Into Danger by Gennita Low
(Avon, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-06-052338-7
****
Steve McMillan watched the woman at the bar. Dressed in black leather, tall, curvaceous, sexy, she didnít look like a trained assassin, but thatís exactly what she was. Which is why he was here watching her. Marlena Maxwell was the best and when she agreed to do a job, she went first class. That meant, among other things, a luxury condo for the duration, $10,000 in cash, and a lackey to do her bidding. That was Steve, formerly point man for one of the famous Black Star SEAL teams led by Admiral Jack Madison, and now the newest member of Task Force Two of TIARA, a CIA intel team used by the admiralís special ops teams. Used to violent action when the choices were black and white, Steve was having trouble with seeing situations in shades of gray and with learning to deal with agents trained in different ways from he and his SEAL team. And that was before Marlena came along!

Marlena knew Steve wasnít the obedient kind of lackey sheíd had before as soon as she saw him in the bar. But it wasnít until he kissed her that she knew she wasnít going to be able to control him like she had the others. He was handsome, sexy, hard-bodied, and just looking at him made her hot all over. When he kissed her, not only could she not control him, she couldnít control herself either! And she was in the middle of a contract, and definitely didnít need the distraction.

However, she did have a couple of days to kill, so there was no reason why she couldnít tease him just a little. And so Marlena and Steve (nicknamed Stash, after sheíd searched him for the first time), passionately attracted to each other despite their secrets and their situation, begin their dance, sharing their bodies in steamy bouts of mind-blowingly incredible sex, but keeping their hearts and minds and pasts separated, hidden by careful lies and deliberate omissions.

This is a densely-written, layered novel with many characters who reveal their secrets only one at a time, as one subplot after another is uncovered. Itís not a book for a light, quick read, nor one that can be picked up and put down. It requires the readerís attention and concentration to keep characters and plot lines straight. Villains seem to surface only to be revealed as something or someone else, replaced with other villains who are equally nefarious and difficult to define.

And while most of the characters are fully-realized, others seem more like cardboard cutouts, with little motivation for their actions. Still others change their stripes so often, itís hard to follow whoís either good or bad. In addition to all that, the secrets of who is or isnít telling the truth, and who that truth gets told to starts virtually from the first page, making analysis, which would reveal those secrets, difficult. The main characters are believable, multidimensional characters who act and react in ways that engages the reader and makes them seem very real, and the suspense between them is stretched out to the very last pages.

Despite a few flaws, Into Danger is a solid, readable first novel, and one can only hope that some of her characters (especially those SEALS) show up in future books.

--Joni Richards Bodart


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