Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hunter's Find by June Kramin

Note:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
My Experience:  A

Synopsis:  Hunt is a small town Sheriff who finds himself in for more than he bargained for when he discovers Mandy beaten and unconscious. After repeated attempts of escaping him, he finds himself now her captive instead. Mandy convinces him she’s after her husband who has kidnapped their daughter and will stop at nothing to find her. 
Although his instincts tell him differently, Hunt becomes involved with her and agrees to help. What he doesn’t know is there is no child. Mandy is hiding her involvement with the FBI and the mob, and after revenge. Hunt is in over his head tracking her husband to the isolated cabin and the backlash it causes a year later.

Hunter’s Find blew me away.


I began reading expecting an edgy thriller romance and was soon laughing at myself for such frivolous expectations based on a book cover and blurb.  Ms. Kramin uses standard action/ adventure events to cloak a harrowing story without ever sliding in to the morbid or gratuitous.  To say her characters are complex is a pathetic understatement.  By the time you realize what you think you’ve figured out isn’t the story at all, everything is falling apart *but* the characters.  What you expect to happen doesn’t and what you think could never happen in a romance book by golly does.

Frankly, Mandy makes Kate Beckett look like a girl scout that couldn't give thin mints to the starving....

The book begins in the middle of the mess that Mandy's life has become. Recruited right out of college and with but six months of "training," Mandy was in the field, undercover, a spy without F.B.I. stamped all over her.  Abbey, her boss, knew she was already a master of compartmentalizing her emotions and had no connections left in this world, in other words perfect for what he needed.  That she believed she could serve a noble cause without losing herself in the process is a common error of the young and eager.  The mature and wise have been known to make this same error in judgment.  It wasn't hard to understand if not condone Mandy's actions once you have the bigger picture.

Hunter Blaine's involvement is a fluke of serendipity or a merciful act of a benevolent universe, it's hard to tell.  Mandy doesn't believe in mercy or serendipity, to her, he's a complication she'd rather do without.  Since he's tenacious as she is, they reach the culmination of her plan together and before the blood is crusted on the cabin floor, they part - in shock, shame and with regret.  As endings to an ordinary story with a sidebar of romance, this might have been enough, a poignant sigh from the hardened realist, a nod from the righteous, just enough for novella junkie.

For the rest of us, the story continues, eleven months later and not only has Hunt done some soul searching, he's confronted a few truths that give him the courage to go to Mandy and hope for ... nothing really, just hope.  Mandy has a few surprises for them both.  Her unrecognized need for a family that was more than biological connections drove the story from the beginning - even when she was lying, she was giving the truth away.  Her reactions and interaction with Hunt after that missing year exposed not only her recognition but also her determination to have a family that was bound by something other than obligations, fear and secrets.

I'm not going to give more of the story away because the second half of the book explains the first and was really, for me, the very best part.  Nothing I like better than seeing characters mature, evolve, cope and manage to reach the dawn.  There was no rushing this romance, no magic healing moment, not even a promise that incredible sex solves everything.

I am going to say telling the story in reverse worked for me.  Mingling the getting to know each other on a deeper level with what brought Hunt and Mandy to this point without that Info Dump of Evahl was a perfect dance of staying in the moment while experiencing the past.  Humor was both alleviating and amusing.  Dialog was tight, rugged and more rapid than semi-auto fire and at times, harder to bear because you can hear the things unsaid that left wounds that won’t heal only scar over and ache when it rains.

The role reversal also worked.  How many heroes have we read angst-ing over their secret pasts and the things they had to do to get the job done, how they feel unworthy, unlovable, inconsolable?  A woman’s perspective that didn’t circle the drain of despair was so unique.  She never doubted she was doing the best she could and when reality shot her in the back - she was aaall over it without ever slipping into the cliche.  [and yes, ok, it was wonderfully sort of, uh, excuse me … “Take That, Boys!”  Sorry, I couldn’t help myself…. We now return you to your regular review]

The missing almost year was never exposed for our puerile edification, allowing Hunt and Mandy their dignity without losing our empathy.  I can imagine what that year was like and was grateful it remained behind closed doors.  Mandy deserved that consideration and Hunt understood her well enough to allow her to space out the revelations at her own pace.  It's why I believed they'd have a HEA that lasted beyond the glow of post coital bliss.

Hunter's Find is a rare pleasure among the dross of action/ adventure romance.  June Kramin is a master of her craft. I'm grateful to have been given the chance to read and review this book.  If you're looking for a story that is more than a Burn Notice wannabe ... this is definitely a read for you.

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