Monthly Motif Reading Challenge: The Night is Mine by ML Buchman
Name: Emily Beale
Mission: Fly undercover to prevent the assassination of the first lady, posing as her executive pilot
Name: Mark Henderson, Code name Viper
Mission: Undercover role of wealthy, ex-mercenary boyfriend to Emily
Their jobs are high risk, high reward:
Protect the lives of the powerful and the elite at all cost. Neither expected that one kiss could distract them from their mission. But as the passion mounts between them, their lives and their hearts will both be risked...and the reward this time may well be worth it.
I recently read the first in Buchman's new Delta Force series and enjoyed it quite a bit. Wanting more of his amazing blend of action and romance with neither being short-changed, I picked up the first book in the Night Stalkers series, The Night is Mine, featuring pilots in the Army's Special Operations Aviation Regiment or SOAR. The opening chapters were great; I loved seeing Emily Beale in action in her helicopter, she was fierce and fearless and beyond competent at what she does. I also liked that this was the Beale that was mentioned in the Delta Force book so getting her back story was of added interest.
Mark Henderson was great and we got quite a bit of his point of view early on in the book, especially his feelings about Beale being unceremoniously yanked out of his unit to be sent stateside on a mission he knows nothing about. He pulls what favors he can to find out more but it takes him awhile to find out what is really going and and then to insinuate himself into the situation to act as backup and protection for Emily. He knows she is more than capable of handling it on her own but he can't quite give up on wanting to have her back.
Emily has been asked by the First Lady to be her personal chef after seeing a news bit on CNN that showed Emily cooking in the field. This seemed rather flimsy, even shady, to me...why would you choose your chef from an Army unit when you could have trained chefs who worked in five star restaurants to choose from? But I went with it...When Emily is given a personal note from the President (who was also literal boy next door when Emily was growing up) asking her to take the position because he needs someone he trusts implicitly to protect his wife after some attacks against her, Emily agrees. Just to add some more tension, Emily had a huge crush on Peter, the President, growing up and counts the night he announced his engagement as the worst of her life.
When Emily arrives at the White House as the First Lady's chef, and after her skills are discussed, her helicopter pilot, she discovers that there are going to be no easy answers. Despite there being multiple attacks on the First Lady there are no clues that lead anywhere...whoever is doing it is smart, and may have insider help. Figuring out who it is becomes ever more urgent after an attacks near miss while flying leaves Emily flying blind--literally.
Earlier I mentioned it took Mark awhile to pull the strings needed to get himself at Emily's side--in fact, the two were apart for almost a third of the book and I really didn't like it--until I read the reunion scene and it almost, almost but not quite, made up for the long separation. And then when they are together, and both undercover, they make stupid mistakes like almost breaking cover, or fixating on petty jealousies, or talking about their operation in places that almost get them caught. It just didn't match up with the rest of what I knew about them. And Emily's lingering feelings for the President bothered me, too. Just choose Mark already! Speaking of Mark, I felt that I didn't get enough of his perspective over the course of the second half of the book...there were bits and pieces that allowed me to get a glimpse of his thoughts and feelings but overall I needed more. I really loved his character and felt shortchanged.
I also thought the denouement was rather abrupt...we went from both characters having their own ideas of what was happening, without them really sharing them with each other or the reader, to one of them suddenly figuring it out before immediately jumping to the plan where the bad guy spills all of their secrets in a situation where I really don't think they would have. Too soon, not enough trust, etc. But the action sequence that happened during it was amazing, so not all was lost. One last quibble, there was an almost-love-triangle situation at the very ending that I didn't really appreciate either...I get having Emily go through that to finally lay the situation at rest and to reassure her/the reader that she really is choosing the right guy, but it just seemed unnecessary.
Even with all of that, I am glad that I have started this series and I have book two waiting in the wings...I am hoping that the next book will be focused more on SOAR activities and locales. The helicopter scenes were almost always where the action took place in The Night is Mine and I felt that the action was more successful than the romance by far. I felt that Emily and Mark getting together would work perfectly fine but I also felt that if they had been sent to separate battalions they might have missed each other for awhile but would have ultimately gotten on with their lives before eventually settling down quite happily with other people. Oddly enough this didn't bother me overmuch, but it also showed that I wasn't super-invested in them as a couple and for a romantic book that is a bit of a problem.
I read this book as my January Monthly Motif selection. The topic: Who Dunnit?