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Friday, January 16, 2009

Hard to Handle by Karen Wiesner



Hard to Handle (Book 8 of the Incognito Series) by Karen Wiesner
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Review by Xeranthemum

Loyal operative Dez Luttino has graduated from being one the recruits of the Network, top of his classes and single-mindedly driven to succeed in his duty to his country. What he hadn’t counted on was mentoring his first operative—Nova Granger, once a head-strong, albeit gorgeous, hunting machine who didn’t seem to want to follow any rules except her own. As her team leader years ago, Dez had helped Nova tame her reckless nature and develop a team player attitude. She’s become one of the organization's most valuable operatives.

Little does Nova know that sexy Dez has been instructed to prepare her for an undercover mission that involves felling a ruthless criminal. While Dez has been instructed by his superiors to get close to Nova and encourage her to trust him implicitly, he soon realizes that he’s gone beyond duty and done the unthinkable by falling in love.

Hard To Handle has the harshest topic and the most emotionally charged storyline of the Incognito series to date. Ms. Wiesner is known for her dexterity, and her respectful yet hard hitting storytelling both of which are alive and well in this installment.

At first I didn’t realize that the main female character is one that I’d met before. Nova is a woman who has many demons in her past which she has to deal with. Memories are the hardest to slay because sometimes they makes us who and what we are, for good or bad. It’s what we do with them as we go forward in life that makes life worth living and fighting for. Or for some, to give up and turn away because it’s just too hard, too painful. Nova was given a chance to do more than survive years ago. If you’ve read No Ordinary Love, the first of the series, you’ll remember Nova. But she was different in that story, younger, a little wild and a survivor even then. Hard To Handle kicks it up a notch, to an adult level with an adult theme. This story is not for the faint of heart.

Dez is a character that’s appeared as a secondary in Under The Spell. He’s got his own issues with his past and now as lead character he will have to face and reveal them to Nova and us. Dez is tough, thorough and ambitious; and that pretty much sums him up. That is, to everyone in the Network because he’s kept to himself; his own heart is walled up and protected from everything and everyone. Dez has a reputation as a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of guy but as a romance reader I knew it was a cover for something that went much deeper. Ms. Wiesner once again presents a character, a man, whose past touches feelings within a reader, so much so that you want to hold him -- comfort that boy in the past and the man in the present. But that will be Nova’s job and the romance between the two heals in ways very unique to the talents that Ms. Wiesner brings to each and every book she writes.

The conflict, personal ones notwithstanding, is ripped from reality. The disturbing focus of Hard to Handle is hard to read. How the author dealt with the villain and the final comeuppance should leave you as it left me – fully justified and satisfied. Nova has guts and grit and I marveled at her restraint. Oh, but when she lets loose, I felt like I was watching a female 007. She rocks! Her restraint comes from knowing just where to stop and get the most vengeance and vindication. What a clever solution too.

As you expect from the Incognito series, this book continues the tradition of fast paced writing, logical plot development, strong characters with vulnerable hearts that fall in love despite a forbidding environment, dialogue that puts you right in the thick of things and bad guys that make you want to toss your cookies.

Hard To Handle will grip you, make you think, make you feel and in the final touching scenes, make you believe that love really can conquer all.