Purchase on Amazon: SEAL of Honor (Hornet)
SEAL of Honor (HORNET # 1) by Tonya Burrows
It’s a good thing Gabe Bristow lives and breathes the Navy SEAL credo, “the only easy day was yesterday,” because today, his life is unrecognizable. When his prestigious career comes to a crashing halt, he’s left with a bum leg and few prospects for employment that don’t include a desk.
That is, until he’s offered the chance to command a private hostage rescue team and free a wealthy American businessman from Colombian paramilitary rebels. It seems like a good deal—until he meets his new team: a drunk Cajun linguist, a boy-genius CIA threat analyst, an FBI negotiator with mob ties, a cowboy medic, and an EOD expert as volatile as the bombs he defuses. Oh, and who could forget the sexy, frustratingly impulsive Audrey Van Amee? She’s determined to help rescue her brother—or drive Gabe crazy. Whichever comes first.
As the death toll rises, Gabe’s team of delinquents must figure out how to work together long enough to save the day. Or, at least, not get themselves killed.Because Gabe’s finally found something worth living for, and God help him if he can’t bring her brother back alive.
I jumped at the chance to review Seal of Honor because of its plot and the fact that I’m always drawn to characters who are involved in dangerous, military-style covert operations. Add romance to the story, and it’s a must read for me. Tonya Burrows’ debut novel shows a promising start to this new series.
Lieutenant Commander Gabe Bristow and his close friend Travis Quinn are newly retired Navy SEALS due to a car accident that left them with permanent injuries, ending their careers.
Travis wants Gabe to work with him in the private sector doing security work, but Gabe is reluctant to pursue this career avenue until Travis introduces him to Tucker Quentin, who is funding a private hostage rescue team that he wants Gabe to lead. Compared to the desk job, Gabe’s father, the Admiral has lined up for him with the Pentagon, this seems like a more appealing option, and thus the HORNETs are born.
Quentin needs a team assembled immediately for their first mission: to rescue American entrepreneur, Bryson Van Amee, who has been kidnapped by a notorious terrorist group while conducting business in South America. The terrorists demand a ransom in exchange for Van Amee’s release. While the FBI is officially in charge of the case, Van Amee’s insurance company has hired the HORNETs to go in undercover and rescue Van Amee.
Travis has already organized a haphazard team of men who have never met, but who have experience in this type of work: ex-CIA, former FBI negotiator, Delta Force medic, a linguist, and an explosives expert. The team members officially meet on the flight to Columbia, and it becomes abundantly clear that this group is going to have problems trying to work together. Although everyone brings a vital skill to the group, Gabe realizes their lack of discipline, along with their diverse personalities and attitudes will be a barrier to the success of this mission.
As leader of the group, Gabe tries organize the group by integrating some of the tactics he learned to be part of a successful SEAL team. However, throughout the story, their clashing personalities, plus the emotional baggage each is carrying around lead to disagreements and minor conflicts that further complicate the plot.
Burrows has created a group of heroes who are flawed but realistic. For example, Gabe, the team leader and protagonist of this story struggles with a mangled foot and has to use a cane to get around. His physical impairment can become an obstacle for him when he is put in a dangerous situation, and he hasn’t quite accepted that he will never again be a SEAL.
Throughout the story, Burrows gives readers a glimpse into each man’s past, fears, and haunting demons to establish a foundation for the continuing series.
During their search for Van Amee’s location, they find Bryson’s sister, Audrey Van Amee also in the area conducting her own search for her brother. When she meets the team, she’s not quite sure what to think: “Such an odd assortment of men. She wasn’t sure whether to cheer, laugh, or cry that they were apparently her brother’s only hope since the FBI wasn’t doing jack to save him.” However, once Audrey learns Gabe, their leader, was a SEAL, she begins to gain confidence that they can succeed in their rescue mission.
Audrey is strong-willed and determined to be involved in finding her brother. Although Gabe doesn’t want her involved in the mission, he reluctantly concedes when the rest of the team supports her involvement since she is fluent in Spanish and can translate information. Deep down, he knows he’s also very attracted to her and worries she will be a distraction for him:
“God knew she drew him like the proverbial doomed moth to a flame. Which ticked him off in a big way. Never before had a woman fascinated him to distraction like this. He liked to keep his love life-if he could even call it that…as orderly and precise as everything else he did. But she had the potential to destroy his meticulous life like a wrecking ball through concrete.”
Gabe partners with her to help get information from someone who works for Van Amee, and, while on the way back to their base of operations, they are kidnapped by guerilla soldiers and taken hostage into the jungle. From this point, the story’s pacing picks up and is full of non-stop action and suspense. Now that their leader is missing, the team is forced to put aside their differences and form a cohesive group to find Gabe and Audrey so they can continue with the mission.
I enjoyed watching these alpha characters get to know each other and begin to bond.
In the midst of all this danger, Gabe and Audrey are unable to resist the strong attraction between them. I was surprised they could let their guard down in this ongoing crisis to become intimate with one another. The entire time, Audrey worried and cried over her brother, yet, when alone with Gabe, she seems to easily put her worries aside and flirtatiously teases him into giving in to her seduction. I can’t say this was unrealistic because the direness of their situation may have pushed them to make the most of every moment they could, but the timing of these romantic scenes just seemed incongruent with the precariousness of their situation.
Overall, though, I enjoyed Gabe and Audrey’s growing relationship. Audrey is brave and assertive, facing confrontation head on, instead of shying away. Gabe’s calm, commanding presence is complementary to her sometimes impulsive behavior. Gabe is a man with honor and integrity. He wants to do what is right, and he feels that it is unprofessional to get involved with Audrey. When she admits she loves him, he thinks it’s only temporary because of the situation. With time, she’ll realize that her love for him was only an illusion. Gabe doesn’t have much hope for their relationship after the mission:
“Her eyes, still spilling tears, never left his, and he saw her heart there, his for the taking if he wanted. He did. Christ, did he ever want it, want her. So much that he ached with a sweet need to make her his forever. But he couldn’t do it. It was impossible. He couldn’t be the kind of man a woman like her wanted for the long haul.”
His feelings for Audrey are a constant emotional battle that he fights throughout the story.
I enjoyed reading this story and found the mystery and suspense behind the rescue thrilling. Just when I thought the story had reached its resolution, an unexpected twist emerges creating one final, climatic conflict. Burrows ties all loose story ends together in a satisfying outcome.
I received a copy of this book from Entangled Publishing, courtesy of publicist J.J. Bonds to provide an honest review.
About the Author
Writing has always been my one true love. I wrote my first novel-length story in 8th grade and haven’t put down my pen since. I received a B.A. in creative writing from SUNY Oswego and I’m now working on a MFA in popular fiction at Seton Hill University.
When I’m not writing, I spend my time reading, painting (badly), exploring new places, and enjoying time with my family. Give me a good horror movie over a chick flick any day. (And, let’s be honest, I’ll take a bad horror movie too!) I’m a geek at heart and pledge my avid TV fandom to Supernatural and Doctor Who. I’m also a big fan of The Voice. What can I say? Guilty pleasure.
I share my life with two dogs and a ginormous cat. I’m from a small town in Western New York, but I suffer from a bad case of wanderlust and usually end up moving someplace new every few years. Luckily, my animals are all excellent travel buddies.
Other Works by Tonya Burrows
Purchase on Amazon: Wilde Nights in Paradise (A Wilde Security Novel) (Entangled Brazen)