A forced, hackneyed thriller set around the taming of a pair of toughened ex-CIA agents marks Johansen’s latest departure from her Eve Duncan series (Countdown, 2005, etc.).
Brash, ruthless renegade Jake Kilmer bedded promising agent-in-training (and successful horse whisperer) Grace Archer on a dangerous mission in El Tariq, Morocco, eight years ago. The mission went awry, leading to the death of Grace’s father (also an agent, with shadowy allegiances) and the estrangement of the lovers. Now living on a horse farm in Tallanville, Ala., with their love child, Frankie, Grace is wanted by a villain in El Tariq named Marvot, who possesses a pair of rare, blue-eyed horses that he needs her to tame before he can get to a buried desert treasure. In fact, Kilmer is responsible for arousing Marvot’s ire by stealing a map of the location in the Sahara where an eccentric British inventor buried a valuable prototype of an engine that promises to eliminate the need for oil and thus revolutionize the global economy. When Marvot finally finds the mother and daughter, he kidnaps Frankie in order to lure Grace back to Morocco. Kilmer steps in to reclaim the family he decides he needs and, with a little help from a jealous neighboring sheik, sets a trap for Marvot. Johansen aims here at the soft side of rough-going Kilmer and fashions a simmering sexual attraction between the couple. Grace’s magical gifts as a horse whisperer strains credulity, however: When she is locked away, alone with a dangerous stallion, she manages to break him after one day. Johansen relies on siroccos and sudden rescues to move this along, but there’s never a doubt that the fledgling family will prevail.
A blurry suspense story directed at the reader’s feminine side.