Review: Unmapped by Anna Hackett

Review: Unmapped by Anna HackettUnmapped (Treasure Hunter Security #6) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, romantic suspense
Series: Treasure Hunter Security #6
Pages: 147
Published by Anna Hackett on September 5th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon

Finding undiscovered treasures is always daring, dangerous, and deadly. Perfect for the men and women of Treasure Hunter Security.

Former Navy SEAL and CIA agent Ronin Cooper is used to living his life in the darkness. A loner by nature, he enjoys his work at Treasure Hunter Security, stays busy on the road, and never lets anyone too close. That is until he notices a mystery redheaded woman spying on him and his colleagues. Then he finds himself sucked into a dangerous rescue mission to Antarctica with a fiery, outspoken woman who pushes every one of his buttons.

Peri Butler will do anything to save her sister. The experienced polar guide knows the deadly black-market antiquities ring, Silk Road, has her twin, but Peri isn’t sure who she can trust. She wants to believe Treasure Hunter Security can help, and soon finds herself facing off with the dark, intense, enigmatic Ronin.

As their mission takes them into the frigid ice and snow of Antarctica, Peri and Ronin’s intense attraction generates a lot of heat. Drawn irresistibly closer, they work to track down Silk Road and Peri’s sister, but what they find buried in the ice could threaten everything. Ronin will sacrifice it all to protect Peri, while she will take every risk, not only to save her sister, but to break through the protective shell around Ronin’s heart.

Note to readers: This action-adventure romance contains a lot of action (think wild chases and ancient treasures), cool offsiders (sexy former Navy SEALs) and a steamy romance (lots of sexy times between an outspoken polar guide agent a tough, sexy SEAL). This is treasure hunting Navy SEAL style. So if you like it fast, and fun, and sexy, this is for you!

My Review:

Antarctica hasn’t seen this much action since they found the second Stargate. In 1998, during the first season of the absolutely marvelous series Stargate SG-1. But Stargates notwithstanding, Antarctica is a place that most of us think of in terms of ice, snow, freezing cold and inevitable death. It’s not exactly a vacation spot.

But just as climate change recently caused a big chunk of the Antarctic ice sheet to break off, the not-so-slow warming of the planet could cause other, formerly solid blocks of ice to break away, or melt away, revealing long-hidden lands. And possibly, as turns out to be the case in Unmapped, long-hidden ancient archaeological sites containing priceless artifacts and even weapons of great and deadly power.

This isn’t the first long-lost archaeological treasure trove where the agents of Treasure Hunter Security have crossed paths (and swords) with the power-hungry mercenaries of Silk Road, and it probably won’t be the last. But it’s certainly the coldest and most remote.

Which is why Silk Road made polar guides (and twin sisters) Amber and Peri Butler offers that they really should have refused to lead an expedition to Antarctica, in the WINTER. Unfortunately, only Peri turned them down, and now Amber is out of contact and Peri fears the absolute worst – with good reason.

Peri stalks the THS offices, in the hopes of either finding an ally to help her rescue her sister, or a Silk Road affiliate that will lead her to her sister’s location. It’s a good thing she finds the former, because either she’s not nearly as good at hiding as she thinks she is, or the THS agents are much better at stalking spies than she gave them credit for. Or at least ex-SEAL and current THS agent Ronin Cooper is.

Unlike many of the adventures in the THS series, while the good people of THS may not know everything they need to know about what Silk Road is after this time, they do at least know as much as the heroine who hires them knows. Once Peri is in, she is all in, sharing her intel with THS along with the danger of the rescue.

Of which she is an integral part. While all of the heroines and heroes who have become involved with the THS agents have all been capable in their fields, Peri has an expertise in extreme cold-weather expeditions that is crucial to the success of the mission.

She’s going to need all the help she can get to melt the ice around Ronin Cooper’s heart.

Escape Rating A-: One of the things I love about Unmapped is that the hero and heroine are equals every step of the way. They both have skills that are necessary to accomplish the mission, which is not saving either one of them, but saving a third person, Peri’s sister Amber. Who is herself a strong heroine.

This is a hallmark of not just the whole Treasure Hunter Security series but ALL of Anna Hackett’s fiction. It never comes down to the strong hero rescuing the weaker heroine. Ever. Instead, it’s always two strong people discovering that they are stronger together than they are separately, and that they help glue each other’s broken places together. Nothing is ever one-sided.

Which does not stop Ronin, the hero of Unmapped, from being an idiot when it comes to his own heart. He falls into the trap of believing that he is not worthy of being loved, due to horrific circumstances in his past. He does attempt to do the stupid and try to send Peri away. Fortunately she’s too smart for that.

In addition to her usual fantastic blend of action, adventure and romance, one of the parts of Unmapped that I liked best was the portrayal of conditions in Antarctica and the portraits of the scientific team at the base camp. It takes a special kind of person to want to spend season after season in the loneliest place on earth, and the author captures that beautifully.

Last but not least, the ending of Unmapped seems to be setting up the story that I have been waiting for since the very beginning of this series back in Undiscovered. It looks like we’re finally going to get the romance between Darcy Ward, THS’ co-owner and technical wizard, and the FBI Agent she can’t get out of either her head or her system (in both senses of that word), Alistair Burke.

This will be grand!

Review: Untraveled by Anna Hackett

Review: Untraveled by Anna HackettUntraveled (Treasure Hunter Security #5) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance
Series: Treasure Hunter Security #5
Pages: 250
Published by Anna Hackett on August 8th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon

After a mission gone terribly wrong, former Navy SEAL Hale Carter has made a good career for himself at Treasure Hunter Security. He gets to use his engineering skills designing new gadgets, his SEAL skills providing security for exciting expeditions and treasure hunts, and he enjoys a variety of ladies on his downtime. He might still be plagued by nightmares, but all in all, life is good. Then he volunteers for a dangerous undercover mission into the Kalahari Desert, alongside a cool, attractive FBI agent who challenges him at every turn.

Special Agent Elin Alexander is driven to bring down the deadly black-market antiquities ring Silk Road. She's experienced firsthand how they destroy lives and she's vowed to end their greed and killing. After months of undercover work, she's eager for the mission to find the Lost City of the Kalahari. What she wasn't expecting was six-feet-three inches of former Navy SEAL as her partner. Hale is too handsome, too sexy, and isn't inclined to follow orders.

As the pair infiltrate the Silk Road hunt, Hale and Elin find themselves fighting a scorching attraction as they work to discover just what the lost city is hiding. But stuck in the bowels of a legendary ancient mine, Hale and Elin must put their trust in each other, to not only save the day, but to get out alive.

My Review:

I keep wanting to type Unraveled instead of Untraveled, because there is plenty of travel in this entry in the Treasure Hunter Security series, and plenty of things that get unraveled, including the misapprehensions that hold FBI Agent Elin Alexander and Treasure Hunter Security Agent (and ex-SEAL) Carter Hale back from getting involved with anyone, especially each other.

THS and FBI nemesis Silk Road is at it again, on the track of a mythical site that they are certain holds great treasure and great power, this time hidden somewhere in the brutal Kalahari Desert. Agent Alexander has been operating undercover with the Silk Road cell that believes they have pinpointed the famous Lost City of the Kalahari, and that somewhere amongst its legendary treasures lies the equally famous Seal of Solomon, a ring that supposedly gave King Solomon the power to command demons and djinn, and to speak with animals – and possibly more.

If it exists, it is valuable beyond anyone’s wildest imagination, just as a symbol, especially since that symbol is purported to contain one of the largest uncut diamonds ever discovered.

Agent Alexander sees this operation as her way to get back at Silk Road for the death of her father, as well as a way to score her long-sought promotion to a multi-agency team in Europe with Interpol. It’s a promotion that is guaranteed to give her way more opportunities to settle her score with Silk Road, but her single-minded pursuit of that goal has left her little time or inclination for relationships that might get in the way of her career. Her marriage was just one of the casualties of that pursuit.

Carter Hale sees himself as damaged. He left the SEALs as the last survivor of his team, a team that he was not able to save. THS keeps him busy and gives him a way to use the skills that the U.S. Navy spent so many years training into him. His sideline, tinkering with operations gear and making the top-of-the-line even better has brought him a surprising measure of financial security. He’s at THS to keep his demons at bay.

But traveling undercover through the unforgiving Kalahari desert, knowing that their companions are homicidal lunatics, only able to trust each other, forges a bond that neither Erin nor Carter is willing to break.

Even though they both believe that they must. If they get out alive.

Escape Rating B: Untraveled is a solid entry in the Treasure Hunter Security series. It’s a lot of fun to read, as are all the books in the series. And while Undiscovered is the story that begins the journey, it probably isn’t necessary to read them all, or to read them all in order, in order to enjoy any particular one.

Untraveled very much fits into the pattern of this series, where THS is hired to protect an an absolutely fabulous find or legendary place and has to battle the entirely evil and mercenary Silk Road. As the adventure progresses, the hero and heroine find themselves isolated and in deadly danger, and finally give in to the attraction that has been simmering between them from their first meeting. As an added bonus, the “macguffin” that they eventually find is usually even more magnificent and more legendary than anyone imagined.

In this particular case it’s that the Lost City of the Kalahari, King Solomon’s Mines and the legendary treasure city of Ophir are all one and the same.

It’s a fun pattern, and Untraveled certainly shows just how well it works. Because I love this author and her writing, I have a couple of small quibbles that kept Untraveled from rising to a B+. As an undercover FBI agent, Erin Alexander plays a bit fast and loose with her cover. If she’s embedded with a group this crazy and this paranoid, she would not break cover for anything, certainly not to interrogate a low-level operative and then turn him over to local police forces. Someone is bound to talk, and they do, exposing both Alexander and her THS partner.

The ending of the story includes one of my least favorite tropes, the one where the guy, deciding that he’s unworthy, tries to give up the love of his life because he’s so damn certain that it’s better for her, without bothering to ask her what she wants. I hate that one every time. Erin should have slapped him silly after she grabbed him.

And unlike most of the other THS books, while we do find the mysterious artifact, we don’t seem to discover what the thing is or does. I mean, yes, it’s a ring with a honking big diamond in it, but we knew that at the beginning. While no one expects it to be able to call demons or djinn, so far, all of the previously discovered artifacts have had some surprisingly cool powers, which have generally been revealed in rather spectacular rescues, catastrophes or bits of both. On this one, the jury seems to still be out, even when the book ends.

On my other hand, one thing I’m very, very curious about is that another player was introduced into this rivalry between THS and Silk Road. There’s another group sticking their oar into these particularly choppy waters, and its someone that the FBI seems to think they can play some kind of ball with.

Or at least lead FBI Agent Alistair Burke acts as if he can control them. Whether he can control anything, including the crazy unresolved sexual tension between himself and THS’s co-owner and tech wizard Darcy Ward is something that readers will hopefully see resolved in a future entry in the series. I’m really waiting for that one.

Review: Barbarian by Anna Hackett

Review: Barbarian by Anna HackettBarbarian (Galactic Gladiators #6) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, science fiction romance
Series: Galactic Gladiators #6
Pages: 200
Published by Anna Hackett on June 27th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon

Abducted by alien slavers, experimented on, and left blind, the last thing doctor Winter Ashworth needs is a big barbarian gladiator in her life, especially an annoying one who thinks she's small and weak.

Rescued by gladiators on the desert world of Carthago, Winter is doggedly working to embrace her new life. But two of her friends are still missing and she'll do anything to help get them back...even if she has to work alongside Nero Krahn: hunter, barbarian, gladiator. The scowly, brooding man is too big, has too many muscles, and pushes all her buttons.

Nero is the House of Galen's best hunter and tracker. Raised on a barbarian world, where strength and might are prized, he was bred to hunt and fight. Now the arena is his home and his loyalty is to his imperator. He knows he can use his skills to find the two lost women, even if that means protecting a small blind woman who takes every chance to misjudge his words and lash him with her sharp tongue.

But as they follow a dangerous trail to save their friends, a new enemy emerges--one who wants Winter. The pair find themselves reluctantly attracted to each other, uncovering a scorching desire that shocks them both. As Nero fights to protect Winter, the barbarian gladiator will discover the true meaning of strength from the small Earth woman he wants to claim as his.

My Review:

I always have a good time with Anna Hackett’s series, and Barbarian was no exception. This was a perfect airplane book. The plane may have been flying over the American Heartland, but I was exploring the deserts of Kor Magna and loving every minute of it.

The Galactic Gladiators series is a kind of sun and sandals meet spaceships series. Kor Magna is basically Vegas on steroids, and the gladiatorial fights are just a part of the entertainment on offer. All of the galaxy’s sins, temptations and degradations seem to be available on Kor Magna – for a price.

But it isn’t all fun and games. Kor Magna may be where the rich come to play, but it has a seamy side. Someone has to be providing all the fun, all that tempting sin, and not all of the providers are willing.

There’s an unfortunately thriving slave trade that feeds the fleshpots of Kor Magna, and an ever expanding number of humans have found themselves under its thumb. Slavers exploited a temporary wormhole from Kor Magna to Jupiter, and kidnapped or killed an entire space station.

But that wormhole was a temporary fluke. Our solar system is too far away to get to, over 600 years away at the fastest sublight speeds currently available. So the humans that were captured are exotic and rare, therefore valuable in the wrong hands. And none of them can get home.

Over the course of the series, the captive humans have been rescued, one by one, by gladiators from the successful and honorable House of Galen. Galen and his gladiators have made it their mission to rescue slaves, especially those who just aren’t suited for the life of a gladiator.

And one by one, as each human is rescued, another gladiator falls into the arms of love. At this point, the remaining unmated gladiators are getting a bit sick of all the mushy stuff, and worried about when it will be their turn to fall. (This reader is really looking forward to Galen’s fall, but that’s probably a couple of books away at least. Damn)

The story in Barbarian is the romance between blind Winter and warrior Nero. Winter is a doctor who was blinded in an experiment after she was captured by the slavers. She has a lot of fears and insecurities about how she will make a life and a place for herself now that she is blind. A surgeon can’t operate if they can’t see what they are operating on.

The warrior Nero pushes all of Winter’s buttons, both the good ones and the insecure ones. A warrior from a savage planet, Nero was taught to believe that the weak were a drain on resources, and that protecting them only drains the tribe. He’s learned better in the House of Galen, but Winter’s presence makes him even more tongue-tied, and more blunt, than usual. And she takes all of his comments and runs with them, generally in the wrong direction.

There is more than one kind of strength, and more than one version of bravery. As the gladiators trek out into the harsh desert to rescue more humans from extremely inhumane conditions, Winter and Nero finally figure out that all of their arguments mask a whole lot of deeper emotions that neither of them is ready to deal with.

But life on Kor Magna, even under the best of circumstances (something the gladiators never seem to find) is too harsh to put off loving the person who makes your heart sing.

Escape Rating B+: I really liked Nero and Winter. In the end, they made a great team. And it was good to see Winter take her new life by the horns, in spite of her handicap. She’s scared, she’s uncertain, but she never retreats and she never gives up.

Not even when an evil robot is dragging her to its leader.

That leader is what keeps this book, for me at least, from rising into the A grades.

The slave traders, as awful as they are, make a bad kind of sense. They’re in it for the money. It’s a disgusting motive, and their tactics are brutal, but we understand why they do what they do, even as we abhor it.

The villain of this piece, the Catalyst, is just plain nuckin’ futz. Crazy as a loon. A few parsecs short of a quadrant. You get the picture. He’s doing what he’s doing just because he can, and because he believes he’s so intelligent that he’s entitled, and that no one will be able to stop him. He was terrible and awful and dangerous, but he just didn’t make enough sense. At least not for me.

The gladiators, on the other hand, are terrific. And they are all very much individuals, just as are the humans they fall for. So far, it’s been one male human and five females, but there is nothing in the structure of the series that says that couldn’t change. One of the things that I like about the series is that each of the humans, upon recognizing that they literally can’t go home again, buckles down and finds work and hope and purpose as well as love. And the work varies – only two so far have become gladiators. In addition to Winter finding a way to continue as a healer, one has become an engineer, another an inventor, and one has taken on the sometimes thankless task of business manager for the House of Galen.

One thing that makes this series so much fun is that the pattern can be stretched indefinitely without feeling too stretched. The Hell Squad series has hit that point for me, even though I still enjoy the individual entries in it. And you don’t have to read the entire series to get in on the action (but probably the first one (Gladiator) just to introduce the scene, setting and players) But the Galactic Gladiators only has to stop when the plausible number of captives from the Jupiter station has been reached, and that’s a LONG way off.

Thank goodness!

Review: Unfathomed by Anna Hackett

Review: Unfathomed by Anna HackettUnfathomed by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance
Series: Treasure Hunter Security #4
Pages: 198
Published by Anna Hackett on January 24th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Long, tall, and deadly Morgan Kincaid enjoys her job at Treasure Hunter Security. Raised by a tough Marine father, she loves her guns and knives, and never backs down from a fight. She’s yet to find a man who can keep up with her and after a string of first dates, she’s not feeling hopeful. Assigned to an underwater archeological expedition on the trail of a long-lost shipwreck, Morgan finds herself protecting the very hard, delicious body of a certain globe-trotting archeologist. A smart rogue with a wide smile and a boat-load of charm.

Dr. Zachariah James has information leading to a shipwreck filled with history and treasure. After growing up with nothing, he’s forged a stellar career for himself, but history is more than just a job, it’s his lifeblood. So Zach is amazed to find himself as excited by a woman as he is by his dive. Dangerous Morgan fascinates him, and he’s eager to see what she’s hiding under her tough exterior.

As they dive the azure waters off the coast of Madagascar, they uncover a sizzling attraction and clues to an impossible artifact, but soon they are under attack by dangerous black-market thieves. Among traitors, kidnappings, and ancient temples, Zach and Morgan will need to put everything on the line to have any chance at surviving.

My Review:

There are times when I’m astonished by the depths of human stupidity. Possibly in this case I mean willful blindness. Or a bit of both.

No one ever seems to believe that whatever treasure they are hunting could possibly be of interest to the nefarious Silk Road gang. And no one ever seems to think that telling the agents of Treasure Hunter Security that just maybe, possibly, Silk Road might find their find just the teensiest bit intriguing never seems to occur to people – at least not until Silk Road arrives in a metaphorical cloud of evil and kidnaps or kills someone.

This time THS is hunting sunken treasure with Dr. Zachariah James. James believes he has the location of a wrecked treasure ship off the coast of Madagascar. The cargo manifest says that the ship was filled with gold, diamonds and porcelain, a friendship gift from the King of Siam to the French. The Soliel d’Orient is a prize worth finding, both for its wealth and for the archaeological treasures it holds.

But Dr. James is only figuring on normal treasure hunters. Admittedly, lots and lots of them. That’s why he hires THS. Of course, he neglects to mention that there might be an artifact with mystical or mythical powers amongst the treasure. He doesn’t believe that the talisman even exists. And he certainly doesn’t believe in any mystical powers.

But Silk Road does. And they are on his trail from the moment the expedition starts.

Meanwhile, Dr. James is hunting more than just treasure. There’s something about Morgan Kincaid, the deadly female THS operative, that makes teasing and tormenting her even more exciting than a treasure hunt. To Morgan’s surprise, she feels those same sparks from Zach. She just doesn’t believe that any man’s interest in her will survive his knowledge of just how dangerous and deadly she really is.

But Zach loves the adrenaline thrill. And when Silk Road kidnaps them and drags them off on their own deadly treasure hunt, Zach knows that they will need every single one of Morgan’s deadly skills to survive.

Escape Rating B+: I really liked Zach and Morgan as characters. They make an excellent hero and heroine for this story. They both have hidden depths and secret pains, and they are both slow to share any of themselves with another. They’ve both been hurt before by people who were supposed to love and protect them, and they are both wary of trusting again.

Morgan’s hesitation feels particularly real. She is a warrior, and that is a big part of her identity. That many men find her ability to take them down and beat them hard to be a turnoff is no surprise. She’s smart enough to know that if who she is isn’t what they want, that she’s better off alone. Which doesn’t stop her from feeling lonely.

But as much as I enjoyed the rising heat between Morgan and Zach, and the little glimpse of the ongoing tension between Darcy Ward and her buttoned-up FBI agent, I’m still feeling a bit of villain fail in this series.

Silk Road and their agents are definitely evil. But they keep coming off as bwahaha evil. Along with, in the case of the villain in Unfathomed, an unhealthy dose of cray-cray. But crazy doesn’t organize and fund an organization as big and as effective as Silk Road. We still don’t know who they are and why they are doing this. There are plenty of other ways to make oodles of money that aren’t half this complicated.

Inquiring minds really, really want an answer to those questions.

Even so, Unfathomed is another marvelous tale of action, adventure and romance, and I can’t wait for the next one.

Review: Unexplored by Anna Hackett

Review: Unexplored by Anna HackettUnexplored by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, military romance, romantic suspense
Series: Treasure Hunter Security #3
Pages: 150
Published by Anna Hackett on July 12th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

One former Navy SEAL. One woman in search of her kidnapped brother. One ancient lost city in the cloud forests of the Andes.

Former Navy SEAL Logan O’Connor is big, rough, and a little wild. He thrived as a SEAL…until he trusted the wrong woman. After a horrible betrayal that almost left him dead, he now works for his best friend at Treasure Hunter Security. He doesn’t like the sand, the jungle, or the mosquitoes, but he gets the job done—protecting archeological digs and expeditions. What he likes even less are liars. As he finds himself heading to Peru with a cool, classy CEO in search of her kidnapped brother, Logan knows one thing: Sydney Granger isn’t telling him the entire truth.

After the death of her father, Sydney is trying to learn the ropes as CEO of Granger Industries while her brother runs off to research a pre-Incan culture. But one ransom demand leaves her terrified­—a lethal black-market antiquities syndicate has kidnapped her brother. The only people she can turn to is Treasure Hunter Security, and that includes big, annoying Logan, who makes it clear he doesn’t like her.

As they are swept into a deadly adventure into the cloud forests of the Andes, tracing the steps of the mysterious Warriors of the Clouds, danger dogs their every step. Logan and Sydney are drawn closer together, secrets are uncovered, shots are fired, and both of them might just find something more valuable than treasure.

My Review:

undiscovered by anna hackettThree books in (after Undiscovered and Uncharted), the Treasure Hunter Security series still feels like a cross between Romancing the Stone and Indiana Jones. In the case of this entry in the series, there is even a shout-out to the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

At the beginning of Raiders, Indy is searching the booby-trapped ruins of a Cloud Warrior temple in the Andes. Indy is searching for a golden idol. In Unexplored, Sydney Granger and the crew of THS are searching for Cloud Warrior ruins in the Andes. Not because they expect to find a golden idol, but because they are desperately hunting for Sidney’s brother Drew.

Silk Road called Sidney to say that they had kidnapped Drew, when the truth of the matter, not surprisingly, was that they wanted to kidnap Sidney so that they could use her as leverage to make Drew tell them where the Cloud Warrior treasure was hidden – which would hopefully (for Silk Road) include much, much more than just one golden idol.

And that pretty much sums up the action/adventure part of the story. Corporate hotshot Sydney Granger gets a phone call that her wandering brother has been kidnapped by Silk Road. Not being a fool, and having enough money to hire the help she needs, Sydney searches for information about Silk Road and anyone who has tangled with them, and that leads her straight to Treasure Hunter Security’s brawny arms. Literally, in one particular case.

While they all question why Silk Road has suddenly turned to kidnapping for ransom as a new revenue stream, they all agree that going down to the Andes to scope things out makes the most sense. What doesn’t make sense is the heat of the attraction between Sydney and THS operative Logan O’Connor. Logan knows she’s hiding something, and he’s painfully learned not to trust women who don’t seem upfront about who they are.

From Sydney’s perspective, Logan is all alpha-male prowls and growls, not safe like the men she dates. But even though he’s nothing like she thinks she should go for, he’s everything she needs. Not just because he has the ability to save her brother, but because he’s able to take her out of herself.

Assuming they can keep each other alive long enough to find her brother, thwart the bad guys and take home a treasure that isn’t even supposed to exist.

It’s all in a day’s work (and a day’s play) for Treasure Hunter Security.

uncharted by anna hackettEscape Rating B: I enjoyed the story, and I liked Logan and Sydney, but the story here is just too much like the stories in Undiscovered and Uncharted to get up into the A ratings.

I had fun, but this one isn’t memorable. The series is starting to blend one into another a bit, which makes them great mind candy while I’m reading, but doesn’t lift them above the B’s.

One of the things that is starting to feel necessary is more information about Silk Road. They are still in the category of bwahaha evil, without a particularly clear motive or even a particular face. Yes, I know they want to make a profit, and a big one. But there are other ways. Who are they behind the name, and why did they choose treasure hunting? And why so nasty about it?

I accept that some people and/or organizations, particularly in fiction, can be evil for evil’s sake. But it isn’t nearly as interesting as evil with a motive or a vision. Or particularly evil evil that justifies its evil as being somehow good or necessary.

The treasure in this story was a bit different. Except for that stray reference in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Cloud Warriors are a surprisingly neat lost civilization that hasn’t been fictionally exploited nearly often enough.

If you are looking for a fun way to while away a couple or a few hours on a hot, lazy summer afternoon, Treasure Hunter Security is a great way to kill a few hours and vicariously dispose of a few bad guys while thrilling along with a hot romance.

I’m still waiting for Darcy’s romance with the hot and annoying FBI agent. I like Darcy a lot, and I want to see this series break pattern a bit. It should be fun!

romancing the alpha 2Reviewer’s Note: Unexplored is currently available as part of the Romancing the Alpha 2 set. It will also be published separately in August.

Review: Uncharted by Anna Hackett

Review: Uncharted by Anna HackettUncharted (Treasure Hunter Security #2) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance
Series: Treasure Hunter Security #2
Pages: 148
Published by Anna Hackett on June 5th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

One former Navy SEAL. One adventurous photographer. One lost jungle temple.
Former Navy SEAL Callum Ward has one motto—live life to the fullest. He saw the worst of war and lost good friends, but now he works for Treasure Hunter Security. When he’s not providing security for archeological digs and invaluable museum exhibits, or off on daring treasure hunts, he’s rock climbing, racing, or skiing. Nothing—and no one—has ever tempted him to slow down…until on an expedition into the Cambodian jungle, he has to work with one opinionated, prickly photographer, Dani Navarro. But soon their straight-forward trek to find a lost temple turns deadly, and Cal and Dani find themselves under attack from a dangerous black-market antiquities ring prepared to kill.
Dani Navarro lives for her photography. For years, it’s been her escape from her family and their frivolous lifestyle, affairs, and dramas. With her camera in hand, she travels the world, capturing other people’s moments and avoiding messy entanglements. At first, she thinks Cal Ward is no different from all the other men she’s known, but as their expedition turns into a hazardous dash through uncharted jungle, she uncovers a tough, intelligent, and sexy protector. Together, they must outwit their pursuers and find not only a lost temple…but a priceless, powerful artifact.

My Review:

uncharted drake and elena paintOn the one hand, the fact that this second entry in Anna Hackett’s Treasure Hunter Security series shares its title with the fantastic video game series keeps driving me a bit batty. On that other hand, the heroes of Uncharted the video game, Nathan Drake and his eventual wife Elena (pictured at left), would fit right in with the gang at Treasure Hunter Security. Just like our heroes in this book, Nathan is a treasure hunter, and his wife Elena is a photographer. They met in the first game when Nathan Drake hacks through a jungle while Elena films him on his quest to find the grave of his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake.

In Uncharted the book, Callum Ward of Treasure Hunter Security is hired to guide an archaeological expedition into the jungles of Cambodia. The expedition is looking for a lost sacred temple, and photographer Daniela Navarro is along to document their find.

Based on the description of the temple, there shouldn’t be anything on this trip to interest the entirely mercenary, and completely deadly, interests of the Silk Road syndicate that interfered with Declan and Layne’s dig in Egypt (See Undiscovered for deets). But when Silk Road agents are spotted in the area, Callum is forced to call for backup, and to figure out exactly what it is that those keen archaeologists neglected to tell him.

One of the rocks and stones that they are hoping to find is actually a giant pearl. Something more than big and precious enough to bring Silk Road into the jungle. Or anywhere else.

It’s up to Callum to keep them all alive and out of Silk Road’s evil clutches until his cavalry comes over the very overgrown hill. And to keep Daniela safe – even though she pushes away his help at every turn – until she finally pulls him into her heart.

undiscovered by anna hackettEscape Rating A-: It feels like the series is hitting its stride with this book. As much as I enjoyed Undiscovered, it also felt a bit like a contemporary re-working of Among Galactic Ruins and At Star’s End. I loved both of those books, but the third time wasn’t quite the charm.

The story in Uncharted, in spite of its similarity to the video game series, is different from its predecessors in Hackett’s previous series. More than anything, it reminds me of Romancing the Stone, or the Indiana Jones movies. The hero may save the day, but the heroine more than holds her own.

I am also incredibly happy to say that in spite of the way things looked in Undiscovered, we don’t appear to be heading for a repeat of Shaw from the Hell Squad series, and his romance with squadmate Claudia. In Treasure Hunter Security, it looks very much like Logan’s romance is not going to be with his partner Morgan, because his book is next and she isn’t the heroine. Hopefully that also means that she will get a story of her own.

But about Dani and Callum – they are a very interesting couple. As in most romances, there has to be a stumbling block or two on the road to happily ever after. In this particular case, both parties are carrying their stumbling blocks right along with them, as some very heavy baggage. Neither of them is interested in a relationship, which certainly hasn’t stopped Callum from a whole lot of one- or two-night stands. But they come at their commitment-phobia from different angles.

Callum lost his best friend while in the SEALs. Ever since Marty died, Callum has been trying to live for both of them. But he’s using his high-adrenaline adventures to outrun his own fear of caring and possibly losing again. It’s easy to see where Callum is coming from, and that he has to eventually stop and feel what he really feels.

Dani’s case is less clear cut. There are lots of hints dropped, but the picture never comes into complete focus, pun completely intended. Her family seems to be wealthy, and she sees them all as a bunch of fake users. There was no love there, and no acceptance for Dani’s need to be something other than a partygirl famous for being famous. And I’m interpreting a bit of this because she isn’t quite clear. But the result is that Dani has seen too many fake relationships and false protestations of love to believe that the real thing exists – at least for her.

Being thrown into life-threatening danger together has both Dani and Callum re-thinking all their previous protestations that they either aren’t interested in or aren’t capable of falling in love. Because they have.

And I really, really want to see sister Darcy’s eventual romance with the uptight FBI agent that drives her so crazy. I think that one, when it finally comes, is going to be really awesome.

Review: Undiscovered by Anna Hackett

Review: Undiscovered by Anna HackettUndiscovered by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, military romance
Series: Treasure Hunter Security #1
Pages: 202
Published by Anna Hackett on May 22nd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

One former Navy SEAL. One dedicated archeologist. One secret map to a fabulous lost oasis.
Finding undiscovered treasures is always daring, dangerous, and deadly. Perfect for the men of Treasure Hunter Security. Former Navy SEAL Declan Ward is haunted by the demons of his past and throws everything he has into his security business—Treasure Hunter Security. Dangerous archeological digs – no problem. Daring expeditions – sure thing. Museum security for invaluable exhibits – easy. But on a simple dig in the Egyptian desert, he collides with a stubborn, smart archeologist, Dr. Layne Rush, and together they get swept into a deadly treasure hunt for a mythical lost oasis. When an evil from his past reappears, Declan vows to do anything to protect Layne.
Dr. Layne Rush is dedicated to building a successful career—a promise to the parents she lost far too young. But when her dig is plagued by strange accidents, targeted by a lethal black market antiquities ring, and artifacts are stolen, she is forced to turn to Treasure Hunter Security, and to the tough, sexy, and too-used-to-giving-orders Declan. Soon her organized dig morphs into a wild treasure hunt across the desert dunes.
Danger is hunting them every step of the way, and Layne and Declan must find a way to work together…to not only find the treasure but to survive.

My Review:

Somewhere, in the dim, dark reaches of the Phoenix Brothers’ family tree, lurk Declan Ward and Layne Rush. Not that having those two as ancestors would be a bad thing AT ALL. It’s much more that having met these two contemporary heroes, it’s impossible not to see their descendants thriving hundreds of years later, and carrying on the family business – treasure hunting.

The situation reminds me of the early years of Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz’s Arcane Society series, along with her Harmony books as Jayne Castle. I just knew that someday, somehow, those two series were going to connect – as they eventually did.

at stars end by anna hackettSo thinking of Declan and Layne as 21st Century versions of Dathan Phoenix and Dr. Eos Rai from At Star’s End doesn’t seem all that implausible. But every bit as much fun.

The story is a familiar one. Dr. Layne Rush is a professional treasure hunter – well, not exactly. Rush is an archaeologist who seems to have a knack for finding buried treasure – and recently dead bodies where she’s expecting to find only centuries-dead ones. Her dig is investigating a previously undiscovered tomb, and is trying to determine exactly who is buried there, as well as what might have been buried with them. When she is attacked and her discoveries stolen by a gang of well-armed thugs, her university calls in some security experts to keep her, her team and their finds safe.

Enter Declan Ward and the men and women of Treasure Hunter Security. Declan’s father is also a well-known historian, and his mother is a famous and intrepid treasure hunter. Declan himself is an ex-SEAL, and he heads a team of men and women who learned how to fight and survive in some of the deadliest places on Earth, against some of the nastiest people that you never want to meet.

Including Rush’s attacker. Anders is a former SAS officer with a penchant for torture and murder. He likes to toy with his victims, and he kills for fun. It seems as if stealing treasures is just a way of funding his sadistic life, and it puts him in faraway places where policing isn’t top notch and a few people from the lowest classes won’t be missed – not even when they turn up dead and dismembered.

Declan and Anders have met before. Declan exposed Anders’ depravity, but was too busy trying to save his victims to gather enough evidence to prosecute the bastard. Now Declan feels responsible for every fresh kill. He wants to get Anders and save Rush.

Mostly he just wants Rush. So Declan and Layne find themselves on a hunt for a long-lost treasure, with Anders and his goons hot on their heels.

It’s a race for survival – with love, fame and fortune if they win, and death in the desert if they lose. In this case, winning really isn’t just everything, it really is the only thing.

Escape Rating B+: There are a lot of similarities to the first Phoenix Adventures story, At Star’s End. There is also more than a bit of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series in here as well. And for those who miss that series, the callback to The Last Camel Died At Noon brings back some terrific memories. The whole story along with the series titles, also reminds me more than a bit of the Uncharted video game series. Nathan Drake would fit right into Declan Ward’s crew.

In both Undiscovered and The Last Camel Died at Noon, the search is for a mythical lost Egyptian city that is supposed to be filled with treasure. And turns out to be rather different from what the seekers believe they are seeking. Along with a whole lot of interesting debate about who the ancient Egyptian gods really were and what their stories meant.

There was a moment in Undiscovered where I feared that the author might take the easy way out and make Rush’s professionally jealous male colleague into either the scapegoat or the villain. I was glad to see that not happen. Also grateful that his jealousy was purely professional.

On that other hand, Anders comes off as “bwahaha” evil. He seems to be evil for evil’s sake. And there is something about the way that he revels in his evilness that came off as more SF monster than sociopathic human. Your mileage may vary.

uncharted by anna hackettBut this story is all Declan and Layne. He keeps her alive on an unexpected desert trek, and she pulls her own weight AND figures out all the puzzles. He knows just enough to provide the occasional clue, or more often just an intelligent listener to bounce things off of. But the archaeological mystery is all her show. As it should be.

I’m looking forward to meeting (and falling for) the rest of Declan’s team in the upcoming books in this series. Next up is his brother Callum’s story in Uncharted, and I can hardly wait.