Monday, January 10, 2011

Playing My Wild Card

Wild Card (Elite Ops, Book 1)Wild Card, the first book in the Elite Ops series, is a prime example of why I am drawn to Lora Leigh's writing. Wild Card has an intriguing plot with strong characters and, of course, Leigh’s signature hot sex scenes that make readers swoon. The alpha soldiers who have sweet soft sides are endearing. I went immediately to the next book in the series and within a week I had them all finished.
Though this is the first book of a new series, it is a spin-off from Leigh’s Tempting SEALs series where the reader is first introduced to Nathan. After he is rescued from a simple recovery mission gone wrong, he is mentioned in later books on the periphery. The reader develops a connection to Nathan by first reading the Tempting SEALs series (and of course if you follow our reviews, the Indulgent Bloggers believe in chronological reading). I have to be honest – I was skeptical about how Nathan would fit into a romance but my skepticism was quickly extinguished when I discovered the connection he shared with Bella, almost other-wordly at times.

As a SEAL and then in the Elite Ops, Nathan participated in covert missions to aid in the war against terrorism.  During his final mission with the SEALs, Nathan was held prisoner, beaten and fed drugs for months. When he was finally rescued, Nathan was no longer himself. Even though dreams of his wife kept him alive while in captivity, he decides to remain 'dead’. He undergoes countless surgeries to alter his appearance and assumes a new identity... Nathan is now known as Noah, an exclusive Elite Ops soldier. He cuts all ties to his former life and lives knowing that Bella believes him to be dead. In this early point in the book, Nathan comes across as selfish, thinking only of himself and the suffering he has endured. I wanted to kick him and yell “what about your mourning widow, idiot??”
Bella has mourned her husband for three long years after she was informed he didn’t return from his last mission. She does not know that he’s still alive. Overcoming the nightmares and depression, Bella has only recently begun to live again and now has to battle to save what's left of their life together, their home and business. Only now that she's finally moving on and meets Noah, a man who makes her feel alive again, she feels closer to Nathan than she has in years.  Bella feels torn, confused but strangely drawn to Noah despite a sense of betrayal when she thinks of Nathan.
There’s a reason Bella feels such a strong connection.  Noah is Nathan.  When Bella is dragged into his dangerous lifestyle and his elite ops unit is notified, he knows he has to help her. And once he's near her, the connection they had is obvious despite any cosmetic changes that may have been done to him.  He can resist her no more than she can resist him though he tries, almost to a fault. Though Nathan’s drawn-out stubbornness and his inability to accept his fate made me want to slug him, I couldn’t put the book down until I knew what would happen for these soul mates.

Wild Card is filled to the brim with passion, intensity and suspense. The connection between Nathan and Bella is strikingly hot but what was most poignant was the difference between their earlier relationship and their current one which reflects the reality of relationships in the real world. It is only when each of the characters can reveal their true selves and accept one another that their relationship can deepen. I found this dose of realism from Leigh uncharacteristic of the author’s style though I enjoyed this emotional thread.
Lora Leigh has created another great alpha male, another strong heroine, another passionate love story, another intense book, and another suspense-filled series deserving of our top honor of 5 chocolate-dipped strawberries.
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