Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: The Darkest Hour

The Darkest Hour
Maya Banks
Romantic Suspense
KGI/Book 1
Berkley/September 2010

From the back cover ~

It’s been one year since ex-Navy SEAL Ethan Kelly last saw his wife Rachel alive. Overwhelmed by grief and guilt over his failures as a husband, Ethan shuts himself off from everything and everyone.

His brothers have tried to bring Ethan into the KGI fold, tried to break through the barriers he's built around himself, but Ethan refuses to respond… until he receives anonymous information claiming Rachel is alive.

To save her, Ethan will have to dodge bullets, cross a jungle, and risk falling captive to a deadly drug cartel that threatens his own demise. And even if he succeeds, he’ll have to force Rachel to recover memories she can’t and doesn’t want to relive—the minute by minute terror of her darkest hour—for their love, and their lives, may depend on it.

The story started out very strong. Ethan Kelly is trying to get through the one year anniversary of his wife's death. He tried drowning his sorrows, that only left him with a hangover. You can really feel his despair, his lack of direction in life. He's full of regrets and has no way of correcting his mistakes. When he receives evidence that Rachel might still be alive, he's completely thrown and afraid to hope it's true. He turns to his brothers for help. They're shocked as well but also grieve over Rachel's death and want to believe that she's still alive. So they set out to rescue her. It's after the rescue that the story begin to lose me with the continued ineptitude of these men to keep this woman safe.

Rachel Kelly has been living in hell for the last year. She's an incredibly strong woman, we see that in her will to live. She isn't sure if she's hallucinating when her "angel" appears. She's been dreaming of him and now here's really there to get her out of that hell hole. I liked how Rachel was portrayed during her rescue. She's wired on drugs, physically weak and yet she doesn't give up when given that chance to run. Her survival instinct are very strong and they kick in with a vengeance. Once she's back home she surrounded by people she has little memory of. Dealing with the drug withdrawal and memory loss take it's toll on her. I thought Rachel dealt with her situation well, showing that courage that helped her survive the past year.

Ethan Kelly comes from a large family. There are 6 Kelly boys, all either former or current members of the military. Ethan is a former Navy SEAL. They are a close bunch, with each other and with their parents. Ethan has everyone worried about him. He's become withdrawn since Rachel's death and his family is ready to close ranks and pull him out of his depression. Ethan knows this but isn't sure what to do. Then his second chance with Rachel comes and he grabs it, thinking he can make their marriage work this time.

The Kellys don't know why Rachel's death was faked and she was kept prisoner. The Kelly brothers, through KGI, have made some enemies. So they need to figure out why this happened to Rachel. I didn't feel like they did enough to find out why the faked death and kidnapping. It seemed obvious that she might still a target, at least until they find out why she was taken. And this is one of the main problems I had with the story line. I was surprised at the poor choices that were made regarding Rachel's protection.

After Rachel had been home about a week, Marlene Kelly, Ethan's mom, asks Ethan and Rachel over for a "simple family gathering". They agree but instead of just the family they find a party full of people, strangers to Rachel. Remember, Rachel has huge gaps in her memory, she doesn't even remember all of the Kellys. It made no sense to subject Rachel to this situation given that she's still recovering and would feel uncomfortable around strangers. It came across as a weak ploy to develop drama in the story.

A few weeks after Rachel returns to the states she decided to see a therapist. Great, except she doesn't want Ethan going with so she drives herself there. Which didn't make sense at all. She was malnourished and a drug addict when she was rescued from her Colombian captors. She had been captive for a year, so no driving during that time. Now she's back for a few weeks, still needs to gain weight, still battling withdrawal from the drug addiction, they still don't know why her death was faked and she was taken prisoner, but here she is driving herself to see a therapist. Why didn't Ethan take her, then pick her up an hour later? There was a good chance it would be an emotional session and she wouldn't be in any shape to drive. I was amazed that Ethan and his brothers thought it was okay for Rachel go off alone when the possibility that her life was still in danger was very real.

I really wish there had been more attention paid to Rachel dealing with her drug withdrawal. To finding out why she was kidnapped. To Rachel and Ethan's problems with getting to know each other after she comes back from the dead. With Ethan's deception of Rachel regarding their marriage before her kidnapping. There was too much sequel bait. Marlene takes in a stray teenager, who causes conflict for Rachel then fades into the woodwork. The two youngest Kelly brothers make an appearance but didn't add anything the other Kelly boys couldn't have done.

Maybe the second book, No Place to Run, will be more streamlined and focused on the hero and heroine now that so many secondary characters have been introduced. I'm still on the fence if I'll pick it up. I like the strong sense of family that we find in the Kelly clan but still need a better balance between the romance and the suspense. I did like the time that Rachel and Ethan spent together, when they were trying to get comfortable around each other. That was real but too little of it. Rachel was a strong heroine but shouldn't have had to save herself so often when so many of the Kelly brothers were around.

Rating: C+


  1. I just finished and reviewed this book as well. I was on the fence with what to grade it and feel your C+ is accurate (I gave it a B). I think I was on information overload with so many brothers and KGI agents, but I suspect future books won't have the same problems. One thing that really confused me was Rachel reaction and attraction to Garrett. I was really thrown off by that relationship. Thought for sure those 2 had a past.

  2. I am with the two of you. I finished this and didn't quite know what to think. For me it is sub par for Maya Banks. I liked parts of it, but I just wasn't able to make a connection to the characters.


  3. BPB ~ Colters' Woman flashed in my mind a few times when Rachel & Garrett were together. LOL If this had been an erotic romance...

    Brande ~ Based on the glowing reviews I was expecting to really like it. Sadly, I only liked parts of it. Maybe the next will be better.

  4. Ohhh, i just bought this book based on the good reviews I've seen so far LOL. Of course, it's when I want to read it that all the so-so reviews are appearing :P Guess I'll have to decide by myself right?

    Although, all the points you raise make sense :P are you planning to read the rest of the series?

  5. Nath ~ I read a bunch of good reviews too, that's why I read this one so quick. I hope you like it better than I did.

    IDK if I'll read the next one. I did like the excerpt for it - I'll wait for reviews first. :)

  6. Great review, Leslie. I've been on the fence about this one because I don't really enjoy Maya Banks' erotic romances. I think I might wait for the second book, then. :)