A social worker is catapulted into a whirlwind of romance and danger when she meets the love of her life, superstar actor and part-time CIA operative Sam Donovan.
Author Lewis’ globe-trotting romantic action-adventure may remind some of Danielle Steele with a dose of Helen MacInnes. Beautiful Alexandra Maitland flees a love-starved, dysfunctional childhood in Cleveland and tries to put her private pain to good use as an anti-gang counselor in Los Angeles. Still, she suffers secret anxieties and crises of confidence. When her job gets cut, thanks to office politics, Alex is sent to Hawaii on an enforced vacation, where she must remain due to the threat of gang violence against her back in Los Angeles. There, she finds the neighbor of her vacation villa to be none other than Hollywood superstar Sam Donovan, who ministers to Alex intimately when she suffers life-threatening sunstroke, falling for her in the process. But two near-death experiences are not enough for this heroine. Alex’s missionary brother is seized by North Koreans and, thanks to the stalwart Sam’s government ties—he is a freelance CIA undercover agent, by the way—the couple goes to the locked-down dictatorship on a combined getting-married and rescue mission. There’s torture (gruesome indeed), submarine rides, movie-set jealousy and a further lingering threat from Max, a rogue ex-KGB operative turned rogue ex-CIA operative (whew), and his network of assassins. Fast-paced prose compacts this into far less than the doorstop of a saga it sounds, but one still wishes Lewis had taken more time to color in the outlines. The Hawaiian scenes are best for flavor, character-building and ambiance, but other jet-set locales pass with little or no adjectives wasted on them. Sinister and in-the-headlines North Korea is so utterly nondescript that the place of the lovers’ gruelingly hellish ordeal may just as well have been Syria, Pakistan, Ruritania or the Klingon Homeworld (or Cleveland again), and desultory villain Max is also pretty flat. An emphasis on the heroine’s inner growth and lambent New-Age spirituality (Alex seems to recollect herself and Sam as oft-tragic soul mates from many thwarted past lives) distinguishes this from genre competitors that put the accent on bling, celebrity name-dropping and designer brand labels.
Spiritual empowerment more so than weapons firepower (though there’s that too) is the aim of this farfetched girl-meets-boy-who-is-CIA-and-Hollywood-hero-all-in-one yarn.