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Thursday, April 03, 2008

No Control

***** No Control by Shannon K. Butcher. Romantic suspense.

Eighteen months ago, Lana Hancock was captured and tortured by a terrorist group known as the Swarm while Delta Force operative Caleb Stone watched, unable to intervene without blowing his cover. After months of recuperation and rehabilitation, she's slowly succeeding in putting it all behind her and focusing on establishing the First Light Foundation for disadvantaged kids.

But now Caleb's back in her life, telling her she's in danger again, and trying to protect her. It seems the Swarm--what's left of it, anyway--thinks she knows something that might be a danger to them. However, Lana's spent too much time getting her life back to allow it to be taken away now. Besides, she reasons that if she really is being watched, if they see her going about her everyday business as if nothing's wrong, they'll assume she doesn't know anything and will eventually leave her alone. Whereas if she cooperates with the authorities, it'll look like she does know something, and if she's protected, her family and friends will be the ones in danger.

The problem is that Lana does know something, and they are out to get her.

Watching Lana being tortured was the hardest thing Caleb ever had to do. Keeping his cover did help them take down most of the Swarm, so it was the right thing to do, but that doesn't keep him from feeling guilty. He stayed by her side while she was in the hospital, and has kept tabs on her from a distance ever since, but he understands her reluctance to have him around, and doesn't blame her for hating him.

The problem is that he cannot let her get hurt again.

This couple definitely has a rocky road to romance. Even if Lana understands why Caleb couldn't save her from the torture, that's a long way from hearts and roses and wanting him to be a permanent part of her life. And while Caleb is worrying about protecting her from a threat she's not sure is real, Lana's worrying because the fundraiser to get her foundation off the ground is falling apart. They have their past; they have incompatible goals; and eventually, they're fighting for their lives. And yet, Butcher makes it work. It's very believable and emotional how Lana and Caleb fall in love. No inexplicable love at first sight; no pauses for some hot nookie in between dodging bullets; no easy answers.

Speaking of "hot nookie," don't worry--it's there. And it's hot, and it's believable and character-specific, and an integral part of the plot. Which is only fair, because the characters had to go through a heck of a lot to earn those sex scenes, and their happy-ever-after. Hard on the characters, but it makes for a great experience for us readers.

This is Butcher's second book, following No Regrets, and is equally as good. The upcoming No Escape (October), is about the third of the Delta Force buddies, Grant. I can hardly wait to see what she has in store for him. I'm sure it won't be easy on him, but it'll be worth it.

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