Cover Me
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If it weren’t already apparent to regular readers of this column, it could be said that I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for military types. Perhaps it comes from too many viewings of Anchors Aweigh during my developing years, or from the fact that I’ve been immersed in military life and culture since meeting my husband (an officer in the U.S. Navy) almost ten years ago. For whatever reason, I always find myself drawn to all things military, whether I’m watching a documentary on the History Channel, crying over a Wounded Warrior Project commercial, or, yes, even reading romance novels. So I was pleased to find Cover Me by Catherine Mann in the bookstore. It sounded like it had it all: romance, adventure, and a yummy Air Force pararescueman. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

Sunny Foster lives “off the grid” in a remote village in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, making her living running a gym and working as a guide, taking people on and off the mountain. Wade Rocha—call sign “Brick”—is an Air Force pararescueman who’s gearing up for a deployment to the sandbox. While out on a routine training mission, he and his crew receive orders to rescue a woman who’s stranded in a snowstorm on the side of a mountain. He’s surprised to find Sunny, who not only doesn’t need rescuing but also seems to know her way around survival gear.

While waiting out the storm, the pair makes a grisly discovery, and Sunny suddenly realizes that everyone in her tight-knit community might not be who they say they are. Can Wade and Sunny unravel a murder mystery and stop an apparent eco-terrorism plot? And will the attraction they feel toward each other grow into something more than just “Oh, we need to conserve body heat, so let’s huddle together in this sleeping bag”?

I know that elite forces in the military are “hot” right now, thanks to Seal Team Six’s spectacular takedown of Osama Bin Laden, but this book seemed as if it were just an attempt to cash in on that “in” status. I was surprised to read that Mann’s husband is a former Airman, since the whole novel seems amateurish—especially when pertaining to the military bits. The dialogue is forced and at times stilted—unbelievable even. Maybe I’m a military lingo snob, but something just rubbed me the wrong way about Mann’s characterization of Wade and his compatriots.

Mann also doesn’t seem to know how to handle a villain properly, perhaps thinking that if she threw in enough red herrings, readers wouldn’t notice how thin the eco-terrorism plot is. We never get a good sense of why the terrorists are hatching their plot, other than wanting to save Mother Earth and all that. I get the same sort of rhetoric from my five-year-old son after they teach about recycling in his kindergarten class.

And, of course, there’s the sex. The scenes are perfectly serviceable, but they’re hardly as virile as one would imagine sex with a strong, brave military guy can be.

From what I understand, Cover Me is the first in a series of novels revolving around Wade’s rescue unit. Maybe that’s why the book seemed a little off. Hopefully, Mann will hit her stride in subsequent installments of the series. There are heroes in this country, and their stories deserve to be told, even in the form of a romance novel.

Military romance is one of my favorite subsets of the genre, so I’ll probably give another one of Mann’s books a shot. I suggest you all do the same. What better way to honor our troops than by ogling them in print, right?

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