18 January 2014

Review: Four stars for Maya Banks' After the Storm, a love story about learning the power and beauty of trust.

After I read After the Storm by Maya Banks, the eighth novel in her Kelly Group International (KGI) series, I began to ponder some questions: What is a hero? Does he have to be alpha and domineering? Or can he be a hero by conveying compassion, kindness, and love? I think you already have guessed that my answer may sound like I'm making heroes "wimp" out. However, my personal sense is that sometimes its much harder to be considered heroic while not making grand gestures, but in actually remembering how many sugars one's best friend's wife takes in tea. Or having the sensitivity to pick up on a young child's deep unease and teaching her to trust.

Donovan Kelly, whose story is the focus of After the Storm, is the brother some might consider a geek, but he's always stepped up on missions saving lives. At no time throughout this series have I ever doubted his heroic qualities - nor do I now. In this book, Banks created a more subtle threat than ones that saw KGI scrambling against South American cartels, human traffickers, drug kingpins, but this threat is no less real.

In fact, I found the sense of normalcy relaxing - and disarming. Here was the family essentially at rest, chatting, at home, and then presented with a family in need of help, actually living on the edge of survival. This family includes Travis, a young teenage boy whom Rusty gave a part-time job to at the hardware store seeing her reflection in him, and his two sisters, Eve in her twenties and Cammie just about four. Aid to them became a cause for Rusty and subsequently to Donovan or Van when she sought his help.

During this time, it's revealed that Van has been the silent benefactor of several charities that help abused women and children. Yes, he's a hero to me. After securing confirmation that Maren, a physician and his teammates wife, will diagnose and treat the little girl who is quite ill. One thinks everything is on its way. Van will come to this family's aid and then he and the older sister, Eve, will begin to act on their mutual attraction once the dust settles and they're all secure. But this is a KGI novel and nothing ever, ever seems to go quite as planned.

The evening before Maren can visit them, a tornado sweeps into their area, and the family's trailer is decimated. Luckily they were already on their way out-of-town, on the run, from a threat the Kelly's can only guess at. This is a blessing as otherwise when Van, his brother Joe, and Swanny race to see how they fared, the novel might have ended. Instead, the family of three is bundled back to the Kelly compound and soon the offer of shelter and safety that Van extends to them, just might be accepted.

Now, I did say this was a KGI novel, but you'll notice that so far there haven't been gun or fist fights, nor car or plane chases, undercover operations, etc. So, please note this is more a domestic story than an edge-of-your-seat thriller. Quite frankly, I found that fact relaxing. The past few KGI novels have been so jam-packed with action that they were almost exhausting. But believe me, I stayed up late reading each one of them. Did I stay up late reading After the Storm? Actually no, because I read it this evening in about two hours. Could I put it down and pick it up? Absolutely, but that didn't mean that I wasn't captured by the story.

I highlighted a passage that I'd like to share, which embodied Van to me. And gee, I'd love to meet a man like him who has strength wrapped in gentleness:
"That's not true. You've given me something very precious indeed. Your trust, Eve. And I know what
that cost you … A woman's trust is the most priceless gift she can give a man. Her belief in his ability to keep her safe and protect her from all harm." 
Pretty powerful words and understanding from an alpha hero, right?

I'm not going to go into more of the plot because you'll have to read it yourself, but be aware that all is not going to be smooth sailing (again, this is a KGI novel). If you've read other books in this series you know that the heroes and heroines go through "dark nights of the soul," before there's a story resolution. [NB: This is a series where I would definitely advise you to read each book sequentially, otherwise you may not pick up some necessary story threads.]

Seeing all the Kelly's together around the dining table for a Sunday dinner early in the story was really charming. The parents, brothers, their wives, and adopted kin are like an extended family. I told a friend that I planned on reading this book today and her remark to me was, "Oh, I love those books. They're so relaxing, because I feel like I know the Kellys." That's the truth, that's the magic that Banks has given readers with this series. I think we all feel passionate about the Kellys, perhaps even more passionate than if they were our own blood. That's why I was so pleased to see Van perhaps, probably, find someone who "fit" him. Now for Rusty (and Sean?) and Joe. Oh, there definitely are more stories in store for us lucky KGI fans.

By the next book, I'll probably be back in the mood for a wilder ride, but After the Storm hit my reader's mood and desire tonight perfectly.

In conclusion, After the Storm by Maya Banks receives four solid stars for a love story about learning the power and beauty of trust.





From the Publisher



A KGI Novel Book 8
After the Storm by Maya Banks
Berkley (Penguin Group)
ISBN 9780425263778
Price $7.99
Publication Date: January 7, 2014

The Kelly Group International (KGI): A super-elite, top secret, family-run business.

Qualifications: High intelligence, rock-hard body, military background.

Mission: Hostage/kidnap victim recovery. Intelligence gathering. Handling jobs the U.S. government can’t…

Over the years, Donovan Kelly has fought relentlessly for justice, women and children always holding a special place in his heart. Working side by side with his brothers, Donovan has witnessed firsthand the toll it’s taken—physically, mentally, and emotionally—on his loved ones, and the innocent lives caught in the crossfire. What he never expects is for his next mission to happen right on his home turf—or for it to take a very personal turn.

Picturesque Kentucky Lake is the perfect place for a soul in search of safe harbor. A beautiful stranger has arrived—desperate, breathless, and on the run from a dark past closing in on her and the younger siblings she has vowed to protect. Donovan must now draw on every resource at his disposal—if he wants to save a woman and the children who may prove to be his destiny.