I discovered this bundle by happenstance on Twitter, one of the things I enjoy about using it. The Indiana Jones-esque font on the cover drew me in like a moth to flame. As I sat in my airline seat bound for abbreviated adventure in the unknowns of Iowa, I dove straight into the stories. Love in Action is the collection’s name for the three novellas: Love Unearthed, Love Rescued, and Love Spied.
Augusta Hill uses the soft and tough, fresh and seasoned romantic pairings often found in romance novels and deftly pulls it off. The romances avoid falling prey to the doldrums of predictability. You know the leads will dance into the sunset together, but Hill makes it a lot of fun to tag along as the heroines discover more about themselves as they face high stakes and fall in love. Hill sets a quick pace to her stories, allowing you to get to know characters through action rather than bogging down events with a tedium of backstories and explaining what the women are feeling. Secondary characters help facilitate events and flesh out the leads, without seeming too flat or taking a lot of attention away from the protagonists. The tone is summer blockbuster fun, with a nice blend of tension and levity. No matter where your travels take you this summer, I recommend packing these bite-sized romantic adventures along.
Dr. Rose Stevens ventures deep into the jungles of Guatemala in search of the burial site of a once magnificent queen, now obscured by centuries of neglect and local ghost stories. Leaning on the shared memory of a small, remote villages, Rose throws the risks to her professional reputation to the wind and digs in. Before she can take her first step into the excavation site, however, she becomes unexpectedly saddled with a group of whiny, inexperienced undergrads from the university where she works. Former US soldier, Gabriella Torres, further complicates matters, exuding confidence, a quick wit, and sex appeal that pull at the fabric of Rose’s professionalism. Rose’s excitement over the upcoming excavation and elusive scholarly achievement that it will bring helps her suppress the attraction she feels for Gabriella. The struggle between the good doctor’s professional ambitions and personal life makes the romance a nice, slow burn.
When an unsavory bunch swoops in and threaten to take it all away, the unlikely group must band together to preserve the rare cultural find from disappearing. Hill packs plenty of thrills, flirtations, comic relief, and romance into this installment of Love in Action. This is my favorite story from the bundle. Sexy archaeologists, plunges into dark and dangerous unknowns, and romance! Oh my…
Emmeline Smith is sent to Sarajevo, Bosnia, to find her jackass brother, Jacob, who disappeared there while on his mission trip for the Mormon Church. She is a relatively sheltered woman who works for her family’s business and regularly submits herself to painfully mismatched blind dates with single Mormon men that her mother arranges. Coming out as a lesbian to her family has never been high on her list of things to do. Instead, though she grudgingly takes on the task of rounding up the favorite son. It’s a task not without benefits: she thrills at the chance to take her first trip out of the United States and at the opportunity to avoid further pressures on the marriage front.
Hana Divjak is an anarchist, yarn bomber, and animal champion extraordinaire. While she’s close with her group of friends, she’s not exactly out as a lady loving lady. Most of her energy is expended outwardly, trying to make a better world for the people and creatures she cares about. She and Emmeline meet by chance on the streets of Sarajevo. The tough cookie with a heart of gold steps in to help the Emmeline the travel novice from becoming a target for swindlers and pickpockets. They hit it off immediately. Emmeline shares her plight over a cozy dinner for two. It soon becomes clear that Jacob has gotten in over his head with local mobsters.
Emmeline’s worldly naiveté coupled with Hana’s street smarts make for an entertaining pairing. Their outlooks and personal experiences complement and balance each other. I never felt either woman was somehow superior to the other or carried more weight during the story. They challenge each other and support each other all the way to the end.
While the story touches on the hardships faced by Hana and her fellow Bosnians during an era of political instability and armed conflict, don’t expect the novella to deliver a detailed history lecture. Its presence in the story infuses the characters and setting with further layers of meaning and motives.
Nara Yamada is a plucky journalist covering social unrest and political upheaval in Istanbul, Turkey. An ambitious president and a shadowy band of international supporters threaten to throw the country into chaos and damage its prospects for joining the European Union. Nara and her camera crew sneak into an area of the city expressly forbidden to the press at an explosive moment, unaware just how hot things are going to become. She’s tenacious when it comes to reporting and doesn’t let a pesky little thing like running for her life get in the way.
At the moment events in the area go to hell, Ophelia spies with her well-trained eyes the impending chaos, as well as the foreign news crew caught in the thick of it. Ophelia is in Turkey on a highly classified government assignment. When she receives conflicting information from her superiors on the data she worked months to obtain, she finds herself at a standstill. No files exist to document her existence; she moves through life, delivering results to a secret government agency? and then disappearing without a trace. When Ophelia defies company policy to keep a low profile, she sets in motion a chain of events that changes all of their lives. Over the course of their travels, the two women fall in love, and keep each other warm and safe as they try to escape corrupt international agents and local law enforcement.
Love Spied is full of exciting car chases, explosions, secret hideouts, double agents, and of course, romance. I really enjoyed Ophelia’s ability to dispatch her opponents with expert efficiency and fast on her feet smarts. That kind of character is one of my favorites to read about or see onscreen. Both women take chances outside of their usual modus operandi and it pays off.