I like to look at the makings of a good romance novel in the same manner as that of a truly great cake. As a woman with roots in the South, I know how difficult it is to find the perfect balance between precision measurements and perfect timing and finding yourself with, after an hour and a half, a perfect mess. If the recipe calls for a pinch of salt, two cups of sugar and a cup of flour, it is best if you follow those precise measurements.
It is exactly the same for romance novels. Writers love to say that the story tells them what POV to use, the personality of the characters and the location. I prefer to believe that a little skill, in addition to the writer’s own intuition, is required to come up with a good mix of characters and the sweet accents that voice, setting and overall tone bring to the story.
Echoes at Dawn by Maya Banks is perfectly blended, and returns to the suspenseful KGI world she last explored in Whispers in the Dark. She brings fabulous main characters, Rio and Grace, together with a supporting cast that is as rich as a triple-layer German Chocolate cake.
When you have a character that is completely Alpha as Rio is, his brazen personality must be offset with a little sensitivity and—dare I say it—vulnerability. It was nice to see Grace’s streak of determination, despite having been compromised at the outset of the book. Characters that resonate aren’t people that seem to be all of one and none of another; not only does it starve the story of true human emotion and feeling, but it’s a pretty dull ass read.
Getting back to Banks’s cake, she also gave more personality to the team of KGI as opposed to just having them in the simply background. To give an example of what I’m referring to, in the middle of a desperate situation, the KGI team members add so much to the story, even when it didn’t belong to them at all.
“I don’t know how the hell she’s survived,” Diego said as he rose. “She’s a walking corpse.”
Rio scowled fiercely at his medic and third in command. He didn’t want to hear anything negative about Grace. She had more resilience and fight in her than most of the men he’d served with in his years in black ops. His money would be on her any damn day of the week.
“What are our transport options?” Rio demanded.
“I commandeered an old Chevy work truck,” Terrance said.
Rio blew out his breath. “That’s it?”
Diego shrugged. “We’ve had worse.”
Yeah, they had. Only they hadn’t been carrying a woman who was more dead than alive. A woman who needed gentleness and caring, not a bumpy-ass ride down switchbacks in the bed of a farm truck.
“I can make a bed in the back,” Browning offered. “It won’t be the Ritz, but it’ll do.”
“How the fuck would you know anything about the Ritz?” Alton grumbled. “Fucking pretty boy.”
Browning snorted. “You’ve got me mixed up with Diego here. He’s Mr. Suave and shit.”
The humor between the team members and their interpersonal relationships realistically conveyed that each team member was valued and respected by the other. It was also refreshing that the men each had a unique and splendid personality unto themselves.
The addition of the secondary characters enhanced, but didn’t take over the book—while Banks was careful to allow us a glimpse of the inner workings of the KGI team, there was never a moment that the reader was fully apprised at who the stars were.
I have always liked Maya Banks’s work, regardless of what genre she happens to be writing in at the time, and I will always buy her books. Aside from ‘brand loyalty,’ I’ll always buy her because bakes a pretty awesome romance cake.