Call of Duty by Merline Lovelace
(Onyx, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-40673-7
****
As someone who enjoys a good historical romance, allow me a small sigh as I watch yet another talented romance author move into the realm of fiction. Then again, as someone who enjoys a novel filled with suspense and romance, allow me to say how happy I am to see a talented author like Ms. Lovelace writing in this genre. Call of Duty is labeled fiction but it could easily be labeled a novel of romantic suspense. The romance is more than a thread here; it's a major part of the story.

In Call of Duty, Air Force Captain Jennifer Vargas' impulsive nature always seems to get her into trouble. Her impulse to marry as young girl turned out to be a disastrous mistake; now, she's beginning to feel that her impulse to join the Air Force was also a mistake. At first, joining the Force seemed like a wonderful opportunity for Jennifer to get her life back on track after her divorce. Also, it was the only she way she could obtain the education she needed but could not afford.

However, as a specialist assigned to Air Force personnel systems, Jennifer finds herself bored with the routine computer work and she wants out. Jennifer's attempts to get herself out of the Force are constantly undermined by her nemesis and commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Page.

Page is not going to let Jennifer shirk her duty and deprive the Air Force of its due for the education she was provided. Also, he thinks that Jennifer could be an asset to the Air Force if she would just start being, well, more like him: more reasoned, more organized and definitely less impulsive.

After a coworker of Jennifer's dies, Jennifer performs a routine backup of his computer files. Jennifer's curious, impulsive nature leads to her into danger when she looks at the backup files and finds names of military personnel that don't seem to exist within the larger system. As Jennifer tries to solve the mystery these files present, she gets into deeper and deeper trouble. What started out as something fun turns deadly serious when her apartment is burglarized and her roommate is badly injured.

Ironically, the only person Jennifer can turn to for help is Mike Page. As the two try to unravel what is going on, they uncover a conspiracy which involves a man so powerful he has the ear of the White House. Additional complications ensue when Jennifer and Mike start to develop romantic feelings for one and other. In the military, feelings between Jennifer and Mike are taboo and could cost Page his career.

Although much of the story line in Call of Duty revolves around computers and computer systems, you don't have to be a computer whiz to understand the plot. The computer jargon is fairly limited and the story line is easy to follow.

Actually, the minor problem with jargon in this book comes from what I will refer to as "government-speak." Government workers tend to speak in acronyms and the author (herself a former AF colonel ) seems to take it for granted that readers will understand that GAO stands for General Accounting Office.

Although I would have liked a little more character development, I found Call of Duty to be smart, fast-paced, and fun. Readers will find lots of action and suspense in the story line. They will also find a good romance: Jennifer and Mike are opposites that can't help but be attracted to one and other.

Judith Flavell

--Judith Flavell


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