Publication Date: June 2013 / 244 pgs.
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Lauren James had ignored the recent spate of calls from her brother. After all, he was a big player linked to a major cartel, and he’d been dead to her for nearly a decade. Then she receives the one call she can’t ignore—her brother’s been kidnapped and will be killed if she doesn’t bring money. No matter how far gone her brother is, Lauren can’t turn her back on him completely. Deep down she’s always wanted to save him. Now, she’s forced into action because he’ll die otherwise.
Ex-Special Forces sniper Jaden Dean owns a private security firm and after losing his older brother to gang violence, needs to take down as many scum bags as he can—single-handedly if need be. And he was the best. Until he trusted the wrong woman on his last assignment and ended up nearly dead in the street.
On a tropical island with a hurricane brewing and dangerous men closing in, Lauren and Jaden will need to work together to survive and find her brother. The cartel seems to be one step ahead and Jaden’s operatives are being killed one-by-one. He will have to use all his specialized training and risk everything, including his heart, to outwit the deadly group and keep Lauren safe. Their magnetic attraction isn’t helping matters…because even a slight distraction might just get them both killed.
Caught in the Crosshair is an inviting blend of tension-filled romance and suspense between Lauren and Jaden whose romance blossoms in the midst of a dangerous situation revolving around a South American Cartel, a rescue attempt, an island hurricane, and escapes from a constant barrage of bullets. Hans pulled me into the book quickly and easily by starting off with adrenaline-packed action that is practically non-stop in the first half of the book. I initially had a difficult time finding a stopping place to take a break and was actually quite surprised at how quickly I finished the book.
After learning that her brother Max has been kidnapped by a cartel he was once associated with, Lauren is determined to do whatever is necessary to rescue Max, trusting that it will be as simple as handing over cash in exchange for her brother’s release. Unfortunately, Lauren’s arrival on the island of Antigua brings her even more trouble until Jaden Dean comes to her rescue, and Lauren finds herself increasingly relying upon Jaden’s expertise and protective nature to keep her safe and locate Max. Jaden and his operatives are on a mission to bring down this vicious cartel, and Jaden has a personal interest in the takedown since the cartel goons have already killed several of his team members. Perilous circumstances bring Jaden and Lauren together, and they bond in their quest to survive.
The couple’s journey is teeming with conflict and drama. The villains they face are one-dimensional clichéd “bad guys” except for the major antagonist whose identity isn’t revealed until very close to the end. However, Hans provides enough clues along the way so that it is wasn’t too difficult for me to figure out the final enemy. People aren’t the only external conflicts in the book. Jaden and Lauren also get caught in a terrifying hurricane and the obstacles they encounter are vividly described and suspenseful, making this my favorite part of the book.
Hans does a very good job of putting Lauren and Jaden’s romantic relationship at the heart of the story and effectively weaving it into the dramatic suspense that is a major component in the unfolding plot. The couple’s growing intimacy is strongly connected to the decisions they each make, increasing the tension of the suspense and furthering the plot. The attraction and chemistry between them emerges very early in the book and as the story progresses their interest in each other feels genuine. They offer a warmth and support to each other that neither realized had been lacking in their lives. This isn’t an insta-love relationship, but it’s awfully close. I do have to keep in mind, though, the length of the book which doesn’t allow time for a long-drawn out process of falling in love.
The story really centers on the protagonists’ romance and rescue of Max, and, overall, Hans has developed this part of the plot very well. However, I think the broader scope and backstory of Jaden and his team’s history with the cartel could have been fleshed out more. Hans offers enough information to give you the gist of what has happened to explain some of the characters’ motivations, but, the details are too vague for my satisfaction. I also found two of the most anticipated events, the rescue of Max and the climatic showdown to be much less dramatic than I expected.
While Jaden’s and Lauren’s characters are well-rounded, I was surprised that the supporting characters, those part of Jaden’s team are minimally developed, so I felt no emotional connection to any of them. I am keeping in mind, however, that this book is not part of a series, and these secondary characters are not going to become featured in future books. Hans has plenty of material to work with, though, if she decides to expand this novel into a series.
If you are looking for a fast-paced romantic suspense with a tidy ending, then check out this novel.
I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
3.5 shining suns
Lauren James had learned the hard way that sometimes the best childhood was a brief one, that there was a direct link between determination and success, and it only took one phone call to unleash hurt and memories she’d spent the past decade trying to suppress.
“H-h-elp me,” a man’s voice choked out. It was strained and cracked, and he gasped for air when he spoke. Even so, his identity was unmistakable.
She drew a breath, forcing air into her lungs.
“L-l-isten.” He made a strangled noise before his mouth must’ve moved away from the receiver. She heard a train and more voices. One…two…three…she counted, identifying at least three men with terse South American accents.
A crack followed by a pained grunt dropped her stomach to the floor, scrambling her nerves.
“Max. Max? Are you there? Are you hurt? Who’s doing this to you?” The words fired off like buckshot.
More muffled noises, and then a tortured scream seared her eardrums.
“Senorita, if you want tu hermano alive, you pay.”
“Pay? Pay what? Pay whom?” Should she call the police? Maybe she could reach her cell phone and dial 911 now while she still had them on the line?
“Pay or we cut him into pieces.”
Icy regret stabbed her chest. Why hadn’t she taken any of his calls in the past six months? Because the last time he called four years ago, he wanted to use her for money.
“No. Don’t hurt him. Tell me what to do,” she said, trying to keep panic out of her voice. Think. Think. Her cell was in her purse in the kitchen. Could she get to it?
“You bring in the cops, lady, we cut him up and mail you the pieces.”
No police. Of course they would have anticipated that. She’d have to go alone. Alone. Panic brought bile to the back of Lauren’s throat. It burned.
Scuffling noises came through the line before another loud crack sounded.
“Then we come looking for you.”
“No. No police. I’ll be there.”
Max screamed in agony, then shouted, “Don’t do it, sis. Don’t listen to them. Go far away and don’t come back. They’ll kill you too. I’m already dead.”
She’d sworn she would never allow herself to be pulled back into Max’s world again, but she couldn’t turn her back on him. Not like this.
“Please. Stop. Don’t hurt him. I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll go wherever you say. Just tell me what to do!”
“You better pay, perra. If you don’t want to glue his body parts back together. One hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”
“Wait! I can’t—”
Another crack sounded, followed by more moaning.
“Please. Stop. I’ll. Do. Anything.” Where she would get that kind of money, she had no clue. It didn’t matter. She had to find a way. A throb ricocheted between her temples.
“Antigua Bay Resort. In two days. On the beach at noon.”
“Oh. God. No.”
Lauren didn’t hang up. Not even when the dial tone sounded.
Think. Think. She had a little money in savings. Her business was doing well. Maybe she could secure a loan for the rest? But how? There was no time. Where on earth would she get that kind of cash?
Knees weak, she sank to the kitchen floor. Her body quaked. A slow ripple that arose deep in her belly moved through her chest, her arms, her hands, her fingers.
Tremors vibrated down her legs, all the way through her feet.
She didn’t move. Or cry. The fight drained from her.
But she shook so hard it felt as though her bones might fracture, splinter through her skin, and explode into a thousand tiny flecks of dust.
To download the first chapter, visit Barb’s Web site at: www.BarbHan.com.
Barb Han’s writing career spans 14 years and most media. Barb’s held positions ranging from Sports Reporter at her college newspaper to Opera newsletter editor to News and Feature Writer for a Fortune 100 company. Barb has penned hundreds of articles in both U.S. and international markets and holds a bachelor of arts in journalism. A member of Romance Writers of America, Barb has served as committee chair for her local chapter.
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