A Reluctant Hero
by Dara Girard, contemporary (2012)
Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86282-5


Daniella Duvall meets the man who calls himself Richard Engleright when the plane they were on went down and Richard took over the piloting thing while Daniella tried to help the remaining passengers. They were stranded in the wilderness for a few days, during which Richard demonstrated that he is the epitome of the uber-masculine action man of the wilds. Daniella, a writer, eventually wrote an article on the whole experience, but she realized that a better story would be that of the secretive Richard. Digging out his secrets won't be easy, as not only is he secretive, his past can be quite dangerous.

If the whole thing sounds over the top, well, it is, and that is part of the charm of this story. At the very least, it's a change from the usual "hot girl goes on holiday and meets a hot guy" story. This story, on paper, seems awful, but somehow, there is something about it that can be quite... fun... despite everything.

The characters can be quite flat. Danielle is often argumentative and confrontational for the sake of being so, therefore coming off like a silly twit frequently. Richard is basically an action hero with angst and a healthy dose of chauvinist attitude, and he also is often difficult and argumentative for the sake of it. Oh, and he has been hurt by love before, so all women are trouble, blah blah blah.

These two get together like two silly lust-addled kids, and, indeed, it's hard to delude myself that they would be good together for the long haul as they are actively trying to hurt or drive the other person away - once they have boinked away their lust for one another for the moment, naturally - up to the last chapter. These two don't even seem to like one another, as they express more irritation than fondness for the other person.

Still, this story reminds me of those romantic suspense Tami Hoag used to write back in the old days. I wouldn't want to be stuck in an elevator with the main characters, at least not without a hammer or something that I can use to keep them quiet - but they still have some lust-addled "I hate you, now take off your clothes and fuck my brains out!" chemistry that can be intriguing enough to keep me turning the pages. The suspense plot would fit right at home in a soap opera, and it doesn't have much surprises, but, like the romance, it is campy and intriguing enough to engage my interest.

I wouldn't say that I think A Reluctant Hero is a great romance, as I don't feel that the characters are in love at all by the last page. But it's a pretty fun read in a "grab some popcorn and stop thinking" way. It's not a bad way to while away a few hours, as long as you're willing to humor the author and let yourself be swept away by the larger than life tomfoolery in this story.

Rating: 73


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