Tiger Holland from Tigers All Consuming Books is helping me out his week while I'm at BEA. She'll be guest posting her reviews of romance genre books for the next two weeks.
THANK YOU Tiger!! You're a lifesaver!
Mack McKinley leads a team of men who specialize in urban warfare. They're a unit of GhostWalkers, people who've had their natural psychic abilities enhanced in secret government programs. In addition to telepathy, they've all had little tweaks to their DNA and can see in the dark, jump long distances, etc.—Mack's best buddy Kane can even see through walls, though he pays for it with temporary blindness after every use. When the crew goes to San Francisco to stop some terrorists, they run into a woman they all grew up with, who left the GhostWalker program two years prior: Jaimie Fielding, Mack's ex. She walked out on Mack and vanished without a trace, and you can bet he's still angry, angry, angry about it.
Jaimie's an extra-powerful psychic with a giant intellect, and she's been doing some snooping into the GhostWalker program. She tells Mack and the guys that Dr. Whitney, the mastermind behind the whole operation, is a psycho who's doing experiments on kids and trying to start a breeding program so he can make superhumans. Because she knows all this, a bunch of different people want her dead. Naturally, Mack isn't too keen on that idea.
This book is really what you'd call a paranormal-romantic-suspense novel, and the ratio of action to relationship scenes seemed nicely balanced. Jaimie and Mack have plenty of trust and resentment issues to work out, and it's fun to watch them. They broke up, essentially, because Jaimie wanted a family, and Mack wanted to run around saving the world. She left him when he told her that he wasn't “ready for any kind of commitment,” and he regards her so-called abandonment with most grievous displeasure. It's almost adorable how he thinks he's done nothing wrong, and can't fathom how she could walk out on him. He does readily admit that he's been miserable without her, and that he's intent on getting her back, but simple admittance isn't enough. You know what we want, Mack—we want a good grovel before we forgive you. A really good grovel.
On the characters: Mack's one of those blatant alphas, and takes his Y-chromosome very seriously, but for all his bossiness, he's not really a neanderthal. He just doesn't recognize love when he sees or feels it, and has trouble saying the words “I love you” when he finally does. Jaimie herself is genuinely smart and very tender-hearted, and has just the right amount of temper and sarcasm, rather than being a heroine who blusters and does nothing, but is still called “feisty”. The secondary character I like most is Kane, who seems like a real sweetie. Kane's a beta male, if that's possible (ever notice how romance novels portray 5-10 alpha guys as being best friends who somehow have no social difficulties with each other?), and he considers himself Jaimie's brother, since they grew up together. When Kane, Mack, and Jaimie are all talking together, their exchanges have a natural comedic timing I really appreciated. There's an incredibly brief introduction of a romantic rival, but we all know he's just there to offer a mild complication and get a nice set-up for his own book. Two words: Sequel Bait.
As for the technical component of the story, all the computer geekery and the military/warfare stuff felt reasonably legit. It actually didn't bother me that Jaimie was a computer genius who had gotten her PhD at age twenty, but I will add that I'm a little weary in general of PR characters with PhD's. It seems that you can't turn around without meeting a werewolf with a doctorate in astrophysics or a model-gorgeous heroine who's been studying bio-engineering or (my favorite) ancient civilizations for eight to ten years. Not that I want the protags to be dumb, but there seems to be a lot of disproportionate smartness circulating around the PR genre. PhD's for everyone!
Also, I love how comparatively slow this couple moved. In one of Feehan's other series, the Carpathian vampires, you can pretty much bank on the hero and heroine going at it by page 60 or 70, but here the relationship progresses at what I feel is a more natural pace, considering how much life-threatening action is going on and how much time Mack and Jaimie have to spend re-establishing broken trust and unearthing buried love. Bravo for restraint.
Street Game is book eight in the GhostWalkers series, but I think a reader can jump into the series at almost any book and not feel too lost. In the past, I found that reading Feehan books was like eating double-bacon cheeseburgers: tasty, cheesy, and something to be consumed in secret, because its hard to justify scarfing them down. But I think this book is far superior to my early reads because the writing is more realistic and the relationship is explored with a wider variety of expression.
Grade: 3.5 out of 4
Author's website: http://www.christinefeehan.com/
Buy the book! Street Game (Ghostwalkers, No 8)