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Julie Doe

Checkmate - Doranna Durgin [I know this review is being posted *way* after the book was published, but it's more catch-up from the old book blog.]

I started this book about 9:00 p.m. one evening. I didn't put it down until I'd finished reading it at 1:00 in the morning. This is the second book I've read by this author, and it definitely didn't disappoint. There won't be much snarking in the following paragraphs.

Our heroine is Selena Jones, an FBI legal attaché and Athena Force (yep, it's one of a loosely connected series) graduate. She is married to Colin Jones, a CIA operative. Colin and Selena are going through a rocky patch--something to do with him kissing another woman--and Selena decides that a change of job scenery is order. So she takes an assignment to work at the embassy in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Berzhaan.

Berzhaan is on the verge of civil war, and a group of Kemeni rebels takes over the capitol building while Selena is there visiting the Prime Minister. Selena isn't taken hostage with every one else because she is in the bathroom throwing up and worrying that she is pregnant (she and Colin had been trying before she fled the country). Now it's up to Selena to stop the rebels and free the hostages. Kind of reminds me of Die Hard (the first--and only good--movie), but it does so without screaming "derivative".

Unlike many romance novel heroines--even ones in this series--Selena is realistically tough and vulnerable. She has some great kick-butt scenes, and her interactions with the lead villain, Tafiq Ashurbeyli, are interesting. Her fears about her possible pregnancy added a layer of depth, and I liked that fact that she didn't get overwhelmed by the distractions of Colin, baby, etc.

The author also does a good job of describing the world of the book--the weapons, the fighting, the lingo. Another book I read from this line ("Parallel Lies" by Kate Donovan) had a horribly constructed backdrop for the story. In this book, I bought it.

I think the weakness in this book is the romantic element (and hence only a 4-star).

First, the reason that Selena fled to Berzhaan turns out to be a BIG MISUNDERSTANDING. Remember that Colin was working undercover--and Selena knew that--when she saw him kissing the woman. So why did she automatically assume that the kiss was romantic instead of a just-doing-my-job kiss? That is never explained satisfactorily.

Second, Colin is not well developed, and most of the relationship scenes occur over the telephone, with Selena in the capitol building and Colin in the U.S. and later in Berzhaan. Late in the book, Colin and Selena do meet up in person under circumstances that had me saying, "Oh yeah, if it was that easy to [you'll have to read the book], then how come no one else did it?"

So overall, I can recommend this book to anyone who likes feisty heroines and lots of action. Ms. Durgin is definitely on my buy list in the future.