymoon, yet worry over the newly stateside (from a job in Europe) Olive. Ronin has the hots for Olive and is inexplicably drawn to her. These lusty, and protective feelings are an unwelcome surprise to Ronin who is still mourning his wife’s unsolved murder from 7 years ago. Slain while he was deployed, Ronin has carried anger, guilt and his on declaration to never fall in love again. What I appreciated most was while his dead wife was very much an issue for him, her ghost didn’t haunt the pages and get in the way of the new romance brewing. What I didn’t appreciate was how flat and boring Ronin was. No passion, no umph. Just a slab of hunk in tactical gear. It was impossible to connect with him, there was such a distance in how he as written. I came to realize that the distance the author was likely trying to convey between the characters and Ronin (because, hello, broken, broody alpha dude) boomeranged and created a gulf between the reader and the main characters. I experienced the same aloof distance with Olive. I get it, she is supposed to be in control and independent and sassy pants, poised and polished. But she came across as unreachable and robotic.
Everything felt phony and distant. Everything, except chapter 21- which was literally full of dramatic action, exciting yet chilling dialogue and an emergency circumstance scene that leapt off the pages. I bookmarked it. It’s really, really good. I want to go rogue and share the entire chapter- but I shall only share a snippet.
Somehow, Ronin’s voice reaches me, and it sounds the same as it always does. Calm, level, even if there is an underlying note of strong urgency. “Listen to me, baby.” It’s the first time he’s ever called me baby, and I can’t even enjoy it. “Are you okay? Do you think anything is broken?”
I glance around me frantically, noting that we’re in the water, and my stomach heaves again. “Oh, God!”
“Olive. Focus on me.”
Ronin grabs my hand, tugging gently. I turn to face him, finding his green eyes blazing into mine, and I nod. In the back of my head, I know that I’m nearly hysterical, and I shake myself. Snap the hell out of it, Olive. You’re strong.
Buuut then it went right back to the boring, sterile alternate POV of inanimate posterboard Ronin and cardboard Olive. The most exciting thing these two did (outside of chapter 21- wow) was nearly die and have hot sex.
Moving past the problems I had giving a care about Ronin/Olive, I’d hoped to find refuge in a fiery, gutsy plot.
Hope springs eternal, they say.
Things started out fine, albeit predictable, Ronin puts his alpha foot down and steps up to protect pretty, sleek ponytailed Olive- who can not only take care of herself- thank you very much- she reminds her protective detail of a man of that fact even when in the thick of danger. Pro tip- if your home has just been broken into, you are receiving threats and creeptastic notes from an ex and you’ve been nearly killed at least twice that you can count- don’t pretend that you are bemused, annoyed confused or befuddled as to why you need a bodyguard. It took near certain death to cure her of that mindset and it was way too little too late.
“I’m okay now, Ronin. Thanks to you. Can you imagine what would have happened if I’d gone off that bridge by myself? You saved my life tonight. The next time that I say I don’t need you, and that I can take care of myself all by myself, I want you to remind me of this moment, okay?”
You would’ve died. And that would’ve really mussed your ponytail and torn your pencil skirt. It would’ve also really made plexiglass Ken sad. So I assume. Does plexiglass feel?
Once Olive finally got on board with Ronin’s sexy brand of protection, she opens up to him about her childhood trauma and past life. She’s had some hard knocks and the hardest knock of all is the root of her issues with men and protection. Then we learn more about her psycho ex who ties into other parts of the novel a little too perfectly. Which leads to a reveal about a crime family and paves the way for Ronin to get closure with his wife’s murder- a resolution that was so thin it illicited several audible “seriously’s.” The over-the-top cllimax and “twists” didn’t fit or make sense and there were way too many plot devices crammed into this story for me to take it seriously.
I nearly DNF’d Promise to Defend, especially at 86% which was especially aggravating, however, on the whole, it isn’t poorly written. It stands alone but has a nice look back to events from book 1- no “catching up” necessary. Robotic characters and everything but the kitchen sink plots are a hard limit for me. On their own they can be problematic, but experiencing both poor character development and overwrought plots- in tandem is where I slam on the brakes. To contrast the uninteresting main characters and bizarre plot, there were some really high, high’s and sweet spots hidden here and there to keep me reading- but not invested. I was unable to connect with or put any stock in a HEA for Cardborad Ken and Reluctant Damsel Barbie. I just couldn’t. But (shocker) most of the interesting bits, were surrounding characters outside of
Ken and Ronin and Olive. The main characters from book 1, Sworn to Protect, Jeremy and Rayne are prominent in Promise to Defend and thankfully the author gave enough back story and context that I’m contemplating reading their novel next. Unlike Ronin/Olive, Jeremy and Rayne promise to be pretty dynamic.
I like dynamic.
But, then again…promises, promises.
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