Saturday, August 13, 2011

Review: Taken By Surprise by Tonya Ramagos

Dr J Here. I have been asked to share the review of a novel that I particularly like and so I have chosen one that I think is a wonderful example of what I call "The Complete Novel." You will find hot love scenes, covert action, suspense, unresolved issues, partially resolved relationships, human and imperfect characters, consistent writing quality, a plot that can stand alone but has been expertly connected to all the stories that precede it. The publisher's blurb is as follows:

Rhonda Ramsey's future plans didn't include a man until she met temptation in a set of exotic eyes and a six foot package of pure sex appeal. Unable to resist, she lets him into her life only to watch him walk away months later.
She's furious with herself for allowing her desires to control her head. But when a drug lord takes her hostage, depending on the man who tempts her soul might be her only chance to survive.

DEA Agent Michael Cosmos has done a lot of tough things in his career. Walking away from Rhonda topped the list. He did it to keep her safe. He failed. Now she's at the mercy of a drug lord out for revenge. Michael will put his career and his life on the line to get her back in his arms. But will it be enough to hold on forever?

This novel is actually the 7th book in "The Heroes of Silver Springs" series which features the stories of firefighters and local law enforcement officers. There are also some secondary characters that have been introduced in previous novels that serve with the FBI, DEA, and a Special Ops SEAL team. Throughout the novels, like a poisonous snake, winds the presence of a Cambodian drug lord. He is highly successful in his international drug business, seemingly velcro-coated as he continually eludes law enforcement and continues to bring disaster and destruction to individuals and families. Silver Springs is a fictional community that is on the Easter seaboard and thus is a target port for drug illegal importation. Thus it is also the site where these government agencies and their personnel have gathered.

Michael Cosmos has been a presence throughout several of the novels and it was during another rescue operation that he encountered divorcee Rhonda Ramsey. She had finally left a 9 year marriage that had really been over for six of those years, was working so hard to support herself and her young son, and was on a mission to become a truly independent woman. She had dreams of becoming a published author of erotic romance and she wasn't about to allow another man to take over her life. Their attraction was immediate and almost impossible to resist, but Rhonda never lost sight of her goals. Michael couldn't stand the thought of having some involvement in her life, so they agreed to just remain friends. I didn't get the impression that anyone else bought that story, and Rhonda and Michael knew it was just biding their time. After several months of doing things together and just hanging out, it became evident that the drug lord had plans to use Rhonda to nab Michael, just about his #1 target for revenge. In an effort to protect Rhonda and Lucas, Michael just walked away, broke contact, with no "good-bye" or "see you later," or "it's been fun."

Many months later, Rhonda had an opportunity to take a vacation trip to Thailand with a good friend, and it was during their sojourn in Bangkok that the drug lord kidnapped Rhonda, murdered her friend, and took her back to his Cambodian jungle compound where he promptly fell in love with her and planned to keep her. Even though she hoped otherwise, because of Michael's turning his back on her months earlier, she really didn't think he would ever come after her. She was really wrong on that score.

Throughout this story there are several other tentative love relationship that were hanging fire. Michael's FBI partner was gay, was suffering a massive crush on their boss who was bi-sexual and keeping that fact under wraps, but Adrien was also strongly attracted to one of the new Silver Springs firefighters. Even after they spent a night of hot loving together, Adrien still couldn't get past his crush and thus he and Thaddeus were at an impasse, one he knew he could end with a word. Another FBI agent who accepts an undercover assignment as a sexual submissive in a fetish club is twin to a Silver Springs firefighter. ( His partner in this operation is with the DEA, has spent several years establishing herself as a dominatrix who doesn't share her lifestyle with the DEA and doesn't allow the DEA affiliation to influence her participation in the BDSM lifestyle.) He has long hankered after the sister of his boss, a woman who really wants him as well but her fear of commitment prevents them from anything more than an occasional sexual romp. Their story continues on in segments throughout this book.

I think the only moment of puzzlement for me was thinking about the heroine taking a vacation in the Far East when she already knew that the Cambodian drug lord was taking hostages and kidnapping children of those connected to the U. S. government agencies. This may have permitted a smooth segue to the rest of the story, but that really seemed patently foolish for a woman who appears to be really smart in so many other ways. I guess even in such a good book as this overall, the author must be permitted some literary license. I can't figure out why she wouldn't be aware that she was putting herself even closer to danger by visiting a country that was in very close proximity to Cambodia. Oh well . . .

All that aside, this is one of those novels that not only brings all the strands that are woven throughout the series into final form, it also is the kind of book that doesn't require the preceding novels for the reader to make sense of it all. However, I would recommend the entire series as being a wonderful introduction to a community that holds its firefighters and police officers in high esteem, who have a deep sense of being connected as a community, and who care deeply about one another. It is the kind of book that readers will find digs deep into the emotions and which celebrates the best that people can be while being honest about the pervasive evil of drugs and those who live by their sale and distribution. I think any reader can relate to many of the feelings that the characters express, their hopes and dreams, their disappointments, even their delayed gratification.

Tonya Ramagos is a writer I first encountered about ten months ago and I have been so delighted with the consistency of her writing, her stories that are so well told, her celebration of people involved in all kinds of relationship configurations and orientations, and her characters that seem to display the full range of feelings and opinions common to all people. She has rapidly moved on to my "favorite authors" list and I am careful not to miss any of her new releases. I am now working through some of her early publications and shorter series.

I hope you will take a serious look at this series which is published by Siren Publishing and especially this novel. For a number of reasons, I give this novel a rating of 5 out of 5.


Chris said...

Sorry, I'm too boggled by a perfectly ok looking cover from Siren-Bookstrand to say anything useful...

Aurian said...

Nice review Dr. J, certainly an author to keep an eye out for.

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