When I had the book in hand, I opened it to the back to read the author bio – especially since I tried to find out more information about this author when I wrote my review of “Sizzle and Burn.” I was surprised that the author bio was written in the past tense. I was shocked to learn from Macmillan’s website (http://us.macmillan.com/author/alexisgrant) that Alexis Grant is a pen name for author L.A. Banks, an author who passed away during the summer of 2011 (http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/08/la-banks-1959-2011).
In “Locked and Loaded,” Sage Warner is undercover in Roberto Salazar’s organization as his mistress. Her cover, and years of hard work, is almost blown when soldiers raid Salazar’s Miami home. Sage and Captain Anthony Davis almost kill each other before learning that they are on the same side. After some quick thinking and planning, they come up with a new plan that allows Sage to return to her undercover position and that puts Anthony squarely in the middle of Roberto’s arms deal.
Sage and Anthony are both loners, neither of whom have any real familial ties. Both lead dangerous lives, and the attraction they feel for each other creates a bond that gives them each someone to care about – even though neither can afford to care. The relationship does seem to get overshadowed by the suspense plot, especially as the two have very little time alone together. They do fit each other, and I can see why they fell in love.
Meanwhile, the suspense plot is both complicated and convoluted. Roberto is trying to sell weapons to an Al Qaeda terrorist which ticks off his long-standing drug connection, Guzeman. A Russian arms dealer, Dmitri, is involved – possibly working with Guzman. There may or may not be nuclear materials involved. There is also a great deal of back stabbing and betrayal. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure that I fully understood exactly what was happening.
In the end, I found “Locked and Loaded” to be a tighter story than “Sizzle and Burn.” I found the romance in this one a bit weaker because the hero and the heroine just didn’t get enough time alone together. Yet, the characters were more compelling.
I really would have liked to have seen how Alexis Grant evolved as a romantic suspense author, and I’m saddened by the fact that this will not happen. She created culturally diverse characters who struggled to overcome their difficult childhoods, and put them into some intensely dramatic situations. Sage, as a conflicted character who was close to crossing the line in her undercover work, was especially well done – and the strongest part of “Locked and Loaded.” Thanks so much to Alexis Grant/L.A. Banks for all of the stories that she crafted. RIP.
Book Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.