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Book CoverSandy M’s review of Protector (Dark Ops, Book 4) by Catherine Mann
Romantic Suspense published by Berkley 6 Mar 12

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these military-themed books from Catherine Mann. I’ve not read many so far, but I intend to remedy that as soon as I can. I’ve had that much fun with them.

While I do like this book, I have to say it’s not as intriguing nor as gut wrenching as the prior one I read, Hot Zone, from her Elite Force series. That book sucked me in from the beginning and never let go. This story begins in the same way – tense, in-your-face events – but then it slows down quite a bit. And then even when I thought it was going to pick up again and take off, it doesn’t. What saves it is the characters.

After being captured and tortured, Captain Chuck Tanaka feels he’s lost his edge. His superior, however, thinks he should get back on the horse in a new mission, one where Chuck and his technology expertise is needed. Taking on the role of a blackjack dealer on a mob boss’ cruise ship, Chuck is assigned to make contact with the man’s daughter to discover information about a terrorist plot.

JoLynn Taylor has made a life for herself, far away from her father. As a child when witnessing the death of her beloved uncle – and not being believed when she went to her father about it – JoLynn now wants nothing to do with man he’s become. But when he suffers a heart attack and asks for her, she can’t ignore his request. Thing is, nothing has really changed. He still pushes her away, demands she return home. This time, though, JoLynn is determined to stick around. Especially after she meets the new, sexy blackjack dealer.

I do like Chuck and JoLynn. They’re vintage Catherine Mann characters, strong and intelligent, sensual and sexy, they get the job done. Chuck tries his best to keep distance between them when he interacts with JoLynn, but the attraction is just too strong. He walks away as often as he can, which only proves to JoLynn she’s not worthy of love. But she also can’t help herself when she’s around Chuck, so why the heck shouldn’t she enjoy a fling with a handsome man?

Innocuous events take place that make Chuck think someone is after JoLynn, and when his suspicions are confirmed as they enjoy a day port side, they end up on the run with only Chuck’s training to keep them a step or two ahead of the bad guys. When their safe house is breached, this is when I thought things would really pick up in the story. They escape through a second-floor window, blend in with the Italian crowd, and I expected a harrowing chase. They flee, thinking they will be chased, but Chuck takes them to a friend’s cottage where he recuperated after his release from the hospital the year before.

While I was looking for action at this point, I have to tell you that the time Chuck and JoLynn spend at this Italian cottage is some of the best scenes in the book. They truly get to know one another, let their feelings go where they will, and enjoy some hot and sizzling sex. Both of them, however, feel it’s more than just sex. But they keep those feelings to themselves. JoLynn learns that Chuck has lied to her from the start, even though it’s his job that’s brought him to her doorstep and he has no choice. It’s now his job to keep her safe. He’s had no contact with his team since the safe house, but he’s hoping team members can put it all together and figure out where they’re hiding out.

We also get a nice side romance with Chuck’s CO, Colonel Rex Scanlon, and the ship’s singer, Livia. This is where reading an entire series from the start helps. These characters have apparently appeared in previous books, and I do feel I missed a little by not reading those books. There’s history between them – not a huge amount, but enough that I think I’d have a better feel for their present circumstances and romance. Scanlon feels a relationship won’t work between them because of their age difference – he’s 44 and she’s 29. No problem for me! 😉 She’s the one who walked away earlier because she didn’t want to compete with his dead wife. So there’s something there that would have helped if I’d read them before, but I still enjoyed them.

So even though this story lacks some of the action that I’ve read in other of this author’s works, it’s still a good read with interesting and savvy characters. I was able to figure out the bad guy before it’s revealed, so I’m surprised JoLynn didn’t. Although I know her heart is involved and she wouldn’t look that direction. But Chuck is there to rescue her, and he does a damn fine job.

SandyMGrade: B



After barely surviving enemy torture, Captain Chuck Tanaka doesn’t trust himself to do more than ride a desk—but new orders leave him no choice.  Assigned to the investigation of a mob boss whose luxury cruise ship is reportedly a hub for terrorist activity, Tanaka goes undercover.  His target: JoLynn Taylor, the mob boss’s daughter.

As a child, JoLynn saw her beloved uncle murdered.  Since then, she’s stayed far away from her father’s crooked empire.  But when he falls ill, she returns, hoping to mend the gap between them.  Instead, she finds herself on the run, one step ahead of unknown enemies. The only thing keeping her alive is the man she knows as Charles Tomas, the only man she’s ever been able to trust.

Unfortunately, he’s also the man determined to destroy her family…

Read an excerpt.

Other books in this series:

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