Series: Red-Hot SEALs

Forged in Ember by Trish McCallan

Forged in Ember by Trish McCallanForged in Ember by Trish McCallan
Series: Red-Hot SEALS #4
Published by Montlake Romance on 15th May 2018
Pages: 394
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three-stars

In the final novel in the scorching Red-Hot SEALs series, a desperate mother and a Navy SEAL fight fire with fire to protect their love and save the world…

Amy Chastain has made a lot of enemies—none so ruthless as the insanely powerful New Ruling Order (NRO). When they killed her husband, it was hell. Then they targeted her children by injecting them with a dangerous, experimental isotope. Now Amy trusts only one man to help her: the ex-commander of SEAL Team 7.

In the company of Navy SEALs, Jace “Mac” Mackenzie was in his physical element. Now he’s on the run from the same cabal that poisoned Amy’s children. That doesn’t stop him from launching a mission to bring down the NRO—and find an antidote. But the clock is ticking. And as the sparks fly between him and Amy, Mac realizes he has more to lose than ever before.

As Mac closes in on the NRO, he uncovers a plot that threatens more than Amy’s children. Now it’s a race against time to stop a global conspiracy, save the woman he loves, and protect the family that’s starting to feel like his.

Driven by hate, Amy Chastain seeks vengeance for her children who have been used as scientific subjects. She’s not the only one part of the collateral damage when a flight was hijacked months ago, though that critical event has made it obvious that there are bigger things at play. Smack in the middle of the instability are new bonds that are made (though not without much friction in the process) and with a revelation of a Dan-Brown-type conspiracy, 4 SEALs manage to fall in love along the way. That, in a nutshell, is how far we’ve come.

‘Forged in Ember’ closes the whole series as the bad guys are dispatched, only with a loose thread or so left hanging so that there’s room for a sequel. There’s also a helpful recap of the entire story-arc in the beginning, which makes ‘Forged in Ember’ a passable standalone, but the odd bits of paranormal activity, coupled with the suspense, would probably mean that the rest of the books in this series are best read in order before tackling this one.

There’s no bigger relief than this—to see the final book in Trish McCallan’s ‘Red-Hot SEALs’ series appear, especially since the wait time for it has stretched an excruciating number of years. But I’ve held out, unable to forget that the series contains an odd but good mix of conspiracy theories, military suspense and paranormal happenings that form a cocktail potent enough to keep me constantly lapping at the pages. That McCallan’s writing style is exactly what I go for in this particular genre for doesn’t hurt either.

I’ve always been intrigued by the tension between Jace McKenzie and Amy Chastain after their very unusual meeting (in rather tragic circumstances) in the first book, anyway, and ‘Forged in Ember’ finally tells their story. Amy Chastain has always stood out like a beacon of unflagging courage and fortitude—the horrors of what she’d suffered from the first book have made me want her story from the start, as McCallan pairs a woman whose strength can’t afford to waver with a rough-hewn, temperamentally impulsive commander who’s as brutish, gruff and blunt as they come. Still, their coming together is more muted that I thought, hindered many times, by the race to save her son.

As a result, the HEA in the uneasy aftermath feels like shaky foundation on which this book ends. McCallan’s SEALs get their happy rides into the sunset, banished as they are from active duty as they know it, reinstated into another secretive order that will probably see the light of day again. There are things that I thought somewhat bizarre and out of place—the large insertion of native Indian tribal rites and rituals, the super-secret, well-stocked military base off the official lines, the influence of the supernatural here—which also takes a great amount of the suspension of disbelief. Or that paranormal abilities, which defy all attempts at rational explanation anyway, conveniently pop up at times give a deus-ex-machina cop-out to prevent more characters from dropping dead like flies and help save the day.
three-stars

Forged in Smoke by Trish McCallan

Forged in Smoke by Trish McCallanForged in Smoke by Trish McCallan
Series: Red-Hot SEALs, #3
Published by Montlake Romance on July 19th 2016
Pages: 382
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four-stars

Faith Ansell could never be mistaken for an action hero. The scientist is content in her lab, working with her team on life-changing discoveries. But when a mysterious organization captures her colleagues, she’s forced to flee for her life with SEAL Team 7.
Lieutenant Seth “Rawls” Rawlings, ST7’s corpsman, hasn’t been himself since a near-death experience in the Sierra Nevadas. He’s tense and distracted, and the team caught him arguing with himself—loudly. Despite his erratic behavior, Rawls is the only one Faith feels comfortable confiding her life-threatening secret in.
But Rawls has a secret of his own: his wasn’t the only spirit to return to the physical plane when he was resuscitated. At first, Rawls assumed the “ghost” he saw and heard meant he was having a complete mental breakdown. But the apparition soon becomes convincingly real, and what’s more, he may be the key to the conspiracy looming over them. Rawls had better act quickly because ST7’s race to save their reputations—and Faith’s life—is on.

The long wait between this book and the previous one in the series made it difficult to dive straight into it, but the sitrep at the beginning anticipates this problem. If it doesn’t, rereading the first 2 parts, or at least the second book, should go a way in solving this issue.

‘Forged in Smoke’ is Rawls’s story and where we left him the last time, it seemed as though he’d tossed out his cookies completely after getting healed of his fatal wound. The action picks up almost immediately and the explanation for his bizarre behaviour delves into the paranormal realm. I was lost at times, but found many bits that I enjoyed, especially the combination of military suspense, conspiracy theories – which does admittedly sound far-fetched at times – and the paranormal. There is a narrative arc of events that shoots through each of these books and would, presumably end with the fourth and last books, which can be frustrating considering the long wait between books.

Yet Trish McCallan’s clear, succinct writing is an additional draw and her characters’ voices distinct enough for me to like them, even though the books sort of skirt the phenomenon of instant love. Rawls/Faith is a pairing that I did enjoy and their growing connection was great to read about. But the teasers of Jace Mackenzie’s coming story however – my favourite blunt, self-deprecating and hilarious hero thus far – have long made him my favourite one to wait for.

four-stars