With only two of her books read so far, Catherine Mann has now become a favorite author for me. Hot Zone is action packed, full of steamy and sizzling loving, heart-breaking and life-affirming emotion, and a mystery with some twists and turns you don’t expect. Hugh Franco is my perfect hero, the kind of man I enjoy reading about, one to fall in love with before I’m too many pages into the story.
An earthquake in the Bahamas has trapped Amelia Bailey under the rubble of the hotel she and her brother and sister-in-law are staying in. They’d gone to grab lunch for all of them while Amelia stayed with newly adopted Joshua, her nephew. He’s trapped right alongside her, but the boy is a strong little tyke. He’s hanging in there with her, she can feel him breathe and move now and again. But help has to come soon or neither of them may survive the hell they’ve been tossed into.
Hoarse after hours – or is it days? – of yelling for rescuers, Amelia’s relief is palpable when Master Sergeant Hugh Franco, a pararescueman, tunnels his way into the rubble to assess any damage and get her out of danger. He’s a lifeline she hangs onto with everything in her. Admiring Amelia’s spirit and toughness, the control with which she harnesses her fear, Hugh is taken with the spunky woman, a first for him in the five years since tragedy struck his happiness in the blink of an eye. His past weighs heavily on him, turning him into a man who runs headlong into the most dangerous missions his team is assigned, all with the hope that someday he’ll be with his family again.
The initial scenes of this book are riveting. It’s just Hugh and Amelia, covered in dirt and grime, talking, laughing where possible, and holding tight when aftershocks strike, waiting endless hours for the light of day. You’d think with such restrictions on a lengthy scene it would become boring, but Catherine Mann knows her stuff and keeps you glued to the pages, hoping, just as those characters are, that all turns out okay. You learn so much about each of them as they talk and cling to one another.
You also hope once Amelia is freed and Hugh escorts her and Joshua above ground that life will calm down and let them acclimate to a new look their lives. Not so. Just when you and they are complacent, the action bolts into high gear once again, this time Amelia and Joshua are kidnapped from their makeshift hospital. Right after she and Hugh enjoyed some adrenaline-based sex. In a broom closet. In the hospital. And they’re not prepared for the connection that’s further cemented between them.
After a crazy ride through the forest with their kidnappers, Hugh takes matters into his own hands, knowing only Joshua would survive if he allowed them to reach their destination where the Guardian, a self-proclaimed savior of orphans after such natural disasters, is waiting for them. Escaping isn’t easy, but Hugh and Amelia make their way toward civilization, hoping to find her brother and his wife alive. Before they make it that far, however, they exchange one danger for another, realizing too late they’re smack-dab in the middle of a viper’s nest. Hugh once again relies on his elite training to find a way out, but can one man alone pull off a needed miracle?
This book never slows down. Even those love scenes are raw and intense and full of fire. It’s only later that Hugh and Amelia take their time to learn one another inside out, taking their time to make love, despite danger still lurking about. I just adore Hugh. He’s strong while tender and generous at the same time. Though he’s afraid to love again, he makes peace with his past to do just that. Amelia is also a strong character. As much as she’d like to panic at everything thrown at her time after time, she keeps her fear and stress under control and does what’s needed to keep Joshua safe.
We also meet Liam and Rachel, who are featured in the next book, Under Fire, and I’m already anxious to read their story to see what’s in store for them, given the fact they’ve also met under stressful circumstances, just like Hugh and Amelia. I don’t know how many books are planned in this series, but I hope there’s a few more to come. I will never tire of these pararescuemen.
Heroes from any branch of the military have always been a favorite of mine to read, and I’m glad I’ve finally read Catherine Mann. Edge-of-your-seat page turning with stories that enthrall you until the last word is read is perfectly done. Heroes who steal your heart with a look and a touch and heroines who are independent and intelligent make picking up these books worthwhile.
Days full of danger…
For Pararescueman Master Sergeant Hugh Franco, it’s all about saving other people’s lives. Then he moves on. But when he pulls beautiful Amelia Bailey and her adopted nephew from the rubble of a catastrophic earthquake, he finds himself entangled in their lives in ways he could never have imagined…
And desire-filled nights…
Amelia’s trip to the Bahamas to help with an international adoption has been no vacation, but the hardest part is yet to come. As Amelia and Hugh are pulled unawares into a deadly smuggling scheme, simmering beneath their growing need to protect each other is a compelling attraction they’re both determined to deny…
Read an excerpt.
Other books in this series: