Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Darkest Hour - More Romance than Suspense

The Darkest Hour has made my top books list for 2010.  I was already tickled when we chose Maya Banks as our book club’s first author but then add to that it was the first book in her new romantic suspense series.  I had been craving a series just like this one since I’d finished Leigh’s Elite Ops series; and Maya didn’t disappoint.
I can’t help myself; I judge a book first by the hero. And Ethan was the perfect hero for me. He felt genuine, an alpha male that had emotions and wasn’t too much a man to show them. (yum!) I could see why Rachel fell in love with him – heck, I nearly fell in love with him. Watching Ethan deal with his guilt over how he treated Rachel before she disappeared, his joy at finding her, and his fear of losing her again gave depth to his character.
I connected immediately with Ethan as the book opens with him mourning the death of his wife. He is overwhelmed by his guilt and does his best to shut out the world. When Ethan receives proof his wife is alive, he turns to his brothers who run KGI, an intelligence agency, for help rescuing Rachel. I fell into the fast paced, action packed scene when the brothers raid the jungle camp in search of her. They find Rachel drugged and without her memory.
I can’t help myself; I need to feel the love to love the book. When they returned home and began weaning Rachel off the drugs, her memory comes back slowly. Maya knows how to develop a strong character, and instead of appearing weak, Rachel’s struggles give her a soul. Rachel and Ethan reconnect, and Rachel begins to remember that her marriage had not been as perfect as she first remembered. Rachel’s isolation was heart wrenching and Ethan’s sincerity warmed my heart. Their tender love scenes were sweet. I was praying for their happily ever after.
More a romance than a suspense though, The Darkest Hour was centered on the relationships of the characters, something Maya is skilled at and demonstrates in all of her books. The relationships between all the characters felt genuine and immediately drew me in. (I want a family just like theirs!) The Kelly family is terrific. Their interactions felt genuine, and it was like peeking in on a real family. The brothers make jokes, punch each other, and throw each other in lakes. It was nice to see a group of bad ass military-type men doing something other than just plotting and scowling at each other.
I can’t help myself; I want drama, mystery and suspense.  My major contention with the book is the story line on Rachel’s abduction and the continued attempts on her life which I felt was weak. She is being hunted by this mysterious man and when we finally learn what’s going on, it seemed like just an afterthought. And what about those bad ass, military-type men? Seems to me they would be overprotective to a fault and wouldn’t have let so many mysterious attempts happen on her life. Come on, Kelly men, do your jobs.
I am also holding out my opinion on the sub plot with Marlene taking in Rusty, the homeless teenager. It was one of only two things I had an issue with because I didn’t feel it connected to the rest of the story. I wanted more between her and Rachel. I thought a lot more could have been done with her character, but my guess is that Maya was setting up something to happen later in her series so I’ll quietly wait to see.
Neither of these two issues bothered me enough to ruin the story because the rest of the book was so strong. I am counting the days until the next book (December, where are you?).  The Kelly brothers and their family will have a special place on my favorite books list, no doubt about it.
RATING: Four out of Five Chocolate Dipped Strawberries... if only they were real!
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