Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: Forged in Smoke by Trish McCallan

Title: Forged in Smoke
Series: Red-Hot SEALs #3
Author: Trish McCallan
Release date: July 19, 2016
Cliffhanger: Yes
Rating: 4.5 stars


Faith Ansell could never be mistaken for an action hero. The scientist is content in her lab, working with her team on life-changing discoveries. But when a mysterious organization captures her colleagues, she’s forced to flee for her life with SEAL Team 7.

Lieutenant Seth “Rawls” Rawlings, ST7’s corpsman, hasn’t been himself since a near-death experience in the Sierra Nevadas. He’s tense and distracted, and the team caught him arguing with himself—loudly. Despite his erratic behavior, Rawls is the only one Faith feels comfortable confiding her life-threatening secret in.

But Rawls has a secret of his own: his wasn’t the only spirit to return to the physical plane when he was resuscitated. At first, Rawls assumed the “ghost” he saw and heard meant he was having a complete mental breakdown. But the apparition soon becomes convincingly real, and what’s more, he may be the key to the conspiracy looming over them. Rawls had better act quickly because ST7’s race to save their reputations—and Faith’s life—is on.

I'm writing this very sheepishly over my laziness. This series is one of my favorite in the Romantic Suspense genre, and my review is long overdue. I remember when I stumbled upon the first book Forged in Fire, four years ago. I had zero expectations starting because it was just a random, unplanned read. But almost immediately, I knew that this author had something special. Once I was introduced to this tough group of alpha SEALs, each more charismatic than the last, I was excitedly adding each of their books to my TBR. The proof of my appreciation is in the time lapse between books. With at least two years' waiting period each time, if these books were forgettable I wouldn't even be writing this right now.

One of the things I love the most about Trish McCallan's writing is that she writes one hell of a unique storyline. It's so richly detailed and complex that it stands apart in comparison to a million others. She knows how to write intensity, nail biting suspense, and well-rounded characters that are heroic and sexy as sin. And on top of that? She manages to mix in a PNR element in each and every book. And lets face it, that's not a simple task when you're integrating it with a bunch of Navy SEALs. It's an odd combination and could easily come off as hokey, but she makes it work, and work well.

It would be impossible to go into fine detail with the plot because while each book has a HFN ending for each couple, overall the continuing story is unresolved. At the risk of giving spoilers for the preceding stories, I'm going to keep the plot summary as brief as I can.

Rawls and his friends and teammates are on the run, being falsely accused of crimes against them after saving countless innocent lives. A secret group run by the financially most powerful in the world have a sick, misguided agenda to "save humanity" from themselves. Killing innocent people is like brushing their teeth in the morning, simply a necessary task. Anyone who dares to step in front of them will not be seeing the light of the next day. They're evil, corrupt, and hold way too much power and influence to be ignored. When these men stumble upon their plot to hijack a plane in book one, their rescue of those passengers set them on a course for disaster. Now in hiding, they unravel the depravity that fuels this group and struggle to find a weakness in their enemies that they can exploit.

Rawls was quite the interesting hero. He's a southern boy with a charming drawl with a background in medicine. He's the pretty boy of the bunch and probably the most mysterious. He holds a lot of himself back, and doesn't let others see what's hiding underneath his easy smile. After a near death experience, he returns to the living with doubts of his own sanity. Either he's lost his mind, or he's now able to see a ghost. And this one is most definitely not of the friendly variety. Once this spirit starts to learn how to move physical objects, it's a dangerous game trying to avoid serious injuries. Rawls will do whatever it takes to keep his friends safe, even if it means distancing himself from everyone.

Faith was a brave and intelligent woman, a scientist forced on the run with them when they rescue her from the New Ruling Order (NRO). She was developing an energy paradigm that had dangerous ramifications if fallen into the wrong hands. What I loved about her was that even though she was quite inexperienced socially, she had a strong backbone and wasn't afraid to speak her mind. She may have been holed up in a laboratory for a good part of her life, but she wasn't meek or cowardly when faced with such an extraordinary situation. Even her heart condition didn't stop her from fighting side by side with everyone else to survive and protect the group.

This book started out strong, giving us a flashback to Rawls' out of body experience when his heart stopped and he attached to his ghostly visitor. I was immediately sucked right back in to the story and loving the new paranormal addition to the series. However, I do think that much of the middle seemed to drag out, leaving me feeling a little impatient for the story to progress. As well, I think the connection between the h/H was rushed and there wasn't much time spent on the actual development of their feelings. The action/suspense took precedence over the romance, and I couldn't help but wish for a little more depth between the two of them.

That being said, I still enjoyed them together and the plot was so engrossing that it didn't phase me much. And Wolf? If he doesn't get his own book, I'll be starting a petition because his story will be the most fascinating yet, hands down. If I have to wait 5 more years to get it, I don't even care.

If you're thinking of reading this, you must read the others in the series first. This isn't one of those that you can read out of order, so make sure you're up to date before you start. If you're looking for something a little outside of the box that's action-packed, look no further. These will most definitely be the ones for you.


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