The Protector
by Gennita Low, contemporary (2005)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-059110-2


Gennita Low's third book The Protector is certainly better than her previous book. As a plus, when this author is writing about the issues of prostitution in Vietnam, the heroine's attempts to reconcile her Caucasian and Asian roots, or even the geography of the setting, they all feel authentic. On the other hand, the book promises non-stop action but delivers very little. Sometimes it feels as if Bingo Night at some retirement home is more lively than this story.

Jazz Zeringue, our Navy SEAL hero, and his buddies are relaxing in some Vietnamese version of a honky-tonk bar after a satisfying closure to their latest mission of macho tomfoolery. However, when Jazz pays the pimp of a terrified very young girl to get her away from some unfriendly soldiers, he finds himself caught in a sting operation set up by Interpol to catch men in uniform who can't keep their pants zipped when it comes to children and other no-no's. In comes our heroine, Vivienne Verreau (her middle name, I suspect, is Voom-Voom), who helps Jazz and his buddies out of their trouble with Interpol. Since she is a secret agent who, at last count, works for the UN, Interpol, and GEM, she must be an expert in multitasking. Anyway, she needs Jazz and the J-Boys to help her in her own personal quest to stop a child prostitution ring. Don't worry, children, Jazz and Voom-Voom Verreau are coming to save the day!

Jazz and Voom-Voom Verreau together sounds like a smashing fun adventure, right? Jazz is over-the-top superheroic in a good way: he's Cajun (which means, of course, that he's stereotypically obligated to have a twenty-inch penis threatening to burst out of his pants the moment he scents anything female within a radius of hundred yards), he's heroic, he's capable, and he sends women into multiorgasmic nirvana without much effort. As the heroine, Voom-Voom Verreau is a pretty solid heroine who can kick butt with the best of the guys. When the author advertizes Voom-Voom as a tough and capable heroine, she's not bluffing.

Unfortunately, there is no jazz or voom-voom in this story because very little action scenes happen in a book that is supposed to be a "military romance". There are more scenes dealing with bureaucracy or repetitious internal monologues here. While I do emphatize with Voom-Voom's prejudices against soldiers - she has seen US soldiers taking advantage of young Vietnamese girls who never have much of a say in what they have to do for a living during the Vietnam War era - I wish she is more proactive in this book. Instead, much of the book deals with the main characters in their hometurf, meeting and talking with their superiors, discussing their plans, repeat and rinse, alternating with the main characters insisting that they are in love and some villains having skanky sex. Ms Low makes a big deal about the characters' ability so I find myself getting impatient with the repetitious and sometimes unnecessary scenes of bureaucracy. If I want to experience the joys of bureaucracy, I would have just joined the queue in the post office during lunch hour. (Speaking of which, I finish most of this book while waiting for my number to be called at the bank during lunch hour.)

When the story finally shifts to high gear, it unfortunately crashes through the road divider, plunges down the cliff, and plummets straight into James Bond Villain territory, complete with a truly hilarious confrontation between Voom-Voom and the villain where the both of them actually start reciting corny soapbox speeches to each other.

The romance is told rather than shown as well. Voom-Voom and Jazz are supposed to be so in love and so in lust but there isn't any palpable chemistry between them. Then again, this is most likely due to Ms Low's padding the story with scenes after scenes of characters going in circles. It is hard for me to get excited about the romance when I'm fighting to keep my eyes open (don't want to fall asleep and miss my turn at the bank queue, after all).

This book's problem isn't with the characters or the premise, which are fine, or with the setting, which is great. The problem is that Ms Low puts all these things together in this story and promises me a fabulous fun time, only to deliver a story where for so long the main characters are just talking to each other. And at the denouement of the story, the heroine and the villain talk to each other. Where are the fireworks? In the words of Marvin the Martian, where is the spectacular kaboom?

Rating: 58


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