Tempted Into Danger
by Melissa Cutler
(HRS #1758, $5.50, PG) ISBN 978-0373-27828-2
Subtitled ICE: Black Ops Defenders causes one to know immediately that this is a story that will have hunky alpha males and some type of dangerous situations. What one doesn’t know until reading this story is that Cutler delivers a couple of alpha males, a female warrior, a female leading lady who has a lot of grit, despite her vulnerability and a creative plot line that is at times far-fetched and still engaging.

Vanessa Crosby is a mathematician who became a banker in Panama because that is where her best friend moved. Vanessa is the product of a home life that was lonely and often solitary as her mother died when she was a baby and her father provided for her monetarily but not emotionally. She felt abandoned and her relationships in her adult life have not fared much better. She has recently developed an algorithm that can decipher accounts and pinpoint when money laundering is going on. ICE discovers she has this and wants to use it and Vanessa in a sting to capture three brothers who sell drugs, run white slavery and a host of other bad things.

Marcus Alpone, AKA Diego Santero and his crew of Black Ops specialists are assigned to pick up the “asset” at the bank, bring her to an ICE safe house, let them deal with getting the algorithm and then deliver Vanessa back to the bank so she can find the account these bad guys are using. But the mission quickly goes from a pick up and chauffeur activity into a full-fledged escape and protection mission.

The chaos erupts when the bad guys, known as the Chiara brothers, almost get to her first, blow up her apartment and infiltrate the safe house before Vanessa can be safely delivered. Diego and Vanessa are forced to “Leroy” – go to a secret location known only to the individual black op so they can regroup and decide on a course of action. Their adventure takes them into the Panamanian jungle where they fight snakes, bad guys and get help from indigenous people. And through it all, Diego and Vanessa realize that first they are attracted, second they have a lot in common and third that neither will come out of this the same person they were when they started.

This tale is deep, with in-depth looks at the characters, their motivations and their vulnerabilities while focusing on changing those into strengths they can build a future on. While the story isn’t perfect, it is exciting and fun. They do fall in love in a very quick time and they do have some pretty amazing adventures. But their interaction feels real and they are two people who the reader will root for throughout. The other members of the crew seem interesting and their stories are well set-up. I enjoyed Tempted Into Danger and will keep my eye open for Cutler’s next mission.

--Shirley Lyons

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