Two extremely active seniors fall in love while battling terrorists in this creaky thriller–romance.
Tom Rowter, a retired aviation executive, has a secret past with the CIA and a heart still recovering from his wife’s death. Sunny Shinne is a three-quarters Apache grandma who’s also heiress to a cattle and oil empire. Their meet-cute happens when Tom chivalrously guns down two thugs attempting to kidnap Sunny on a Texas highway, his bullets beating Sunny’s own fusillade by a split second. Unruffled by the carnage, Sunny whisks Tom off to the ranch where her crusty but lovable plutocrat dad presides over a ranch-cum-city-state, complete with its own general store, retro diner, hangar full of aircraft, fortified armory and nuclear power plant. Tom ogles Sunny’s petite, raven-haired figure; she appreciates the cut of his jib. They bond over their mutual love of flying and shooting; said bond is greatly strengthened when further run-ins with bad guys require the couple to strip down and make out as a ruse. This first installment of the author’s Reluctant White Knight series strikes an awkward balance between saccharine romance and hard-bitten action. A lot of ardent gazing and flirty banter passes between Tom and Sunny, but these cloying passages clash tonally with the flyboy lingo, elaborate security protocols and countless “briefings” that encrust the manlier scenes. Firearms, including a “fully automatic AR-15 assault rifle with noise suppressor and folding support…effortless to use and yet so destructive,” are a central theme, and the novel is fairly obsessed with their availability, concealment and proper handling. But for all the paramilitary flourishes, Anderson’s action set pieces feel perfunctory and one-sided. There are always hordes of well-armed retainers and Feds around to rescue Tom and Sunny from their outgunned, overmatched adversaries; one showdown pits a phalanx of rifle-toting Secret Servicemen against a lone mountain lion. The book often feels like a fantasia about the luxuriously overstaffed lives of the rich and powerful: Tom and Sunny spend their time basking at the hacienda or on her enormous yacht, swarmed by cooks, valets, footmen and other solicitous hirelings; Sunny even has a U.S. senator at her beck and call to help cut bureaucratic red tape. Indulging in all that Texas-sized privilege tends to slow the storytelling to a crawl.
A cumbersome hybrid of golden-years love story and gun-toting adventure.