UPDATE: It's come to my attention that Karin Harlow is not a debut author after all. She also writes under the name Karin Tabke. Oops.
Pocket Star, May 25, 2010
It’s Jax Cassidy’s first mission for L.O.S.T.—one that will give the former cop who went rogue a chance to prove herself. Her assignment: gain the trust of assassin Marcus Cross . . . eliminate him . . . then take down Marcus’s mentor, Joseph Lazarus, a man with a bold eye on the White House. But the woman who’s known by her team for being a femme fatale succumbs to passion, only to discover Cross’s deadly secret. He’s a vampire, and Joseph Lazarus is his creator.
Left for dead by his platoon in the violent hills of Afghanistan, special ops sniper Marcus Cross was given a second chance at life. His newly heightened skills make him the perfect killing machine, and as Lazarus's right hand man, he’s quickly rising to the top of his dark empire, purging enemies with speed and precision. Only when dangerous beauty Jax Cassidy is sent to bring him in does he begin to question Lazarus’s motives and his own actions. But when Jax’s life is threatened by the one thing that can destroy them both, Marcus must make a bitter choice—her death or his.
Major Rule Breaking (in a VERY good way):
1. The hero isn’t introduced until Chapter 7. If you haven’t read the back blurb for the book, you might assume he could be any one of Jax’s fellow operatives introduced at the beginning, including her boss.
2. The hero and heroine don’t meet until Chapter 10. You’re reading that right—CHAPTER 10! That’s unthinkable in the romance genre. As writers, it’s beat into our heads to get the hero and heroine together as soon as possible. Because of that, I get dinged in contests all the time because I don’t have my hero and heroine meet in the 1st chapter. But you know what? It works here. What many might consider setup overkill really fleshes out Jax’s character before they come together. Sure, most of it could have been skimmed over or ‘told’ to us in a paragraph or two but instead the author ‘shows’ us what brings this damaged woman to this point in her life. Harlow keeps the pace going and the tension high so we hardly notice it’s even happening.
3. Marcus and Jax aren’t your normal romance genre hero and heroine. They’re both emotionally scared and it takes them the whole book to open up and change. The author never sugar coats who and what these characters are. They are both cold-blooded operatives who have no problems killing for a living. Jax is no assassin with a heart of gold. She’s ruthless and calculating, much like Bridget Fonda’s character in the movie POINT OF NO RETURN.
4. The emotional part of the romance takes a long time to unfold and I enjoyed the entire journey. This is no love at first sight story (although there’s definitely chemistry and a heaping dose of lust) and the characters don’t do an immediate about-face after the first kiss. They don't like each other very much and they certainly don't trust each other, but the intrigue and one-upmanship keeps them going. The cat and mouse game Marcus and Jax play with each other takes the reader on a thrilling ride. Throughout the entire book, each uses the other for their own means, knowing full well they will probably have to kill the other before it’s all over. And they have no problems with that. Brilliant!
Plot Holes and Speed Bumps:
As skilled as this author is, she made some major boo boos IMO…
1. Jax was brutally raped before joining L.O.S.T. and still has issues with physical contact (she comes close to seriously hurting a few of the guys when they touch her accidentally) yet she admits to seducing a fellow cop for information soon after her assault. Beating the info out of him? Yes. Sleeping with him for it? No. The author builds the trauma of the rape as a big part of Jax’s character. I'm sorry, but this type of emotional pain can’t be turned off and on to suit the plot.
2. Marcus was able to track down the mother who abandoned him as an infant when he was 12, yet we’re led to believe that he doesn’t know who she is now. I might have bought this if she was a housewife stuck on a farm in the middle of Kansas. But she’s a high profile senator’s wife who’s on the road to possibly being the Vice President of the United States. She’s constantly in the public eye and easy to keep track of in this age of the internet--and our hero is a tech savvy guy--so what is supposed to be a shocking revelation to his character at a critical moment comes off as contrived and forced.
3. Marcus rushes into the cockpit of their plane to save them from skidding off the runway. This little snippet was totally unnecessary. It did nothing to move the plot forward and was so brief it was laughable. We already know Marcus is hero material, we didn’t need this little side trip to prove it.
4. SPOILER ALERT AHEAD: At the ending climax, the author has Jax’s fellow operatives wimp out and abandon her and Marcus, leaving him to die. I suppose it was suppose to reflect both of their pasts, when their fellow cops/soldiers abandoned them when they each needed them most. I’m all for having things come full circle, but this was soooo out of character for the kick-ass L.O.S.T. guys I was going WTF? I mean, really, was that necessary?
The ‘IT’ Factor:
Speed bumps and plot holes aside, Harlow is an extremely talented author. It's hard to believe this is the author’s first published novel. Not many editors are going to take a chance on an unknown writer who breaks so many rules in the romance genre, but Harlow thumbs her nose at the dreaded ”formula” and gets away with it. The ‘IT’ factor for this book is an author not afraid to push the boundaries of the genre and having the chops to do pull it off. You go girl!