Tour’s Books Blog

July 8, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Ready, Willing, And Able – The Mercenaries Series by Lucy Monroe

In an effort to reduce my horrifyingly large TBR pile, I am making a concerted effort to read books that have patiently for me for some time. I read the first book in this series, Ready, last year and for some reason never read the next two. I picked up Ready and realized it was in the wrong pile, and read Willing instead then moved directly to And Able. Game, set, match! That’s 3 more off the pile!

Lucy Monroe writes romantic suspense in much the same style as Jill Shavlis and Linda Howard. In fact, one of her major plot elements in the third book of this series seems to be borrowed from Howard’s Kiss and Tell, though it’s been used in various forms in many action thriller and romantic suspense novels and movies. The Mercenaries Series is part of The Goddard Project that is the over-riding element linking many books, though they read just fine as stand-alones. In this case, Ready, Willing, And Able are sequential, but other than the relationships, no other plot elements evolve over the books, so there’s no difficulty following the storylines. They tell the story of 3 former Army Rangers turned mercenaries that friends as well as comrades in arms: Texan Joshua Wyatt, aka Wolf, Sioux Indian Daniel Black Eagle, aka Nitro, and Brett Adams, aka Hotwire from Georgia.

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  • Title: Ready
  • Author: Lucy Monroe
  • Type: Contemporary – series book 1
  • Genre: Romantic Suspense
  • Sub-genre: ex-spec ops/mercenary
  • My Grade: C+ (3.5*)
  • Rating: PG-17

In Ready, Joshua Watt, known to is military buddies as Wolf, must get Lise Barton to come back to Texas for Thanksgiving. No one can figure out why she packed up and moved so far from home and even more, why she won’t return for the holiday. Lise, a successful writer, hasn’t told her family about the threatening letters she’s been getting. Rather than risk them, she’s moved, but her stalker, Nemesis, has followed. She’s afraid if she goes back to Texas he’ll follow and hurt one of her family or friends. Getting shoved from behind into traffic and barely escaping has her in a panic. When Joshua breaks into her apartment, she attacks him with a poker.

Joshua arrived thinking he and their ill timed kiss was the reason Lise cancelled her Thanksgiving trip and gave a lame explanation for missing Christmas as well, but the naked fear and panic on her face makes him realize it’s something else. Lise has little trouble convincing him she a serious stalker who is escalating. The police in Texas didn’t believe her and neither did the police in Seattle. Getting Lise out of the apartment is Wolf’s the first task. Keeping his libido under control might be a lot harder. His ‘no sex on the job’ rule isn’t holding up under the strain of being constantly around Lise.

Hotwire steps in and helps them track her stalker and Nitro is living in Seattle at the moment, so the three circle the wagons. Then she gets a package with a wedding cake topper that’s nearly identical to one she and her ex had – as if the stalker had SEEN the thing. Then she nearly dies from carbon monoxide poisoning in her car thanks to a tampered with exhaust system.

Monroe keeps the suspense running right to end, but overall, Ready is the most traditional romantic suspense of the three books. Lise is the also the most traditional heroine in the series – divorced, intelligent, creative, absentminded, slightly introverted, quiet, and very close to ‘helpless female’. Wolf is a classic alpha male who thinks he can’t/shouldn’t love and is totally unsuitable for a woman who writes about white knights – but he’ll have her, if only for awhile.

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  • Title: Willing
  • Author: Lucy Monroe
  • Type: Contemporary – series book 2
  • Genre: Romantic Suspense
  • Sub-genre: ex-spec ops/mercenary
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.75*)
  • Rating: PG-17

Daniel Black Eagle, aka Nitro, is retiring from active mercenary work. He’s bought a half interest in the military training facility run by a former Ranger, Tyler McCall, and his daughter Josie, an explosives expert. Though Josie never had any interest in working in the field, she’s done so a few times and she’s a damn fine solider. But Josie wants a more normal life in the real world, away from the training camp in the Oregon National Forest. She’s been taking computer classes at PSU and lives in a house in town with another computer science major, Claire Sharp. There’s another reason why Josie isn’t sleeping this night – Nitro. She wants him badly and hasn’t a clue how to go about letting the taciturn man just how much. She knows many ways to kill a man, but not single way to seduce one. As Josie walks back toward the buildings there’s an explosion. Her father’s paranoia saved his life – he was sleeping in a secret room. She drags him out and gets him to the nearest hospital for treatment then calls Nitro while she anxiously waits for the doctor.

Tyler knows his memory has holes in it, but he disappears from the hospital leaving nothing but a note telling Josie to read his journals. Daniel arrives and they return to the compound. Josie had called the fire department and they had been and gone. She goes into an underground bunker where her dad kept an armory and his personal things to retrieve the journals. They also check what’s left of the office. All the files that weren’t burned are missing. Then her home is broken into and the computer equipment, storage devices and records are stolen – as are those of her roommate, Claire. Hotwire shows up and brings equipment with him. Like a good soldier, Josie had her hard drive backed up on a thumb drive she carried with her and Hotwire and Josie get to work.

Daniel is fighting his nearly overwhelming attraction to Josie and a very real bout of jealousy over her easy relationship with the handsome and charming Hotwire. As they hunt the ultimate hunter in Tyler, Daniel and Josie manage to get together, though Daniel keeps insisting it’s just temporary. He has the burden of undeserved guilt (a common thread in all her heroes) that he has to overcome to make their relationship work.

Of the three books, Willing’s Josie is the least traditional heroine who gets a big two thumbs up from me. Daniel is a traditional tortured-by-his-past hero. Tyler plays an important role in story and has an unusual ending there as well. I did find the whole entering the compound rather far-fetched and even more far-fetched was the wife’s statement to Josie afterwards, but this is fiction. I really liked having a heroine that could kick butt with the men and the respect her explosives skills got her from all of them. Daniel is a little too stereotypical as a hero, but his personality seems to mesh well with Josie and he is the type to draw her. The two protagonists made up for the plot deficiencies.

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  • Title: And Able
  • Author: Lucy Monroe
  • Type: Contemporary – series book 3
  • Genre: Romantic Suspense
  • Sub-genre: ex-spec ops/mercenary
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.75*)
  • Rating: PG-17

Josie’s roommate and best friend, Claire Sharp has a lot in common with Hotwire, the computer and electronics members of the team. She also appeals to him – a lot. He ends up giving her a hot kiss at Josie and Daniel’s wedding. Claire is hard-working student very near graduating with her degree in computer science, which is how she and Josie met. At nights she works in a senior’s home. One man always buzzes for her in the middle of the night – Lester. At 85 he’s still in fairly good shape, but has the beginnings of dementia and doesn’t sleep well. He talks about his past as a government assassin who worked well into his 60’s. He mentions some names and rambles as the elderly do, mixing the long ago with current day. He even has a lady friend, Queenie, who did an expose on him in a senior newspaper to expose the government’s use of assassins. But Lester is old news and no one really cares – or do they? Claire sits with him and listens as he talks of his ‘kill book’ that has the details of his contracts. Next day Les is dead of an apparent heart attack, though Queenie is convinced he was murdered.

Josie is still concerned about threats from the white supremacists she helped bring down and asked Hotwire to watch over Claire while she and Daniel were on their honeymoon. Claire considers it overkill. Her absentmindedness has brought the police and a call from Hotwire. Then she wakes up to a screaming alarm and a pillow over her face. She might have refused a gun for protection, but Hotwire left mace in every room and it saves her life. The house becomes a crime scene twice over when it’s broken into the next night and ransacked. When the MIB’s (men in black government agents) and a personable man named Ethan who claims to be Lester’s great nephew from Texas show up at Lester’s funeral, Brett and Claire begin believing Queenie’s claim that Les’s stories were true. Queenie had seen his kill book, so she was as much at risk as Claire. They send Queenie to Josie’s father while Brett stays with Claire till exams are over.

There is a second attempt on Claire’s life and they end up at Brett’s family home in Georgia for his mother’s birthday celebration and the rest of the mercs show up, wives in tow. Brett is like the other heroes, in a kind of denial about being in love. He’ll call it anything but that. Wolf and Nitro get him to really think about what he’s saying and the truth dawns. The ending to Lester’s mystery is excellent and has a nifty surprise.

Claire makes for a good heroine. Twice she fights off her attacker. Her family history makes her wary and self image is poor, but she’s worked her butt off to get where she is and all that work is about to pay off with a college degree and is looking forward to her new life – free at last. It’s up to Brett to convince her that his smooth southern charm is more than just proximity lust and a mistake in the heat of passion. And he has his own battle to fight with his promise to a dead woman. The story around the kill book has been used before in various forms, but like all her books, the twists make it worthwhile.  The one problem I had was how easily Claire was willing to surrender her had won independence for a wedding ring.  Brett’s family helped there, giving her a kind of acceptance she’s had little of in her life.

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One thing about Lucy Monroe, she does good heroines, generally independent and smart and gutsy. Josie is her most unusual by far, but all are a far enough from perfection to feel real. Her heroines don’t just sit around and wait to be saved, they fight back. Her heroes tend to have a certain sameness, mostly the typical male blind spot about love usually accompanied by feelings they are either unworthy or incapable for some reason, and that runs true here.

Ms Monroe’s stories are very readable and have very few eye-rolling moments when my action-thriller reader brain goes, “You MUST be joking!” Not as much detailed action as you get with Suzanne Brockman or Tara Janzen. The books read more like mystery in many ways – problem solving, digging for information (or intelligence) and putting the pieces together, rather than fight scenes, guns and exotic deaths.

Ethan Crane, the great nephew of Lester in And Able works for The Goddard Project and is featured in Satisfaction Guaranteed, on the TBR pile and shifted to the front of the line to be knocked off.

Who would enjoy these books: If you enjoy Jill Shavlis, Linda Howard or Geralyn Dawson, try these.

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