Series: Outbreak Task Force, #1
Published by Entangled Publishing (Select Suspense) on May 22nd 2017
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Special Forces soldier and medic Walter River would give anything to snatch more than a few seconds of down time to see if he can rattle the no-nonsense and incredibly hot Dr. Lloyd he's protecting, but dodging explosions, snipers, and student radicals who've unleashed a lethal bio-engineered microorganism have made that almost impossible. Maybe he'll get a chance—if he can figure out how to keep them both alive.
CDC microbiologist Ava Lloyd races to find a cure for a bio-terrorism organism sweeping El Paso. The few stolen moments with her very hunky bodyguard River have been explosive, but no matter how alluring he is, she can't afford to get distracted. The clock is ticking, people are dying by the hundreds, and once this crisis is solved, they'll both be off on their next assignment, thousands of miles apart.
I think Julie Rowe has written a winner with this one. ‘Viable Threat’ is thrilling, heart-pounding, a fast-paced ride that whisks you through the tense situation of a sudden outbreak and a series of attacks in the city that point to biological terrorism. And in the maelstrom, a Special Forces soldier and a microbiologist join forces to help contain it and get to ground zero, but the journey ahead is fraught with nothing but danger and minefields.
There’s also a lot of arguing over territory, conflicting agendas and hidden motives as the ugly politics of emergency management come to the fore…while bodies drop like flies during a plague. As dry as this bit of the conflict can be, Rowe handles it well, with way more realism than I expected and throws in more than a spicy dash of conspiracy theories and odd, but not unwelcome bits of humour that kept me wide-eyed and entertained.
That’s the beauty of fast-paced action and suspense in the RS genre when done right. But the characters as well as the protagonists ground the story, so strongly-crafted and so memorable that they’ll probably stay in my mind for a long time. A side-note here: the Drill Sergeant gets my vote as a fan favourite, by the way.
But River and Ava stole the show completely. River was serious and confident when he needed to be, quietly flirtatious with his ‘mouse’ in a way that made me laugh, unfailingly loyal when given his orders to stick by Ava yet never quite overstepping his boundaries as he defers to her—a rare quality in any case, matched only by his atypical appearance that isn’t quite what the usual RS hero looks like. I loved how competent they both were without the necessary posturing and their partnership—as put together as it is—did seem like a good, solid one that will outlast this outbreak.
There’s no dancing around their attraction or silly games because the stakes are too high for anything else. Battling the sudden outbreak takes priority and everything else fades into the background for now, which is what both characters do, dedicated as they are to their jobs. Yet bonds are forged in risky, life-and-death-type situations and Ava/River’s growing loyalty to each other is no less reminiscent of the brotherhood formed among soldiers who go to war together. It’s an added dimension to the usual physical and emotional connection that most readers crave for in romances and with this unshakeable bond forming in times of emergency, ‘Viral Justice’ gives this burgeoning relationship depth, but it’s compressed so much within this short time span (just over 24 hours) that made me wonder if it’s merely adrenaline and sexual tension sparking between them.
The somewhat rushed conclusion aside, Rowe’s Outbreak Task Force is going to be a series I’ll be keeping an eye on—if the sequels are going to be anything like this explosive thriller, I’m down for the count.