Line of Fire

A Gentleman and a Soldier
by Cindy Dees
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1307, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-27377-0
Susan Monroe is the sister to one of the members of the Charlie Squad (a highly classified Air Force Team) and ten years ago, in the course of her scientific career, she had been involved with the squad in a sting operation. Immediately prior to the sting, Susan had been madly in love with squad member Mac Conlon. Mac’s boss ordered him to keep Susan out of it and his decision to cast her out of his life backfired. Resolutely, Susan got in the middle and was severely injured as a result.

Now ten years later, she has an artificial knee with serious limitations plus disfiguring torso scars. Mac has never forgiven himself for his role in this and way too much time is spent in his agonizing over it.

Susan is now Dr. Monroe orchestrating test firing sequences on a very new prototype weapon. This RITA weapon played a large role in Dees’ second book. An expert marksman has been sent to test fire the weapon and Susan recognizes him as the man Ruala, who had shot her in the mishandled sting op. He has changed his appearance but not enough, and he catches on quickly that she has made the identification. His role then as now is as a paid assassin for an international terrorist who has also had a role in prior books.

Susan is forced to contact the Charlie Squad to advise them of Ruala’s reappearance. Mac volunteers to head the mission to protect her and he arrives with a small entourage. Of course he is the last person Susan ever wanted to see again. In addition to the crippling physical wounds she sustained, she has never really recovered from the careless and cruel way he used in getting her out of his life.

She greets him with a fist to the face, and the story proceeds.

I am a long admirer of Cindy Dees’ talent and the manner in which she brings her background experiences into this series involving the “Charlie Squad” and its members. As well, A Gentleman and a Soldier has strong, interesting characters with an appealing plot.

But the story is downgraded because of the sheer numbers of words and pages devoted to the principal characters’ issues of guilt. It is probably an archaic position but, for this reviewer, once the reader has a firm grip on the characters’ emotional issues, it seems almost insulting to keep rehashing it - somewhat along the metaphor of beating a dead horse.

Except for the over dwelling on the angst Dees handles the back stories with a light, subtle and deft touch. The beginning of the story catches one’s interest immediately, and both the sexual tension and the suspense tension are well maintained through the ending. The pacing varies and situations of conflicts are well handled.

The characters are finely drawn and the dialogue is always believable and interesting with the central characters changing in response to plot events and obstacles. Technically, this is a finely executed story. Perhaps the aversion to overweighted angst is just my problem. (Did I mention this enough?)

--Thea Davis

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