Review: Savage Storm by J. Woods (2019)

Savage Series, Book 8

Heat Factor: Explicit

Character Chemistry: I bought the physical chemistry; the emotional chemistry was less convincing

Plot: Various black ops agents (plus one secretary) team up against a crime syndicate. Also, long lost sisters are reunited. 

Overall: Didn’t quite do it for me.

Savage Storm got off to a really promising start. We meet Marlea and Luke, who have been co-workers for two years; Luke is on a business trip, and he initiates some sexy texting. So far so good, even if Luke’s reasons for sexy texting now of all times are a bit unclear. That’s a small quibble, and I can go with it. 

I really appreciated several things about these characters. First, Marlea thinks about how she’s tired of picking up men for meaningless sex – it’s nice to see the woman in the world-weary, reformed rake role, instead of her being a shy, wilting virgin. Plus, she’s a voluptuous (generally code for plus-sized) red-head, but has no problem getting the D when she wants it.

Basically, Marlea is Christina Hendricks, complete with secretary powers

Second, she’s saucy with Luke when he texts her out of the blue, priming the pump for lots of good banter to come. 

Luke also has some excellent stuff going for him. See, his business trip is him going undercover to try to suss out some kind of smuggling ring in Vegas – as a stripper. And he doesn’t do any of that macho no homo bullshit that you would expect from a bulking ex-military black ops dude, but rather reflects on how much he respects the guys he works with, since life as a stripper is not that awesome (and the dance moves are more of a workout than expected, even for a man such as he in prime physical condition). 

Please note that Luke and Marlea are not the only couple in this book. After we meet Luke and Marlea and they do some sexy texting, we head off to an isolated vineyard in Canada, where we meet Nick and Riley. Nick and Riley have both worked undercover on various missions – and in fact, met two years earlier on one such mission. Riley finds herself at this vineyard after being captured while working to infiltrate a crime syndicate. (It’s complicated and makes no sense; let’s move on.) Unfortunately, their backstory, which involves broken hearts after a week of heavy petting and one insensitive question, is complete nonsense, so I never really bought the chemistry between these characters.

 Also, the first scene of Nick and Riley together is them literally trying to murder each other with wine glasses and then boning like crazy. If you really liked Mr. and Mrs. Smith, you might find this sequence hotter than I did. 

As the plot continues, jumping back and forth between the two couples, a bunch of ridiculous stuff happens involving organized crime, and the stories slowly begin to intersect. Even though the story is ludicrous, it’s reasonably well-plotted, and it makes sense for the characters to come closer together as they face various threats. 

However, there were several things that didn’t quite work for me. None of these factors in and of itself is a deal-breaker (other readers may feel differently), but all together they were enough that I wasn’t a fan of the end result. 

  • The writing is awkward. Here’s an example: “Unknowing what to say next, she stared at her phone screen.” 
  • The sex is distinctly unsafe. So, you may have noticed that we tag books where the protagonists practice safe sex – meaning that they enthusiastically embrace protection and have open and honest conversations about things like pregnancy and STIs. Obviously, there are plenty of romance novels where none of this happens, and I read and enjoy them. However, in this case, there’s a little bit of wanting it both ways. When Luke and Marlea first get it on, they are at the strip club where he is undercover. Luke’s like, “Oh shit, I don’t have a condom.” Marlea’s like, “Just do me now!” And that’s the end of that. GIRL. I don’t care that he’s not a real stripper, NEVER have unprotected sex with a dude at a strip club. Being on birth control will not protect you from contracting the clap. Just mentioning condoms doesn’t mean that there’s a real conversation about safe sex. 
  • The relationship conflict is dumb. Of course we can’t just have fights against evil bad guys. We also have to have some misunderstanding between our protagonists. But the conflict between both Riley and Nick and Marlea and Luke is based on the woman being overly sensitive and taking comments made by the man completely out of context. Riley gets mad at Nick for asking her if she slept with some dude – while she was working undercover AS AN ESCORT for the dude in question. Maybe it’s none of Nick’s business (hint: it’s not), but getting mad because he should know you well enough, after one week, to know that sex is the line you won’t cross (but murder = A-OK) is dumb. 
  • The beginning is slow. Because we need to meet four protagonists instead of just two, the introductory chapters giving us everyone’s backstory take up 20% of the book. Marlea getting kidnapped by Luke – which is what is teased on the cover blurb – happens at about the 70% mark. (At 65% I was like, huh, maybe her trip to Vegas is what we’re calling kidnapping?) 

So, despite the promising beginning, the rest of the book kind of dragged for me. I think the book would have been better if it had just focused on Luke and Marlea. There would have been more space for their relationship to develop, and I wouldn’t have spent all that time being annoyed with Riley’s angst. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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