Hot Pursuit (Hostile Operations Team #1) by Lynn Raye Harris
The last man she ever wanted to see…
Might be the only one who can save her…
Things are about to get HOT in the bayou!
Evie Baker’s luck just ran out. Thanks to an ex-partner with organized crime ties, she’s lost her restaurant, her money, and nearly all her self-respect. Forced to return to her hometown and work as a shampoo girl in her mother’s salon, she doesn’t think her luck can get any worse.
But then someone starts shooting at her, her sullen baby sister is suddenly missing, and the high school heartthrob who stole her heart—and her virginity—is the only man big enough and bad enough to help.
Captain Matt “Richie Rich” Girard can’t afford to get involved. He’s already on the verge of a court-martial after a Top Secret op gone wrong, and he’s been ordered to stay out of trouble while he’s home for his sister’s wedding.
But when Evie’s ex-partner turns up dead, staying out of trouble is the last thing on Matt’s mind. He failed Evie once before; he can’t fail her again. If he’s going to protect her from a killer, and find her sister before time runs out, he’ll have to risk his entire future—and both their lives—to do it.
Romantic suspense revolving around military heroes and heroines is one of my favorite genres, and I was so excited to learn about the new Hostile Operation Team series that Lynn Raye Harris has created and have the opportunity to review the first book, Hot Pursuit.
This first book introduces us to HOT, a new special ops force within the U.S. Army and centers on Captain Matt “Richie Rich” Girard’s team. Matt is the hero of this book, and when the story opens, he is back in his hometown of Rochambeau, Louisiana, waiting for an upcoming hearing that will determine his future with HOT because of the team’s last failed mission where two team members were killed. Matt is not in a good emotional place at this point. He’s weary, worried, and, I sense a deep loneliness within him.
When he walks into the local beauty salon for a haircut, I’m sure he doesn’t expect to see the woman he hurt ten years ago. Evie Baker certainly doesn’t want to face the handsome, wealthy, popular Matt in front of a bunch of gossips and especially now, when she thinks she’s hit rock bottom. After losing her beloved restaurant because of scheming accountant and former lover, Evie has been forced to return home to try to start her life all over again while working in her mother’s hair salon…the same one Matt enters.
Matt and Evie were close childhood friends, but then puberty hit, and Matt left her behind when he began to notice other girls. However, Evie developed a serious crush on Matt until he humiliated her and broke her heart after she gave him her most precious gift.
To make the situation even worse, everyone in the town heard about the scandal. Matt leaves for college soon after, while Evie is left to deal with the swirling rumors and hurtful remarks.
In the opening scene, Evie is hiding out, hoping to avoid Matt, and just as she’s about to slip out the back door, her mother instigates their awkward confrontation with the “Don’t you remember my daughter?” line. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes because that is just like something my mother would do to me. So, I connected with Evie right from the get-go. The teenage years are difficult and I’m sure most of us have our own embarrassing memories that we’d rather forget.
I also grew up in a small town where it doesn’t take much to become grist for the gossip mill.
Whereas, I probably would have taken the easy way out—using the back door—Evie stands up straight, holds her head high, and approaches Matt in front of all those inquiring eyes. Go Evie!
Evie is an emotionally strong woman. I admire that even after losing everything, she isn’t a “woe is me,” victim. I also like that she doesn’t totally blame Matt for the pain he caused. She acknowledges her part in the situation and, she is upfront with him about what really hurt her. When she realizes she needs Matt’s help to find her missing sister, she puts the past aside without constantly harping on it. Moreover, Evie handles herself well in dangerous situations. One of the best scenes in the book is the intense car chase with Evie behind the wheel listening as Matt coaches her on how to outmaneuver their chasers. The scene is so vivid that I felt as if I were watching it take place.
Overall, Evie isn’t reckless, but she also doesn’t hesitate to jump into the fray just in case Matt needs to be saved:
“I thought you were going to wait.”
Her wild gaze landed on his face. “You took so long I thought something happened. I was coming to help.”
Matt closed his eyes. Saints preserve him from women who thought he couldn’t take care of himself.”
I like her gumption and I think, secretly, Matt does too!
Yes, I was disappointed in Matt for his thoughtless behavior, and, initially, I wasn’t sure I was going to like him, but as his character developed and his painful past growing up in a dysfunctional family is revealed, I was able to empathize with him, even though what he did was absolutely wrong. Plus, he just melts my butter when he slips into using Cajun French to comfort and soothe Evie.
It’s a challenge to smoothly incorporate a romance into an action-packed plot fraught with danger, but Harris does it well so that the romance is believable, and the intimate scenes between them are appropriate to the situation. I always struggle with plots where the couple temporarily forgets their lives are in danger, and even though the clock ticks away, they don’t seem to have a problem getting into the mood for sex. Kudos to Harris for making it work.
I can feel the strong connection that still exists between Matt and Evie. The depth of their childhood friendship and their simmering sexual chemistry make it difficult for them to remain emotionally distant from each other. I think Matt realizes this when he first sees Evie:
“There was something about having her near, something that sparked inside him and made him feel somewhat human again. He didn’t know why, and he didn’t know if it would last.
But he liked it. For the first time in months, he felt as if he could breathe again. As if he’d come home for real instead of simply going through the motions.”
And for Evie, Matt has always been more than a teenage crush:
“…here she stood ready to lose herself in him one more time. Because there’d always been more between them than just one night. Because they went back a long ways, and she’d love him as a friend long before she’d ever fallen for him as a man.”
Over and over in the story, Matt shows Evie that he is no longer the self-absorbed, inconsiderate jerk she remembers, and she fears that being around the man Matt has become puts her heart in jeopardy of being broken again. However, both have issues to resolve before they can take their feelings for each other to the next level. Evie doesn’t understand why Matt would choose to put his life in danger every day, and Matt doesn’t feel he has anything to offer Evie since his future is so uncertain. For all he knows, he may end up in a military prison for his recent actions.
Hot Pursuit has a well-written, unified storyline that brings readers full circle by its conclusion. The plot contains several surprises that I didn’t foresee
that raise the stakes and build to an exciting, suspenseful climax.
Every scene contains a complication or conflict so there is never a lull in the action or drama, and I was eagerly turning the pages to see what would happen next.
To sum up, I am now a HOT fan and encourage all your romantic suspense readers to check out this hawt series!
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Since the quotes are from a pre-published copy, they may have changed or been omitted from the final version.
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Lynn Raye Harris burst onto the scene when she won a writing contest held by Harlequin. The prize was an editor for a year — but only six months later, Lynn sold her first novel.
Lynn has written over fifteen novels for Harlequin and been nominated for several awards, including the Romance Writer’s of American’s Golden Heart award and the National Readers Choice Awards.
Lynn lives in Alabama with her handsome former-military husband and two crazy cats.
Interview with Lynn Raye Harris
I want to give a huge thanks to Lynn for taking the time to allow me to interview her about the HOT series!
Can you tell us about yourself and what led you to begin writing?
I was raised in a military family and then I married a military man. I was also a voracious reader from an early age, and I loved romance novels when I first read them as a pre-teen. I always knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t always know what I wanted to write about. One day, my husband bought me a computer and told me to stop talking about it and just do it. That was the beginning and my first romance novel was a huge 800-page medieval romance. It did not get published (rightfully so), but I had so much fun I kept writing. Life got in the way, as it often does, but I got serious about getting published around 2005. In 2008, I won a contest sponsored by Harlequin – and they bought my first book. I’ve sold 20 books to them, and now I’m working on my own series, which is the HOT series.
Your new book Hot Pursuit is the first in the new Hostile Operations Team (HOT) series. What inspired the creation of this series?
I was actually working on this story before I sold to Harlequin! I loved stories about military guys and I wanted to write my own. Being married to a military guy, and being raised in a military family, I kinda know the lingo. I had to make up the team, obviously, and some of what they do isn’t strictly authentic – but that’s why I made them up. My world, my rules. 😉
Why did you choose Louisiana as the primary setting for this book?
I’ve lived in Louisiana, though not in Cajun country, and have family who still live around New Orleans. It’s such a wonderful culture, so rich and full of interesting people – and the food! Oh, there’s nothing like Cajun/Creole cooking. Mmm.
Which character is your favorite and why?
Oh my. Well, I love Evie’s grit but I also love a tortured hero, so I don’t know. I love them both!
What have been the most enjoyable and challenging experiences for you in creating this series/ writing this book?
I think what’s both enjoyable and challenging is keeping the suspense turned up while also keeping the romance hot and tense. I hate when characters stop in the middle of a run for their lives to have sex, so I knew that wasn’t going to happen here. But I needed it to still be romantic and filled with romantic tension while they solved the puzzle. As for the whole series, I think I just love these guys so much and can’t wait to write all the books. OTOH, I worry about doing them justice. It’s a challenge to keep the stories fresh and compelling!
What is your favorite scene in the book?
Well, I love the love scenes, of course. But I also love when Evie has to drive the getaway car. I researched that quite heavily. I based it on teenage antics on dirt roads and real defensive driving. Alas, I have not actually spun a car into a 180 myself. 😉 But there’s always time for that, heh.
Which scene was the most difficult for you to write?
Evie telling her mother that her sister was missing. I tried it several different ways, and then I realized that the best way was for the scene to be in Matt’s point of view. Much too emotional to be in Evie’s POV for that scene!
If you were to develop a musical playlist to accompany Hot Pursuit what would you choose as the #1 song, and why?
I’m so bad at this kind of thing! Some books I know exactly what the music is. Others I don’t. And this is one where I can’t think of the song I’d choose. Truthfully, I probably listened to a lot of Bon Jovi while writing it. 😉 Also, when I first started this one, I was living in Hawaii – I’m going to guess I listened to some Hawaiian music too!
What authors have had a significant influence on your writing?
I’ve read so much that I can’t say for certain. I’m like a giant sieve and I hope that I’ve distilled all the best I can from what I’ve read. For romantic suspense in particular, though, I’d name Linda Howard, Cindy Gerard, Roxanne St. Claire, and Suzanne Brockmann. I hope I’m half as good as they are because they are all amazing writers!
What can we anticipate/expect from the next book in the series? Will each book in the series be able to stand alone?
This is the fun part! Next up is a novella called Hot Mess. It’s about a new recruit to the HOT world, Sam “Knight Rider” McKnight and his best friend’s little sister, Georgeanne Hayes. It’s very hot and steamy! Georgie has always been in love with Sam, but he’s always kept her off limits. Then she gets tangled up with some bad guys and Sam has to take her to a safe house while HOT investigates. Oh my, the things they get up to at that safe house…. 😉
After Hot Mess, which should be out in September, there’s Dangerously Hot, which is about Kevin “Big Mac” MacDonald and the woman he loved and lost, Lucky San Ramos. I hope to have their book ready to go by Valentine’s Day! After that, there’ll be Hot Shot, which is about Jack “Hawk” Hunter. If I’m very lucky and inspired, that book will be out by next summer. All the stories will be standalone at this point! Of course they’re fun when read as a set, but I don’t intend to leave anything unsolved with any of the romances from one book to the next.
Start the series now:
Click on the book cover to purchase from Amazon
Since Lynn mentioned that she listened to Bon Jovi while writing Hot Pursuit, I picked a couple of their songs that I found relevant to Matt & Evie.
Although Matt hurt Evie in the past, he’s here for her now, even risking his career to help her save her sister.
Bon Jovi “I’ll Be There for You”
Evie isn’t happy about having to return to her hometown where she always felt she never quite fit in. Yet, it’s here where she finds the support and love that she needs to get her through the tough times.
Bon Jovi & Jennifer Nettles: “Who Says You can’t Go Home Again.”