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    lots of team dynamics with this romance!

    Melissa Moore is only the second woman to graduate from a unique special forces training program. Five years earlier, she’d been a museum curator with a penchant for adventurous hobbies. On a mountain climb with her brother, bad weather and a slip into a crevasse had ended her brother’s life and resulted in her being rescued by a Delta Force operative. From then on she’d been focused on becoming like her rescuer, joining the US military and working her way up to the elite task force. Post-graduation, her first assignment is to join a Delta Force team working in South America to debilitate the thriving drug trade. Richie Goldman is the resident geek of his Delta force team. He’s got the nickname of ‘Q’ (like the gadget wizard in James Bond) for his enthusiasm over technical details. But he’s also a highly trained, physically effective warrior. When Melissa joins their team, he’s awestruck by not only her beauty but her skills as well. As the other pilot on the team, they quickly become partners in training for their mission and it soon leads to a bedroom partnership, too. Deep undercover in the Columbian jungle, their team must find a way to take down a notorious drug dealer and his cocaine laboratory. With the clock ticking, they’ll have to use all their wits to survive if they want to consider a future together. Melissa is an interesting female heroine. She ends up on this career path due to a tragedy, but she clearly belongs here. She’s smart, savvy, and strong both physically and mentally. Dropped into an already established team means she’s going to have to work harder to fit in. One of her teammates, Carla, is the first woman to have graduated from the program. She’s clearly a kickass, no nonsense woman as well, and so while they initially clash due to both being such strong women, they strike up an understanding and a friendship fairly quickly. Melissa is clearly different though; more even tempered and able to assess a situation and see what is missing or what is wrong. But her acceptance by the male members is a bit more challenging. Her attraction to Richie (which is mutual) is obvious to the rest of the guys, and they are suspicious, none more so than Chad who makes no bones about his displeasure at her joining their team. He worries about her either taking over the team captain position (currently held by Kyle), or about her hurting the somewhat naïve Richie. The friction between the two of them, and subsequently between Richie and Chad adds to the tension in the story. Richie has a bit of split personality. On the one hand, he’s definitely fully capable of his job as a covert operative. He’s skilled in all manner of combat, and with his knowledge of several languages, can easily blend in with the natives on any undercover assignment. But when he’s not in fighting mode, he’s a tech geek, a very enthusiastic man who seems somewhat immature. He doesn’t have a lot of experience with women, and it shows in his awe around Melissa. Where the other guys on the team are quick to find willing women to sleep with while on assignment, that isn’t the way Richie operates. But he finds the courage to approach Melissa and when she reciprocates his attentions, they end up having some pretty steamy scenes together. Since two members of their team, Carla and Kyle, are already a couple (from the first book in the series, Target Engaged), there isn’t a lot of discussion about whether or not it’s a good idea for them to hook up. It does happen fairly quickly, and the insta-lust leads to insta-love. In high stress situations like Richie and Melissa are in, it’s not surprising that an emotional connection is established so fast. However, in this scenario a happy for now ending without a declaration of love would have been perfectly acceptable and more believable. The strength of this story comes in two places. The first is the training that Melissa and Richie undergo before they take part in the big undercover operation they’ve been assigned. It’s clear that the author knows about different kinds of small planes and there are some fun scenes with Richie and Melissa learning how to fly all sorts of them in preparation for what they might encounter on their mission. The second is the exciting and action packed latter half of the story where the mission is underway. There is lots of attention to detail in terms of the location, setting, characters and the cocaine trade that make up for the slower first half of the story. The focus on team dynamics for the first half had me wondering whether the story would pick up or not, and it definitely does. In the end, Heart Strike is a solid romantic suspense story with some interesting and genuinely likable characters and I look forward to reading more of this series.
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    Action-packed

    Adorable warrior-geek and movie references? What's not to love about that? M. L. Buchman's writing is addictive and every book is exciting and engrossing in its own way while building on the familiar. I always enjoy how he perfectly balances the technical data with the actual action and romance. Richie Goldman is the geek of his Delta team and aptly nicknamed 'Q' for the Bond movies tech wizard but he's also a highly trained warrior, a fact that is sometimes overshadowed by his big brain. And he's got no game when it comes to the ladies so it's understandable when he falls all over the new addition to the team. But she's as skilled as she's gorgeous and they find a rhythm that he's never found with anyone else on or off the job. In her previous life, Melissa Moore was a museum curator and an extreme sports enthusiast. Until she lost her brother on a mountain climb and was rescued by a military officer and the course of her life was changed. Now she is only the second woman in Delta but she is determined to be the best. For a woman whose life was originally on a different track, she fit in with the rest of the operators very well. She's smart and both mentally and physically strong, and her strength lies in her ability to make split-second assessments of situations and people, a skill that would be highly needed on their assignment. The team has been tasked with taking down a South American drug lord and his operation and as the only two pilots on the team, Richie and Melissa find themselves spending a lot time together as they brush up on their skill in prep for their assignment. The immediate connection between Melissa and Richie does not sit so well with the rest of the team for many reasons. With the only two women in Delta on the same team, there is the understandable friction between them until they reach an understanding. For the rest of the team, concern for Richie is a driving factor and Melissa's skills pose a threat to their structure. Their resentment of her puts pressure on the team dynamics, but they'll need each other and their wits to survive the Colombian jungle. The first half of this book was slow going as it focused on team building and the training Melissa and Richie underwent, but it was balanced out by the action-packed second half of the story. Melissa's even temperament made her a major asset to the team due to the circumstances of this particular assignment and she brought out the best in Richie with the effortless way she understood him, challenged him and encouraged him to be his best. I liked how Richie embraced both the geek and warrior sides of him and grew into his potential. HEART STRIKE lacks the fireworks of the first book but it was a solid and satisfying read and the main characters were just as lovable. M. L. Buchman is an auto-read for me and I'm looking forward to more from him. Disclaimer: I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book. All opinions stated are solely mine.
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