Series: Alpha Ops, Book 0.5
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 112 Pages
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Forever Yours publisher Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Surprisingly Robust and Sexy Novella
Three years ago an anonymous night of passion with a sinfully sexy man served as both comfort and solace to journalist Grace Grainger. Memories from that night have helped her weather three, year-long tours with combat troops in Afghanistan, so when she gets separated from her patrol and caught behind enemy lines, she expects those memories will help her get through another night until she's rescued.
What she doesn't expect is her rescuer to be the same man who helped make those memories.
That others may live. That is the pararescuer creed, one Master Sergeant Josh Travers has lived by for years. Then the rescue mission he's on goes sideways and Josh finds himself cut off from his team and stuck behind enemy lines with the last person on the planet he thought he'd stumble across in Afghanistan. He hasn't seen that face, those eyes, or that body for three long, hot, sweat-and-danger soaked years, but he's never forgotten her.
Now Josh has to do his job to the absolute best of his abilities and get them both the hell out of there, or those memories are all that he and Grace will ever have of each other...for the too-brief time they'll survive.
While military-themed romance and romantic suspense aren't truly favorites of mine, there are a few series with that theme that I have and do enjoy. If this prequel novella by Curtis is any indication, I will be adding the Alpha Ops series to that short list.
I can't say I was crazy about the beginning of this story, though. The introduction of main characters Josh and Grace wasn't to my personal taste. I struggled with Grace's deception about her identity and Josh's evasions with his, as well as the deliberate intention of both of them to hit it and quit it. It was all just a bit too impersonal and calculated for me to fully enjoy, regardless of the personal demons riding them at the time.
Thankfully, that's all I disliked. Despite the setup, I actually liked both Josh and Grace as characters. They felt refreshingly realistic to me, with flaws and peccadilloes craftily woven together with personal strengths to bulk up their characterizations and add impetus to the romance arc of the story. Maybe there wasn't as much complexity as I would hope to see in characters in a full-length novel, but for a novella, I was well satisfied and quite pleased by both of them.
It didn't hurt that Josh and Grace do a lot more than get groiny in this novella, and are more then the sum of their sex scenes. There's quite a bit of story going on around them, with both a war and a hostile environment threatening their lives constantly. It made for a tense, suspenseful read, and I loved that Grace had just as important a hand in their survival as Josh did. This wasn't a story about an uber-alpha warrior riding to the fair maiden's rescue. Grace more than held her own, often gave as good as she got, and I loved her for it.
There was actually quite a lot to love about this novella. Too often stories of this length are a crap shoot for me. Either they're too light on characterization and story and end up feeling superficial and rushed or they focus too heavily on the relationship of the characters and don't offer nearly as comprehensive an external conflict. This one had a very nice balance of both that ended up leaving me just as satisfied by the story as I was by the sexy good times.
In fact, Curtis obviously did significant research to flesh out her story and her characters, and the care taken with the military elements of the story in particular were a high point as a result. If she can write a novella that feels this authentic, robust, and complex, with characters who are more than cookie-cutter stereotypes, I honestly can't wait to find out what she can do with a full-length book. With the first of those, Over the Line, set to release in early October, I'm happy to say I don't have to wait long.