Series: Alpha Ops, #1
Published by Swerve on February 2nd 2016
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The first in the Alpha Ops novella series that features an alpha Navy SEAL who meets his match in a buttoned-up firecracker who is hiding a passionate side. Logistics director Rose Powell agreed to chaperone her grandmother on a guided tour of Roman ruins on one condition: her brother Jack would come with her. But when Jack backs out, his best friend and fellow SEAL Keenan Parker takes his place. Without a working cell phone, Rose's orderly world drifts into dreamy days and hot, secret nights in Keenan's bed. Keenan left the Navy but never made it any farther than Istanbul, much less to a viable future. Until he does, he'll show Rose things she didn't know about herself. Can he give his heart and his future to the woman he promised his best friend he'd never touch?
Rose Powell’s trip to Turkey with her gran and other elderly friends nearly falls apart when her brother—PTSD ridden and anti-social—pulled out of it, leaving her with his best friend to play tour guide. Stuck without a cell phone and proper WIFI, Rose’s organised world of best-laid plans and itinerary dissolves in the wake of a vacation fling that she starts with Keenan. Drifting through the temporary world of ruins with nights of passion and days spent with the weight of history bearing down on them, both Keenan and Rose are forced to consider aspects of themselves they have never known – and the real meaning of belonging.
Like ships passing each other in the night, Rose and Keenan’s connection is unexpected, but memorable enough that temporary turns permanent. While I understood Rose’s own motivations for control and orderliness, I was even more intrigued by Keenan’s negation of the overt type of PTSD that most military romances seem to espouse, exuding instead, the mysterious yet subtle sense of having lost any sense of home, so eloquently brought across by the thin parallels Ms. Calhoun draws to The Illiad.
The attractiveness of Anne Calhoun’s writing lies precisely in its allusiveness, the near-abstract focus on emotions and the intense cataloguing of the present, as well as the wonderfully nuanced and subtle characterisation of both Keenan and Rose. The content (thankfully!) isn’t quite a proper reflection of the sleazy suggestiveness of its title, and I was surprised to find myself engrossed in the same trek that Rose and Keenan take around Turkey, similarly caught up in that dreamy, sensual world that unfolded in the ruins and later, in the bedroom. In fact, I’m vaguely reminded of Anais Nin’s writing, even if this story lacks the same visceral vocabulary and crystalline control of Nin’s erotica, yet that this comparison even slipped into my mind is pretty impressive enough, given the brevity of the novella.