Hidden Away
by Maya Banks, contemporary (2011)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-24017-5


Hidden Away is a KGI novel, and if you are new to the series, you may want to read the previous books first, since this one has some pretty significant sequel-baiting going on. The Kelly family has what seems like twenty interchangeable super-masculine action men, a dozen adopted brats, and several hangers-on - the amount of screen time they get suggests that their own books have been recently released or are coming soon. I personally hope that the author keeps everything under control in future books or I'd have another Suzanne Brockmann-style tangled soap operatic opus to wade through.

Hidden Away is also the third consecutive KGI book to feature a heroine in a very obvious position of weakness, but unlike the previous two books, the hero is lying to the heroine all the way to the last handful of chapters. He simultaneously violates her trust even as he plays her vulnerabilities like a violin, and I can never decide whether I'm reading a romance or an exploitation in action.

Oh yes, the story. Sarah Daniels is enjoying a quiet moment in the Isle de Bijoux and she has a hot neighbor guy to explore a myriad of possibilities with. What can go wrong? Well, how about the fact that she's the half-sister of a man who is on the America's Most Wanted list for an assortment of organized crimes? And that she is caught on tape running from the scene of crime where her brother killed another celebrity in the world of organized crime? Or how about the fact that the hot neighbor, Garrett Kelly, has an ax to grind with her brother and he's there by her side only to ferret out her brother's location? Oh, and someone is clearly out to kill Sarah? This one will work out wonderfully, I tell you.

Sarah is a rape victim, and much is played up about her vulnerable state of mind, but rather jarringly, she responds to Garrett's virility in a startlingly casual "Hey, I don't feel scared in his presence... and he's so hot!" manner. As a result, her vulnerabilities come off as contrivances just to get Sarah to act like a weepy helpless china doll needing Garrett's manly comforting. Sarah isn't that weak when she is not in Garrett's company, as she can think for herself then, but when she is with Garrett, she turns into a fragile dove needing the TLC of the Man from ALPHA.

As for Garrett, oh boy, that dude is pretty dim-witted, if I may say so. He likes the woman, he wants her, and he wishes to protect her from the evil world... but he also wants to see "justice" through, so he lies to her even as he draws out her most vulnerable secrets, plays her even as he convinces her that he's her best friend and lover, and - this is the best part - blinks like a horrified goldfish when he realizes that, by bringing Sarah's brother to justice, he has also dragged her into the same mess as she's the man's half-sister who was also caught on tape fleeing the scene of crime of a murder and the best person to testify against two of America's biggest crime bosses. He's like, "Wait a minute, she can't just walk off with me into the sunset?" and I can only smack my forehead and say, "Duh!" Are we sure that this guy is not some kind of amateur?

What Garrett does to Sarah in this story is actually very cruel as he plays on her vulnerabilities with a callousness that I find disturbing. I tell you, if Garrett is a heroine, he'd be crucified by many of the same readers who sing his praises out there. And yet, because Sarah is not that smart herself - she's trying very hard to be a dead martyr late in the story - she forgives him very easily. If I were her, Garrett will need to spend at least a month groveling at my feet before he gets to even kiss my toes.

As for the rest of the story, for the most part it's familiar territory as Garrett convinces Sarah to trust him like the gullible dingbat that she is, with these quiet moments of taking advantage of an emotionally vulnerable woman interspersed with scenes of people making halfhearted attempts to get at Sarah and plenty of sequel bait scenes. Rusty is still as annoying as ever and she gets her own story kick-started here in a very obvious manner. In the meantime, the other Kelly bachelors pose and air-kiss at me from the background, reminding me to buy their books, while the married Kelly people show up all blissfully happy, the women pregnant and radiant with nuptial bliss. There are times when I feel that this book doesn't know whether it wants to be a kick-ass story or a Brady Family sequel.

Hidden Away contains many familiar elements from the previous two books in this series, so in a way, the author's formula is showing very clearly. That won't be so bad if this book also doesn't feel like a deformed sibling of those books, padded with sequel-baiting scenes and brought to a rushed conclusion for the sake of closure. At any rate, this book is a disappointing read, as it never really succeeds in coming together well from start to finish.

Rating: 59


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