Nightshade starts fast: literally. One minute you’re reading the Seal Creed, the next you’re eavesdropping on a super-secret meeting between powerful men, and then, suddenly, you’re racing down a lonely highway on a motorcycle with Max Jacobs, an ex-military hotty with a death wish.
(Wow. We’ve covered a lot of ground in a really short time. But back to the hotty on the motorcycle, right? Because this, of course, is Edgy Inspirational Romance.com and I bet “hotty” and “motorcycle” grabbed your attention a lot better than the two powerful dudes having a meeting.)
For those of you who go for the brooding tortured hero type, Max Jacobs, former Navy Seal, could be your man -- except for one annoying little detail: he’s married… sort of. Separated from his wife and on the fast track toward divorce, Max is angry, alone, and… hopeless. Max’s anger is what has sent his marriage to Sydney, a journalist, to the latrine. Max now sees himself as unchangeable, unemployed, and unworthy -- he has lost all will to live. So he pegs his speedometer and hits the pavement. Literally.
Enter a big, Jesus-loving cowboy (also ex-military) who shows up at the site of Max’s motorcycle crash with an intriguing offer – join an elite team of discarded heroes (codename: Nightshade) to right wrongs and rescue the innocent.
And so it begins….
Like an action flick from the late 1980s – with a little behind-the-scenes footage.
In other words: this story had satisfying action scenes but (thankfully) steered clear of the over-the-top testosterone and Stallone-isms so common in those semi-ancient films. But – and this was a BIG “but” for me -- although I found the military guys way more believable and human than the heroes of old action flicks, I found our main gal Sydney to be something of a weak-willed heroine who I couldn’t quite respect. Not to mention that I kept picturing her with big, frizzy 80s hair no matter how many guys in the story thought she was beautiful. (Once I get on the 80s action flick train it’s a long time before the next stop, I guess.)
But at least our “heroine” was consistent. Over and over Sydney’s inner thoughts showed that she knew the right thing to do, but she just couldn’t self-actualize and actually do it. Finally, forced by circumstance, she does let herself be rescued by the big-muscled men. Hooray! Maybe this was realistic, but… I was hoping for a dose of girl power and Sydney let me down. I wanted Sydney to become stronger, wiser, and bolder, but throughout the novel she remained consistently (and mildly cluelessly)… waffle-like.
On a personal level, I probably squirmed a little because I realized that, unfortunately, sometimes I’m a bit waffle-like myself. Sometimes I even bring my own syrup. But, uncomfortable introspection aside, on a technical level I must admit that, for a little while at least, I wasn’t sure I would like this book at all. The first few chapters shift the reader’s point of view between several characters (many of whom I do not even have time to mention in this review) and I found this a bit distracting; but as the character’s individual voices developed -- and I think Ms. Kendig does an admirable job developing these distinct voices -- I found it much easier to shift my imagination between locations and points of view.
If you’re looking for romance, you might want to look elsewhere. This book deals with the darker side of love relationships: the one that comes with blood and pain instead of hearts and flowers. There is love to be found here, but not much romance. If, however, you would like a book with page-turning action, a movie-like plot, and a sprinkling of the inspirational, I would recommend this title in place of your Saturday night adventure DVD.
“No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”
Although I found this novel a little hard to sink my teeth into at the beginning, I found it extremely engaging once the action took off. If you, like me, are a bit of an action-flick-junkie, try bypassing your local Blockbuster next weekend and fill your Amazon cart with Nightshade, the first book in Ronie Kendig’s Discarded Heroes series, instead.
Reviewed by contributor Serena Chase
Follow Serena Chase on Twitter @Serena_Chase