In The Dark by Marliss Melton
(Warner, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN0-446-61492-0
***
Navy SEAL Luther Lindstrom would do anything to clear the name of his platoon leader, Gabe Renault. Gabe is accused of a debacle on the USS Nor’Easter, which left the respected Commander Lovitt injured and two other seaman dead. However, Gabe was onboard that ship to stop Lovitt – who has been stealing weapons from the Navy and selling them to militants overseas. The problem is the proof against Lovitt has vanished.

DIA agent Hannah Geary was working on building a case against Lovitt. Then her partner gets murdered, their notes go missing and she gets tossed into a Cuban prison. When Luther learns that Hannah is alive, the SEALs set out on a mission to rescue her, recover the proof that can clear Renault’s name, and bring Lovitt to justice.

While In The Dark is an action-packed and often entertaining military romance, it is the second book in a trilogy – and reads like it. The conflict in this story feels like it is a direct holdover from the first book, Forget Me Not. While Melton does a good job of bringing the reader up to speed, there were moments when I felt like I was missing part of the larger picture. Readers who are vehement about reading series in order should definitely take note.

Hannah is an interesting heroine, as she’s not about to sit back and let the boys have all the fun. When Luther and his men show up to rescue her, she’s already well underway to rescuing herself. She put her dream of doing CIA field work on hold after the death of her parents for the sake of a younger brother, and she’s always seen her work with the DIA as a mere pit stop to her dreams.

Luther left a lucrative career in the NFL behind in order to join the Navy. When his engagement fizzles, he’s determined to find another woman who shares his dreams. He wants a wife who will keep the home fires burning – a woman who wants a traditional lifestyle and family. So when he starts to develop feelings for Hannah, it is most unwelcome. This woman would never be content to sit at home and wait.

The suspense of the story does take a miscue with the introduction of The Individual – the mastermind behind Lovitt’s crimes. Unfortunately, the identity of this mystery man is fairly obvious, as Melton doesn’t provide enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing. It’s certainly not a brain-bender, and this aspect of the plot suffers because of it.

That said, the romance is pretty good and the main characters are likeable. As a reader who normally steers clear of Navy SEAL romances, In The Dark was a fast, entertaining read. Melton is a talented writer, and despite a shaky suspense angle, her plot is fast moving and well written. Readers who enjoy military romances should definitely consider checking out this trilogy – it would just be better if they started at the beginning.

--Wendy Crutcher


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