SEAL Of Honor
by Tonya Burrows, contemporary (2013)
Entangled Publishing, $9.99, ISBN 978-1-62061-258-3


Tonya Burrows's SEAL Of Honor kicks open her HORNET series. HORNET stands for ... no, not Hairy Orangutans Rampaging Naked with Extreme Tumescence (seriously, no), but Hostage Rescue and Negotiation Team. So far there are five members, although I've no doubt that the team can swell to six hundred dudes if the series take off to the stratosphere and someone offers the author a few million dollars to keep it going.

This one introduces the coming together of the HORNET and their first mission. It's also about team leader Gabe Bristow falling for our heroine Audrey Van Amee.

The whole thing begins when Bryson, Aubrey's brother, gets kidnapped. That fellow is an American expatriate making lots of money in Columbia, and his recent excursions into selling weapons without letting proper authorities know of this may have caught up with him. The kidnappers demand ransom, naturally. insurance company, however, would rather that Bryson is rescued before the FBI persuades his wife to pay the ransom, so this is where HORNET comes in. Gabe is already having fun trying to get his team of manly men to work together without them starting to smack pee-pees at one another's face, so the last thing he needs is Audrey sauntering into the scene, determined to do something to rescue her story. She has no clear idea what to do, but she manages to stumble upon the HORNET team in action (really) and decide to do her part to help.

Now, you may be cringing at Audrey by now. I must confess, I wince when I see the synopsis of the back cover describing her as "frustratingly impulsive", and the way she is introduced into the story has me thinking that I may have finally found a book that would cause me to expire from a burst blood vessel.

Fortunately, Audrey is pretty capable. Really! She can use a gun, she doesn't saunter stupidly into danger, and it's actually cute how she tries very hard to be not like those damsels in distress in those action movies that this story is very similar to. As an artist, she is understandably out of her league when compared to the big guns, but she isn't a complete disaster like I feared. She seems pretty smart on the whole and she has a sense of humor. She's also useful at various instances in this story.

While Audrey is definitely an unexpected pleasant surprise, the rest of the story is pretty much what it says on the box. Most of the men, including Gabe, are all cookie-cutter action guys with some hidden angst waiting to be unloaded on that one special woman that can touch them where no other women can. Or something like that. The team tech expert seems to be an exception, but I'm sure we've all been there before with Suzanne Brockmann and the like. I fully expect him to be beefed up accordingly when he gets his book.

Gabe gets the spotlight here, since he's the main guy, but he and the guys wear their plot armors that are redder than old-school Superman's macho panties. Bullets? Leg injuries? Wounds? Whatever - when they need to get going, they get going, no problem. The only thing that distinguishes them from, say, Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters is that these guys don't wave the patriotic flag like it's the 4th of July all year around.

That doesn't mean that the story is awful. SEAL Of Honor is actually a fun story. It's like an old school TV episode of Mission: Impossible mashed with an episode of The A-Team with a dose of Dirty Dozen thrown in for good measure. The end result is simultaneously corny, over the top, campy, and wonderfully entertaining. The pacing is solid, and if the action scenes become too ridiculous for words, that's part of the charm.

Just watch out for the romance, because it's easily the weakest link in this story. Gabe and Audrey immediately fall in love, it seems, and they spend more time kicking ass than exploring their feelings for each other. I don't mind this, as I'm having a ball following the whole ass-kicking thing, but it makes the happily ever after feel tacked on. If the author had done away with the cheesy epilogue and just let her characters to be happy for now, the romance will feel less forced and artificial, and more like icing on the action-packed happy cake that is this story.

If you're a big fan of those cheesy action hero stories, and you don't mind romance that is added half-baked into the story, this one may be worth a look.

Rating: 83


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