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Thursday, October 7, 2010

'The Darkest Hour' KGI #1 by Maya BANKS

From the BLURB:

The Kelly Group International (KGI): A super elite, top secret, family-run business.

Qualifications: High intelligence, rock hard body, military background.

Mission: Hostage/kidnap victim recovery. Intelligence gathering. Handling jobs the US government can’t…

It’s been one year since ex-Navy SEAL Ethan Kelly last saw his wife Rachel alive. Overwhelmed by grief and guilt over his failures as a husband, Ethan shuts himself off from everything and everyone.

His brothers have tried to bring Ethan into the KGI fold, tried to break through the barriers he's built around himself, but Ethan refuses to respond… until he receives anonymous information claiming Rachel is alive.

To save her, Ethan will have to dodge bullets, cross a jungle, and risk falling captive to a deadly drug cartel that threatens his own demise. And even if he succeeds, he’ll have to force Rachel to recover memories she can’t and doesn’t want to relive—the minute by minute terror of her darkest hour—for their love, and their lives, may depend on it.

‘The Darkest Hour’ is the first book in a hot new series from erotica author, Maya Banks.

Maya Banks is a bit of a ‘hit and miss’ author for me. Sometimes I love her books (I would count ‘Colter’s Woman’ amongst my favourite erotica reads). And then sometimes I really despise her books (‘Colter’s Lady’, for instance). But I am always willing to give her a try.

I was pleasantly surprised by ‘The Darkest Hour’.

The premise of the series revolves around KGI (Kelly Group International). This is a family-run group established by six brothers who have various backgrounds in the Army and SEALs. The KGI are private military contractors, of sorts. They do the tough jobs no one else will touch; hostage extractions, assassinations, and murky political surveillance.

We are first introduced to the Kelly family via middle brother, Ethan. Ethan is in a downward spiral following the tragic death of his wife, Rachel, in a plane crash in South America. Ethan has cut himself off from his family and become a recluse in the wake of Rachel’s death, which is also tainted by his own guilt for his perceived involvement.
When we meet him the first year anniversary of Rachel’s death is upon him, and Ethan is drinking himself into oblivion. Until a package arrives, showing surveillance pictures of Rachel and tangible proof that she is alive. Alive, but held hostage in a drug cartel’s base camp.
Ethan rouses the KGI group together to save his beloved wife.... but even second chances come with complications. Rachel may be back, but she has demons to face, and so does Ethan.

I really enjoyed this book. To begin with, I love the series premise. The KGI will no doubt provide many a steamy book – I love the combination of tough army men, with the camaraderie of a family-run organization. I think there’s a lot of possibility in this series, and I will definitely be sticking with it.

Secondly, I loved the fact that although this is a fairly outlandish erotica/romance read, there’s a lot of emotional angst and characterization behind the characters. Rachel is, of course, the character with the most turmoil – and Maya Banks really doesn’t pull punches with Rachel’s post traumatic stress and agonizing recovery.
“God, I sound so pathetic. Damn it, Ethan, I’m tired of sounding so pitiful. ‘What’s left of my life?’ Enough. Enough, enough, enough,” she chanted. “I’m so lucky. I have a second chance and I tried to screw it up. How unforgiveable is that? I have a husband and a great family who loves me, and I was willing to throw all of that away because some woman asking me questions made me feel helpless and inferior.”
She stood, agitated, her hands curling into tight fists at her sides.
“Well, I’m done with that,” she said fiercely. “Do you hear me, Ethan? I’m done. This need inside me is killing me, but I won’t let it. Do you hear me? I won’t let it. I might be crazy, but I’m not going to let you or my family down. I’m not going to let myself down.”
But I also loved the fact that Ethan is recovering, both from his wife’s death and her return. Not to give anything away, but Ethan is harbouring some guilt over the way he treated Rachel before she left for South America. Her return from the dead is a miracle to Ethan, but at the same time he is worried about what she will remember of their imperfect marriage... and that worry turns to guilt over not being 100% elated by her return. I loved the emotional connection Maya Banks made with the characters; it made for a surprisingly fulfilling read.

I did have one or two problems with the book, however...

Because there are six Kelly siblings it was a little hard to keep track of everyone and I felt that the brother’s weren’t given enough page-time to be distinctive. On the one hand I thought their family dynamic came across beautifully, and the Kelly’s were definitely a formidable clan. But I felt a little disconnected from the individual brothers. Ethan was obviously well developed because this is his story. But twins Nathan and Joe have a ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ appearance. Donovan ‘Van’ is the quiet recluse and therefore virtually invisible. Sam and Garrett seemed to be the two Alpha brothers, and were given the most characterization of any other brothers, but still not enough for my liking. But Maya Banks also throws into the KGI/Kelly mix employees like Sean (who is also the town cop) and Rio, and there are a lot of men to keep straight in your head. I would have been fine if Banks had simply referred to some of the brothers, without introducing them in this book (I think Nathan and Joe could have remained off the page, merely mentioned by the family members to be formally introduced in scene in later books?).

There’s also a second storyline about a runaway girl called Rusty who ma and pa Kelly take in off the street. This was a little ‘huh?’ for me. I’m sure this story will come to fruition in future books as Rusty grows and matures, but in this first book it felt out of place running concurrently with Rachel and Ethan’s emotional story.

On the plus side, the sex is hot. This is a guarantee in a Maya Banks book.... she alternates between rough and sensual, smutty and romantic. There’s a little something here to push everyone’s buttons. And because the emotional stakes are constantly raised between Rachel and Ethan the sex is even more intense and frantic. I loved it.

I had a few problems with ‘The Darkest Hour’, but overall I thought this was a great and tempting introduction to a wonderful new series. I will definitely be reading more books in the KGI series.

3/5

4 comments:

  1. I won this book - got it in the mail today as a matter of fact! I was so weirded out by Colters' Woman, but I really liked Be With Me :) I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

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  2. I really want to read this one but I seem to have the same luck with Ms Banks books- some I love, some i hate. I hopy this will be one of the loving kind for me. Thanks for the review.

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  3. I keep saying I need to read Maya Banks..but then I never do. This one though sounds more up my alley.

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  4. Really enjoyed your spot on review.

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