Tag: Archaeology

Mission: Her Rescue by Anna Hackett

Mission: Her Rescue by Anna HackettMission: Her Rescue by Anna Hackett
Series: Team 52 #2
Published by Anna Hackett on October 7, 2018
Pages: 159
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two-stars

When archeologist January’s plane is shot down over the Guatemalan jungle, she knows she’s being hunted for the invaluable Mayan artifacts she’s carrying. Only one man and his team can save her…the covert, black ops Team 52, and the distrusting former CIA operative who drives her crazy…

Dr. January James has a motto: live life to the fullest. A terrible incident in her past, where she lost both her mother and her innocence, taught her that. Now she spends her days on archeological digs doing the work she loves. When her team uncovers a pair of dangerous artifacts in an overgrown temple, she knows they need to be secured and safeguarded. But someone else knows about the artifacts…and will kill to get them.
Working for the CIA, Seth Lynch learned the hard way that people lie and will always stab you in the back. He has the scars to prove it. He lives for his work with Team 52—ensuring pieces of powerful ancient technology don’t fall into the wrong hands. When he learns that the feisty, independent archeologist who works his last nerve has died in a plane crash, he makes it his mission to discover who the hell is responsible.

Deep in the jungle, Seth rescues a very-much alive January and it is up to him to keep both her and the artifacts safe. Hunted from every side, their attraction is explosive and fiery, but with January’s life on the line, Seth must fight his own demons in order to rescue the woman he can no longer resist.

‘Mission: Her Rescue’ is the second instalment of Anna Hackett’s Team 52 series, which, as a spin-off of Hackett’s Treasure Hunter series, gives more credence to theories of advanced ancient civilisations with hints of the paranormal appearing within the story. Seth Lynch is paired with January Jones here, which is apparently an enemies-to-lovers trope, though the enemies part is one that happens off-page (and retold by other characters), so the slide into lust is quick and more baffling.

Of all the Hackett’s books I’ve gone through however, I’m afraid ‘Mission: Her Rescue” resonated the least with me for a variety of reasons: a heroine who was petulantly stubborn for the sake of being argumentative and difficult (leading to some TSTL moments as well), for the same clichéd push-pull in the pairing, for a hate-to-love trope between 2 leads whose chemistry felt just non-existent, more so when it turned into instant love after a good tumble in bed, for the same type of enemies they face.

I’ll be the first to honestly admit that this isn’t a series I’ve been particularly enthusiastic about, given the rinse-and-repeat themes that appear here, along with the same-ish issues that plague the protagonists for not trusting each other as well as the same kind of baddies that populate each book (essentially, there are too many shades of the Treasure Hunter series here).

Thus far, this mysterious team hasn’t been a stand-out at all despite their purpose and their intriguing ability to slip between the cracks of politics and military agendas. I generally do like Hackett’s wild imagination and what she writes about, so it was a surprising struggle even to finish Seth/Jan’s story even (this slid down into a trite and clichéd-ridden HEA that made me cringe), despite the short length of it, though these are clearly my own nitpicking and personal preferences that have contributed to the book being a disappointment.

two-stars

Mission: Her Protection by Anna Hackett

Mission: Her Protection by Anna Hackett
Series: Team 52 #1
Published by Anna Hackett on August 14th 2018
Pages: 154
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three-half-stars

When Rowan’s Arctic research team pulls a strange object out of the ice in Northern Canada, things start to go wrong…very, very wrong. Rescued by a covert, black ops team, she finds herself in the powerful arms of a man with scary gold eyes. A man who vows to do everything and anything to protect her…

Dr. Rowan Schafer has learned it’s best to do things herself and not depend on anyone else. Her cold, academic parents taught her that lesson. She loves the challenge of running a research base, until the day her scientists discover the object in a retreating glacier. Under attack, Rowan finds herself fighting to survive…until the mysterious Team 52 arrives.

Former special forces Marine Lachlan Hunter’s military career ended in blood and screams, until he was recruited to lead a special team. A team tasked with a top-secret mission—to secure and safeguard pieces of powerful ancient technology. Married to his job, he’s done too much and seen too much to risk inflicting his demons on a woman. But when his team arrives in the Arctic, he uncovers both an unexplained artifact, and a young girl from his past, now all grown up. A woman who ignites emotions inside him like never before.

But as Team 52 heads back to their base in Nevada, other hostile forces are after the artifact. Rowan finds herself under attack, and as the bullets fly, Lachlan vows to protect her at all costs. But in the face of danger like they’ve never seen before, will it be enough to keep her alive.

Team 52 is Anna Hackett’s spin-off from her Treasure Hunter Security series, so expect the storylines to be written in a similar vein: adventure-driven with some suspense included as this mysterious team goes off the books to retrieve dangerous (read: as equally mysterious as the team that does it) artefacts and keep them classified. It’s got its feet fully set on earth, while prodding the mystery of advanced civilisations, crossed with some archaeological leanings, so Indiana Jones fans should be quite overjoyed.

Like Hackett’s THS books, expect the team to battle unscrupulous treasure hunters, crime syndicates and other badasses which can only be fought with more badassery. As a foundational book, ‘Mission: Her Protection’ lays out the direction in which the series appears to be going: a slew on books focusing on the team at work, with each member finding their better half along the way.

Rowan Schafer is the rather hapless heroine sorely in need of Team 52’s help in this story, though little does she know that Lachlan Hunter used to be the boy next door whom she used to take comfort in, all grown up and a badass in his own right.

The instalove here is somewhat disconcerting – I find myself constantly saying this with Hackett’s books in any case – and that a near-20-year-old memory of an early-teenage friendship seemed to be sufficient for Lachlan to change his mind about love and relationships within the span of a few days with Rowan.

The scepticism I have about the solidness of the pairing aside, ‘Mission: Her Protection’ does get off an interesting start in any case, though I’m crossing my fingers that this crossover would be more of a showcase of Hackett’s impressive imagination rather than a rinse and repeat of the THS series.

three-half-stars

Out of Reach by Kendall Talbot

Out of Reach by Kendall TalbotOut of Reach by Kendall Talbot
Series: Maximum Exposure #1
Published by Lyrical Liason on 8th May 2018
Pages: 300
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three-stars

In a place where a city can be lost hundreds of years . . . they can still find each other.

Lily saw the temple of Agulinta on television: a vast stone structure swallowed by the Yucatan jungle, rediscovered only now after hundreds of years. So why did the papers she found after her father’s death show the same mysterious carvings that puzzled archaeologists at Agulinta? Her search for answers pulls her to Mexico’s southern border, where the journey to the lost temple will take her through jungle and mountain, over waters home to crocodiles and drug runners, and into uncomfortably close quarters with a man whose need to wander has become a way of life . . .

Australian Carter Logan’s work as a nature photographer has given him the excuse he needs to roam wherever his restless feet take him. But in all the time he’s traveled, he’s never been drawn to anyone the way he is to this determined, cagey young American. Lily’s perseverance through dirt, sweat, and danger to the heart of the ancient temple fires through him. But when the two of them are left alone and stranded in a vicious wilderness, their connection might prove the difference between life and death . . . if the secrets of the past don’t come between them first.

A search for answers, not treasure, is what drives ‘Out of Reach’ and that alone, made me pick it up.

But to call it romance might be stretching it a little thin. The first half of the story read more a linear journey of an explorer’s adventure—don’t get me wrong, it was an exciting one, with detailed descriptions of the hike and the arduous journey to get to the archaeological ruins. And Kendall Talbot didn’t white-wash it too much—her characters started to smell, got injured after going at it rough and desperately scrabbled to be inventors when it came to food and makeshift items.

In fact, Carter and Lily started their own paths here with minimal interaction (some conversations were snippy and others were of the small-talk variety), their relationship—if this could even be called one—felt too superficial and shallow for most of the book, like strangers who coincidentally met for a short trip before they parted. Admittedly both weren’t keen on each other prying into their lives, but that also had the unfortunate result of getting no inroads made on them coming together as a pair.

Individually, we knew of their motives for being on this journey but together, Carter/Lily as a pairing only seemed like an afterthought as Talbot focused more on the documentary-like recounting of the journey (and their individual travails) than building their chemistry or deepening friendship, up until the point that they had to work together to survive. Much like the title, the the romantic angle felt out of reach for the first half of the book, when it became clear a lot of action had to do with Carter and Lily just trying to survive.

Colour me surprised and disbelieving thus, when the love declarations came out of nowhere when Lily and Carter had barely interacted enough to warrant that depth of feeling; worse yet were some TSTL scenes where Lily crossed the line from sensible to irrationally stupid just when I was starting to buy into the idea of them working solidly together. This left me sceptical, not least when it came to Lily’s convenient survival skills that seemed incongruous up with her upbringing, along with the flimsy, rushed ending of even more rushed promises that didn’t include a convincing glimmer of their future together.

For this unusual take on suspense, given the lack of the treasure-hunting angle that typically accompanies archaeological-adventure romance novels, ‘Out of Reach’ is a standout, but for a valid romantic connection, I was still left wanting.

three-stars

Unmapped by Anna Hackett

Unmapped by Anna HackettUnmapped by Anna Hackett
Series: Treasure Hunter Security #6
Published by Anna Hackett on September 5th 2017
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three-stars

With every novella that Anna Hackett publishes, it becomes increasingly obvious that her imagination never runs dry and that alone, puts me in awe of the content that’s been churned out from her desk month after month.

Hackett’s Treasure Hunter Security series really appeals to the, uh, dormant Indiana Jones in me: the crazy, far-flung locales and the treasures they’re hiding as the suspense and intrigue as the security guys battle the baddies. ‘Unmapped’ brings us to Antarctica this time around, in search of a client’s missing twin and that alone is a mouth-watering prospect. It’s a rollicking, upbeat ride from the start without any ‘real’ sense of tragedy (even if the ease with which it takes to arrange a trip far down south is somewhat unrealistic), peppered with slick James Bonde-esque villains unrelenting in their search for artefacts and structures of lost civilisations that are somehow uncovered with alarming ease.

I do think that it’s slightly weaker in the romance department, as Ronin and Peri come together without a backstory and gravitate toward each other simply because—with a hint of instalove around—unlike the couples whom Hackett builds up from previous books. I wasn’t entirely invested in this particular pairing or the believability of it, but then I already know that there are definitely some that work more for me than others, particularly when time is given for chemistry between a potential pairing to bubble over.

That said, ‘Unmapped’ is a very entertaining (albeit short!) read. There’s the whole lick of adventure through which I can vicariously live and it’s always an afternoon well spent when I can get lost in yet another one of Hackett’s worlds.

three-stars

Phantom Pearl by Monica McCabe

Phantom Pearl by Monica McCabePhantom Pearl by Monica McCabe
Series: Jewel Intrigue #3
Published by Kensington - Lyrical Press on June 27th 2017
Pages: 288
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four-stars

Riki Maddox is not your average tomb-raiding treasure hunter. Her targets are carefully chosen to wound her father's killers, the Japanese Yakuza. To thwart their quest to recapture World War II loot initially stolen by Japanese forces, she puts herself in constant danger--and in the sights of a man as driven and as daring as she is.
Working for the Department of Homeland Security, Special Agent Dallas Landry is a rare breed: an academic with an unmatched lust for adventure. He had a perfect success rate recovering stolen art and antiquities--until he came up against an intriguing menace known as Riki Maddox. She's placed his reputation on the line, and stopping her becomes his number one priority.
Now the two will cross paths once again in Australia--on a quest for the legendary Phantom Pearl, a priceless mammoth tusk carved by 15th century monks. Barely one step ahead of the Yakuza, it's a three-way race to recover the long lost treasure. One Riki is hell-bent to win. But playing games against a federal agent like Dallas will cost more than her freedom. The chase will demand she risk her life and her thirst for revenge--but it just might offer something more to live for...

Riki Maddox and Dallas Landry want the Phantom Pearl for very different reasons and that has pit them against each other. And it’s not a rivalry that is new either; Riki has rubbed Dallas’s losses in his face by winning the treasure hunt (or rather, artefact) first, leaving him a laughing stock in front of Homeland Security and Dallas has finally, finally caught up this time around in the search for the Pearl. It’s a chase that takes them half around the world and as they tangle with the Yakuza, Riki and Dallas learn that there is no end to treachery and are forced to reevaluate the meaning of allies and foes.

Coming off ‘Phantom Pearl’ is akin to stepping off the platform of a roller-coaster ride still woozy and dazed, with the sun a little too bright in my eyes. It’s that exciting a ride which makes you—quite paradoxically—want to slow down to savour every moment of it even as the pace picks up enough to break your neck.

I was immediately intrigued by the setting and the context, never having even heard of Yamashita’s gold despite having having some kind of familiarity with Asia-Pacific history. Monica McCabe blends fact and fiction seamlessly and easily made this summer blockbuster material for me, where every page is filled with wry humour, unexpected laughs and a treasure-hunting adventure in far-flung locations rich in mystery, action and swashbuckling romance. It’s so different from many romantic-suspense-adventure-type stories set in South America or even Europe that ‘Phantom Pearl’s’ sheer daring was enough to make me sit up and take notice.

While I couldn’t exactly swallow the sudden realisation of love sneaking over both Dallas and Riki just as I couldn’t quite imagine the huge climatic scene in Singapore’s largest shipyard happening without setting off international furore, I’m reminded yet again that ‘Phantom Pearl’ is fiction layered over fact and it’s all in the name of having an entertaining good time—which I did.

The Jewel Intrigue series are all standalones—all the books are entirely unrelated, linked loosely only by the theme of treasure hunting—and every story is a thrill ride that needs no prior knowledge to enjoy. McCabe is going instantly on my watch-and-read-list and needless to say, I can’t wait to see what else she has up her sleeve.

four-stars

Tinderbox by Rachel Grant

Tinderbox by Rachel GrantTinderbox by Rachel Grant
Series: Flashpoint, #1
Published by Janus Publishing on February 14th 2017
Pages: 302
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four-stars

In the volatile tinderbox of the Horn of Africa, Morgan Adler has made the paleoanthropological find of a lifetime. The discovery brings her to the attention of a warlord eager to claim both Morgan and the fossils, forcing her to make a desperate dash to the nearby US military base to beg for protection.
Master Sergeant Pax Blanchard has orders to intercept Dr. Adler before she reaches the base, and in so doing saves her life. After a harrowing afternoon he safely delivers her to his commanders, only to find his responsibilities toward protecting the obstinate archaeologist have only just begun.
Morgan and Pax are forced to work together in the Djiboutian desert heat, but it is the fire that ignites between them that threatens to combust them both. For the Green Beret, involvement with the woman he must protect is a threat to his career, while for the archaeologist, the soldier is everything she never wanted but somehow can’t resist. When Morgan uncovers a mystery surrounding Djibouti’s most scarce and vital resource, the danger to her reaches the flashpoint. For Pax, protecting her is no longer a matter of following orders, and he’ll risk everything to bring her back alive.

Rachel Grant’s stories—academically-inclined with scorching hot romance and suspense— simply satisfy the geek lurking in me, to be honest. The talk of paleoanthropology, archaeology and every geek thing out there gets my juices going and ‘Tinderbox’ made me lap it all up, wide-eyed. All of it. Including the detailed explanations of the volatile geopolitics of the Horn of Africa and the warring interests of the US, China and the surrounding African states that came through the characters’ dialogues. Grant’s intelligent writing is just that riveting really, with compelling characters and even smarter villains whose endgames aren’t revealed until after a series of twists and turns that will get any romantic suspense fan enthralled.

In fact, I’d call it fictional-realism for the blend that we get of Grant’s own archaeological experiences and her fantastic storytelling.

‘Tinderbox’ starts like any summer blockbuster movie: we are thrust straight into explosive action, characters at odds with each other and a location where few people would venture voluntarily. From there onwards, it’s a journey of mind-bending turns and slow cranks of the screw as the tension rackets up both in the region and for both Pax Blanchard and Morgan Adler. Perhaps the better question would be: how large would the blast radius be when it all finally ignites? And at the centre of it all, are Grant’s protagonists whose push-pull relationship finally reaches a point where some kind of stand needs to be made because the kind of circumstances they face simply don’t allow for anything else.

I did like Pax and the quiet competence that he showed, though it was harder to take to Morgan. So competent academically and physically, yet like a rebellious, immature teenager when it comes to mastering her own emotions and daddy-issues, she came across at times too much as a pushy, petulant teen than a knowledgeable PhD holder who should have known better than to bait Pax for sex (her lowest point for me) simply because her pride had taken a hit when she couldn’t accept Pax’s reasons for not wanting to pursue their relationship.

Fighting hard for women’s equality to be in a man’s world has been a recurring theme in Grant’s books and I do think it’s something that definitely resonates with me, though not if it results in a female lead sacrificing good sense and maturity in the process which I felt Morgan had done. Yet there’s no denying how much of a badass she could be when it all culminated in a thrilling and drawn-out action-packed climax that kept me turning the pages.

My own personal bias states that Grant isn’t an author to be passed up. ‘Tinderbox’ merely confirms this.

four-stars

Poison Evidence by Rachel Grant

Poison Evidence by Rachel GrantPoison Evidence by Rachel Grant
Series: Evidence #7
Published by Janus Publishing on October 25th 2016
Pages: 300
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five-stars

After creating advanced mapping technology that intelligence agencies itch to add to their arsenals, Ivy MacLeod can’t turn down the perfect opportunity to test it: mapping a vast World War II battle site in the islands of Palau. The historic survey is more than an all-expenses-paid trip to paradise, it’s also an opportunity to distance her reputation from her traitorous ex-husband.

Disaster strikes when her ex-husband’s allies attempt to steal the equipment, but the man she turns to for help might be the bigger threat to her mission, her country, and her every waking thought. Is he protecting her as he claims...or is he a foreign agent? Her compass is skewed by the magnetic pull of him and further thrown off when she learns her own government has betrayed her.

Stranded on a tropical island with a man whose motives remain a mystery, Ivy must decide who is the spy, who is the protector, and who is the ultimate villain. Choose right, and she gets to keep her country’s secrets—and her life. Choose wrong...and she risks nothing short of all-out war.

A postcard from Palau arrives at Luke Sevick’s home – a plea for help. But the man who has sent it has his own identity buried so deep that we don’t know who he is until partway through the book, when he finally reveals it to Ivy Macleod, the woman whose equipment and help he needs to finish his endgame.

Of all of Rachel Grant’s leading men, I think none have captured my imagination as much as Parker Reeves/Jack Keaton/Dimitri Veselov, the man with many faces, identities and a past that has been a noose around his neck. Played by everyone, betrayed by those he loved, I fell hook, line and sinker for his story the moment he appeared in ‘Cold Evidence’ and devoured every breathless moment as Ivy threw his well-laid plans into disarray and him into a tailspin as they both gave each other as good as they got.

Grant doesn’t disappoint with a complex web of intrigue, shadow ops and a huge dose of romance that in no way compromises the breakneck pace of the suspense and the tightly-woven plot that twists and turns—and keeps ahead of the reader always. Brilliantly written and so intricately done, ‘Poison Evidence’ is such a stellar example of the genre that few books live up to.

five-stars