I can remember the exact second I fell in love with romantic adventure: My mom and I were at the movie theatre watching Romancing the Stone. In one of the first scenes, Joan Wilder was standing on a cliff in the Columbian jungle when the cliff loses its battle in the deluge of rain and crumbles, sending her toppling down the mountainside. Oh, man, what an exhilarating feeling … watching Joan slide along in that awful puffy winter coat and landing with an inglorious thud! in a mud puddle. And to my eleven year old self, seeing Jack T. Colton sliding along after her, Pete Rose-style, landing face first between her thighs. Scandalous! I had no idea … (Oh, my) That clinched it for me.
Fortunately, age and experience are good for the, uh, libido and I wouldn’t be so scandalized nowadays. But my love for adventure has grown exponentially, and the first books I gravitate toward are romantic adventure. We all need a little Jack T. Colton in our lives, right?
One of my favorite romantic adventure authors is Cherry Adair. She’s got a whole slew of adventures, but the five linked titles about the Wright siblings in the T-FLAC series: Kiss and Tell (2000); Hide and Seek (2001); In Too Deep (2002); Out of Sight (2003); and On Thin Ice (2004) are exceptional.
Prolonged series, even when written by one of my favorite authors, can go on too long, sort of like an instrumental solo at a rock concert. The villains and the plots eventually seem recycled, the constant interfering of family is annoying, and the obligatory recap that happens along the way is boring. But not these books.
Hide and Seek opens with: “Well, well, if it isn’t Miss Eastman. I’d recognize those tits anywhere.” I suppose I might feign outrage if a seriously sexy man walked up and said that to me while I was sunbathing topless in the mountaintop compound of a South American crime lord…but, then again, why not just go with brazen flow? That’s what happens in this tale of secret mission and high-stakes outcome.
“High-stakes” is a big theme for Adair’s adventures. The oldest Wright sibling, Michael, is hell-bent on vengeance in In Too Deep. When you add a traumatized Navy SEAL who’s afraid of the water, who sails into port on Paradise Island so he can mete out justice on the very man responsible for his trauma, with an innocent woman who learns the hard way that her father is the monster in Michael’s sights, you get explosive danger, intrigue and romance.
Out of Sight takes us to Egypt, where a good old fashioned notorious terrorist has set up camp. Kane’s story is a little exaggerated, but if we’re going to read romantic adventure, we want it to be more dangerous and over the top than fighting our way through the tax-free weekend shopping for the new school year. Right? The one element I found to be less enjoyable in this story is our irritating female lead, sharpshooter A.J. Cooper. Her whininess tends to drag on, and the world domination plot is a little 007 Goldeneye-ish, but it’s still fun.
Kiss and Tell and On Thin Ice are my favorite of the series—maybe because the women are the exact opposite of the overly whiny A.J. On Thin Ice is set in Alaska and uses the Iditarod as its backdrop. Dr. Lily Munroe is totally badass; she’s independent, brave, strong, fearless. Check out this passage, almost half-way through the book:
Half the hillside was breaking away from the mountain and tumbling to the gorge below in a giant plume of fast-moving snow and rock.
Heart in his throat, Derek rounded the curve at a dead run, just as a rumbling wall of white hit the back of Lily’s sled with the thundering force of a bullet train.
Running flat out, he ripped off his restrictive coat one-handed, not feeling the icy bite of the cold as he tossed it to the frozen ground and lunged for the center line between the heads of her lead dogs. Made up of thick rope, and reinforced with steel, it ran the length from the leaders to the sled. And Lily.
His hands closed around cold steel; his fingers immediately turned white with the strain of the downward drag. The muscles in his arms and back bunched as he focused everything he had on keeping hold of Lily’s team.
Her dogs barked and howled, frantic, answered by his own team down the path behind him. The cacophony of sound jolted the air and filled every crevasse of space across the narrow canyon.
In the flash of a second before everything went to hell, Derek’s gaze collided with Lily’s, and he saw shock and fear in her terror-wide eyes.
Ohmigod, even though I’ve read this book about a dozen times, my heart still pounds. The whole concept of survival in On Thin Ice was so compelling to me: man versus nature, man versus man, man versus self. Whew, that’s a lot of conflict.
Kiss and Tell is one of Adair’s earliest novels, and my other favorite of hers. It’s about the only female sibling, Marnie Wright, and sexy Jake Dolan. Again, we have a sexy hero reluctant to share his heart with a woman, but Marnie’s tenacious, brilliant, and funny. With four brothers sodden with testosterone poisoning, it’s no wonder she’s as badass as Lily. The dialogue in this story is fast-paced and snappy. Plus, can you say ‘underground lair,’ and ‘vast weaponry’? I love a hero with a big gun. Really.
Action? Adventure? Romance? Delicious! Particularly with a Cherry on top.
Dolly Sickles is a Southerner with a lifelong penchant for storytelling. Her Secret Squirrel identity is Dolly Sickles, but she also writes romance as Becky Moore, and in the spring of 2012, her first children’s book will be published as Dolly Dozier. She’s an avid reader of all literature, but she takes refuge in the romance genre, where despite the most grandiose, exhilarating, strange, and unlikely plot that’s out there, every story has a happy ending.