Lord of the Desert

Matt Caldwell:
Texas Tycoon

Midnight Rider

Paper Rose

Once in Paris

The Winter Soldier

Desperado by Diana Palmer
(Mira, $6.99, R) ISBN 1-55166-692-8
Desperado is one of Palmer’s books in her mercenary series. There are plenty of references to other characters, and a few make an appearance, but it easily stands alone. If you like this series, you will like this one. The hero is tortured, strong, and heroic. The heroine is tortured, strong and heroic. The plot is predictable, yet suspenseful and erotic to the point that I felt the need for the strong rating of R.

Maggie Barton and Cord Romero are foster brother and sister. They were each brought into the home of Amy Barton (who later adopted Maggie) at a time in their life when they were heading for trouble.

Cord was an orphan heading for juvenile court after getting into some minor trouble. Amy taught him about family feelings. He went to college, joined the police force and eventually became a mercenary. In the middle of all that, he married the wrong woman, who committed suicide. He has lived with guilt over many of his actions, one of which was seducing Maggie and taking her virginity.

Maggie is eight years younger than Cord. She lost her mother and lived with her stepfather, who sexually abused her. She has kept this secret, with Amy being the only living person to know the whole story…a story she is ashamed of and sure will wreck any future relationships she has. Maggie has loved Cord from the beginning, even as an eight-year-old to his sixteen. She lived with the idea that he would grow to love her too, until the day he walked in with a new wife. Maggie tried to move on, only to come back to him for his wife’s death.

When both had a little too much to drink, they made love. It was wonderful until the pain. Maggie walked away pregnant. She married an older man whom she didn’t love because she thought Cord hated her. He beat her when he found out she was pregnant and she lost the baby. Then he died in a car accident.

It is now a few years later, and Cord has been injured from his last job. Maggie rushes home to nurse him, only to discover he is recuperating fine without her. Unfortunately this visit puts them both in danger because the man Cord has been hunting is now looking to silence him, and everyone around him.

What follows is a fairly tense game of hide and seek as they try to put the bad guy away. Their efforts force Cord and Maggie into close contact and they fall into lust and love. The sex is hot and explicit. There is a great scene in the bathroom with a Jacuzzi bath…but be prepared to read page after page for each scene. And the love scenes are also frequent.

Although I enjoyed both characters and empathized with the hard knocks of their lives, I did get a little bored with their constant harping that they could never find happiness because of their past. Cord was sure Maggie would hate him for all his past mistakes. Maggie was certain that no one could love her once they found out the whole story of her life. This was their mantra for the entire book and ruled their every action. It made the fact that they eventually grew to love and trust each other a little less believable.

Palmer does a good job with her drama. She throws in action, intrigue, espionage and spy tactics that are plausible, even if they are not totally true to life. They find bugs and other electronic devices hidden in their rooms like one would spot a remote control. Maggie and Cord break into an office and walk around laser beams as if they were walking through a children’s maze. But these are the good guys, so it is okay that they win, right?

Overall, Desperado is a predictable, but enjoyable addition to the list of novels about those macho mercenaries who are really good guys trying to rid the world of bad guys.

--Shirley Lyons

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