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Last Man Standing by Cindy GerardLaura C’s review of Last Man Standing (The Men of Black Ops, Inc., Book 7) by Cindy Gerard
Romantic Suspense published by Pocket 31 Jan 12

This book finally answers the question that has been plaguing the characters through the first six of Gerard’s Black Ops, Inc. (BOI) books: What really happened on the mission on which Bryan Tompkins got killed? Was it just bad intel, or was there something more?

Naturally, the answer is “something more.” There wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise!

The romance between “Mean” Joe Green and Stephanie Tompkins—sister of the late Bryan Tompkins and daughter of Robert and Ann who have become substitute parents to all the BOIs—began several books ago as a secondary plotline. It’s referenced, and we meet Joe, but we never really spend any time with the two of them together until this book. But when this book begins, Joe’s in the process of breaking it off with Stephanie. Not that he wants to, of course, but he feels he has to.

The BOIs were on a mission in Sierra Leone when they were ambushed and Bryan was killed. Joe has a lead on the truth, but he doesn’t want Stephanie—or the rest of the BOIs—involved if things go badly. And they do. Joe ends up in jail in Freetown, while the bad guy has arranged for the rest of the BOIs to be on a blackout mission and, thus, completely out of touch. So Stephanie travels to Sierra Leone to rescue Joe…and finds herself. While there, she realizes that Joe only broke up with her to protect her, but she’s furious just the same. Until she realizes that his opinion of her is partially her own fault.

Joe didn’t think she could take the heat.

And why would he? What had she ever done to make him believe she was strong enough to carry the weight of the issues he dealt with every day of his life.

She walked over to a window, shaking her head at her stupidity. And her cowardice.

You get what you give. You reap what you sow.

Well, all she’d ever given him was silent understanding. She’d never challenged, never bullied or badgered him to open up to her. Sure, she’d asked him to talk to her, but when he didn’t, she’d accepted it. Never pushed. Never pried. Never prodded him to confide in her or to give her credit for being more than a woman who needed a man to take care of her.

She puts Joe on notice that once the bad guys are taken care of, they’re going to have a talk about opening up. And while she breaks her own rules and crosses lines she sets for herself, she always keeps that endgame in mind. She’s an admirable heroine and this is really her story more than Joe’s.

There’s really no question about the romance in this book. He loves her, she loves him, they’re both certain of each other’s love relatively quickly. And although Joe has a lot to deal with if he’s going to truly open up to Steph, we don’t doubt he will. As a result, the story lacks a certain emotional punch for me. And the thriller part, while satisfying, is not terribly exciting. So while I find this miles better than With No Remorse, it doesn’t quite measure up to the earlier books in the series. Still, it is a fun, quick read that I’d recommend over a great deal of what else is out there!

Grade: B


Special operative Joe Green has gone vigilante. His mission: avenge his Black Ops, Inc. brother’s death during a bloody ambush years ago in Sierra Leone. He refuses to drag the BOI team or his lover, Stephanie Tompkins, into the hunt for the man responsible, so when he finds himself beaten, starving, and alone after being falsely imprisoned for the murder of a Freetown priest, he knows he’s as good as dead. Joe meant to protect Stephanie when he walked out on their relationship, but he can’t stop her now from executing his escape. Breaking him out of prison is the easy part. After Joe’s explosive theory pans out and his cunning enemy emerges as the front runner for a high-level presidential appointment, he and Stephanie must race to derail the traitor’s conspiracy if they are to save their loved ones, the nation, and each other.

Read an excerpt.

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