The Darkest Hour (KGI #1)

The Darkest HourBy Maya Banks

Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: September 7, 2010
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Source: Purchased

Intelligence: high. Body: hard. Mission: what no one else can do.
It’s been a year since ex-Navy SEAL Ethan Kelly saw his wife Rachel alive. Now he’s received an anonymous phone call claiming Rachel is alive. To find her, Ethan will have to doge bullets, cross a jungle, and risk falling captive to a deadly drug cartel that threatens his own demise.

Goodreads Summary

Ethan Kelly is just scraping himself off of the floor after going on a self-inflicted bender on the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death when a mysterious package is delivered.  Opening it, he finds pictures of a thin, ragged woman who bears a striking resemblance to his late wife Rachel, along with maps and coordinates that lead to a location in South America not far from where the plane she was a passenger in on a mercy mission mysteriously crashed.  Fortunately for ex-SEAL Ethan, his brothers run KGI, a sort of international security, smash and grab, intel, you-name-it agency and every one of them will do anything to get Rachel back.

Rachel’s been held prisoner by a drug cartel in the middle of a jungle for a year, forced into an addiction to heroin.  When Ethan rescues her, she recognizes little beyond his name and face.  She doesn’t remember their marriage or his family, other than some remembered affection for one of his brothers.  For Ethan, it’s a blessing; he spent the year before her “death” trying to destroy their marriage and had asked her for a divorce right before she left on her trip.  Now he’s terrified she’ll remember before he can convince her that he never stopped loving her and never meant to let her go.

Ethan is no beta; this is a guy who’s used to taking charge and taking over, but trying to walk the line between forging a new bond with Rachel while not wanting her to remember all of their past is scaring him spitless.  Rachel is having flashbacks, scenes of Ethan hating her but she decides that she wants to trust him and the love she knows she feels for him now and build on what they have.  Their story vacillates between being wildly romantic, heartbreakingly sad and hot and sexy.  One thing Banks knows how to write with surety is emotion.  I always seem to end up with a pile of soggy tissues at the end of her books.

I like that the KGI series has kicked off with this relatively soft start; Ethan is the one non-KGI brother, except for the two youngest who are still hooked up with Uncle Sam, so his is still an outside-looking-in view of all the super-spy dealings.  There’s action, but it’s barely even secondary.  The family story came first here: Ethan and Rachel’s relationship, then establishing the Kelly family dynamic.  The resolution of the mystery of Rachel’s kidnapping was a letdown after all of the to-do made by the brothers; it seemed a little rushed and easy, but because there was so much else in the book, I’m giving it a squeaker-by.

I’m giving Ms. Banks one small Get Out of Over-Crowding My Book Free Pass: holy smokes, there were too many people here.  I could live with the idea of the wonderfully fertile Kelly clan; having them all descend en masse in book one was a little too much, especially in addition to the entire KGI team.  Introducing foster-waif Rusty might have waited (she’s just a little bit too petulantly obnoxiously spunky and has decided to grate on one of my itchy nerves), since I’m guessing she and one of the younger Kelly brothers will be seeing each other biblically eventually.

I’m eagerly anticipating brother Sam’s book, which is due out shortly.  If the rest of the series is as good as this one, there are at least 6 (hopefully!) great stories ahead.

My Rating: A-



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