Realism isn’t the first thing I expect from a romance novel. But when you combine an unrealistic plot with characters you can’t relate to, you end up with something similar to Cindy Dees’ Line of Fire, a story with glimpses of promise that are overwhelmed by its problems.
Congressman’s daughter Kimberly Stanton is on a mission. She explains, “I’ve proposed a reform bill to do away with government funding for all trained hit squads. The American taxpayers are done supporting killers.” To achieve that goal, she arranges for a demonstration that will show the press and the public how a Special Forces man can be a “nearly unstoppable killing machine.”
Enter killing machine Tex Monroe, a participant in Kimberly’s demonstration and a member of a Special Forces group known as the Charlie Squad. He’s there to demonstrate a powerful military weapon that virtually guarantees a hit target. As you might suspect, Tex represents a position completely opposed to Kimberly’s: “Darlin’, I hope you never find out why the taxpayers need killers like me.” But Tex doesn’t have much time to debate the issue. The demonstration ends when a helicopter lands and he and Kimberly are drugged and kidnapped by four men in ski masks.
Kimberly and Tex are taken to South America. Tex, of course, uses his Special Forces training to escape with Kimberly from their abductors. Kimberly initially believes the kidnapping was staged by her father to change her beliefs about Special Forces operations. She learns otherwise, and she and Tex are soon on the run.
The conflicting points of view represented by Kimberly and Tex serve as the main internal conflict in the story and might have made for an interesting debate. Unfortunately, the extreme positions don’t do much to create sympathetic characters. I couldn’t relate to Kimberly. Her antimilitary stance can be traced back to her father’s time in Vietnam and its subsequent effects on the family. This was an intriguing premise that goes unexplored. Furthermore, Kimberly expresses her beliefs illogically and seems much too extreme under the circumstances. She doesn’t explain her position as much as she raves about it. During one argument with Tex, she asks, “How can you buy into the whole military brainwashing thing? . . . This business of being a hero for your country. Mom and apple pie and Fourth of July.” This quote perfectly expresses her viewpoint but it also makes her seem flat and shallow. Tex is more interesting, though his position is no less extreme.
Much of the action in Line of Fire had me shaking my head in disbelief. Current events certainly show that people are kidnapped and that terrorists create plots. But a weapon as dangerous as the RITA (Roving Instant Target Acquisition system) would surely have more security in place to protect it, especially in Quantico, Virginia, headquarters of the FBI. And later, Tex and Kimberly alone are able to foil a complicated plot against the US president. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief when I can, but this was just too much.
Despite these issues, the story features several promising elements. Cindy Dees’ biography makes it clear that she has military background, and that knowledge is evident throughout the novel. Kimberly and Tex exchange witty banter, and the story reads quickly with a good sense of pacing.
Nevertheless, the positives in Line of Fire don’t overcome the contrived plot and the extreme characterization. Still, they give me hope for Dees’ future stories. I plan to revisit her work even if I don’t revisit this particular story. If you’re craving military romance in the meantime, try reading Catherine Mann’s Taking Cover.