No Place To Run
by Maya Banks, contemporary (2010)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-23819-6

No Place To Run revisits the Kelly family, the bunch of buff dudes and the occasional sassy lady who also run the family business, Kelly Group International. The KGI is like a bunch of noble mercenaries with more muscle power than a library of gay pornographic movies. The guys are all hot, buff, and super reliable while the ladies... well, they'd no doubt be paired with hot, buff, and super reliable guys one of these days.

This one is Sam Kelly's story. Five months ago, while in Mexico with his brothers to stop the activities of a crime boss, he let his missile make several detours into the silo of a waitress named Sophie. But he had to take his leave soon, and when he was done with his macho man action, he returned to Mexico only to discover that Sophie had vanished without a trace. Imagine his surprise when the story opens and Sophie shows up literally at his front yard... half-drowned, shot at, near dead, and obviously pregnant.

Sophie has a secret: she's the daughter of the very man Sam and his brothers were after five months ago, and in fact, she'd been ordered by her father to get close to Sam and discover what the Kelly brothers were up to. However, Sophie despised her father and double-crossed him by feeding Sam the information the brothers needed to take down her father. All the while, she never let Sam knew of her identity, of course. She finally thought she was free when she shot her father and fled with the key to his vault.

She finally seeks out Sam because her pregnancy is slowing her down and putting her baby at risk from her uncle's men. Her uncle wants her father's key, you see, as that vault holds plenty of money and documents that will make or break the family business. But how will Sam react when he learns of Sophie's secrets?

Make no mistake - No Place To Run is a story with the melodrama dialed up to 11. There are many moments in this story that would be at home in a B-grade action movie because all the explosions, coincidences, and twists that I can see coming from a mile away can get really surreal and unbelievable. Even the lines uttered by the characters can be on the cheesy and overwrought side. And yet, the whole campy concoction works very well where I am concerned. sure, I seriously doubt a macho man like Sam would say those sappy things to Sophie, but because he is a macho man, his sappy declarations to Sophie come off as just too romantic and sweet due to the contrast between his brawn and his tenderness. The author goes with the flow, giving this story just the right balance of quiet and busy moments, so much so that the quieter scenes and the busier action scenes complement rather than overshadow each other.

It's not that I buy wholeheartedly the romance, given that this story occurs over a short period of time and there are trust issues between the two characters. Still, I'm convinced that these two will work out fine in the end. Sam is a rather typical action hero, but he is never cruel and his moments of mistrust are reasonable. For all his faults, he is fiercely protective of Sophie and is smart enough to take a deep breath and evaluate a situation without losing his sense of perspective.

Sophie is a damsel in distress, but she's far from weak. Indeed, she's a pretty delightful subversion of the kick-ass heroine: while she's about five months pregnant and therefore not capable of breaking out into ninja tricks anytime soon, she's smart enough to think on her feet. She also doesn't take crap from anyone - she actually tells Sam early on that, no matter what he thinks of her, she deserves the right to live like everyone else. She comes dangerously close to being a martyr late in the story - and I have issue with this only because it is out of character for a woman so fiercely protective of her unborn child to be so willing to sacrifice her child at that point - but on the whole, she is just a tough cookie trying her best to stay afloat in the mess she's in. Don't underestimate her - she may keep getting into trouble, but the two times when her life is in great danger, she extricates herself from those situations with Sam nowhere in sight.

Oh, and while the love scenes here may not be as long and sexually explicit as the author's more erotic efforts, Ms Banks still lays on the sexual sizzle and makes it seem so easy. The sex scenes may not be the most explicit, but honey, they are hot.

So yes, I have a great time reading No Place To Run. Still, I suspect that an appreciation for camp will go a long way when it comes to this book. If you want a sober romantic suspense that is grounded on earth, this one will most likely make you wonder whether the aliens have arrived to end civilization as we know it. But if you like sexy and romantic melodrama presented in an outrageous larger-than-life tableau, this one has your name tattooed on the hero's impossibly wide chest.

Rating: 85

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