Review: Angel’s Hero (Angel #1) by Liz Borino


Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Angel's Hero coverCIA Agent Aaron “Angel” Collins and his Army Captain husband, Jordan Collins. are happy in love and happily married. Then Jordan is shipped off to Afghanistan on a special mission, one that turns deadly.  When Aaron is notified of Jordan’s death by  Jordan’s commanding officers, something just doesn’t feel right.  There is no remains, no concrete proof of Jordan’s death, raising Aaron’s suspicions.   Immediately Aaron sets off to seek out the truth and find out if his husband is still alive.  Major General Troy Hart offers Aaron first his sympathy and then his assistance in Aaron’s investigation.  But does he really believe that Aaron is right or is he merely humoring Aaron?

The truth is Captain Jordan Collins is alive and injured in an Afghanistan prison.  While captive, Jordan learns that he has been betrayed by someone back in the States, someone who just might be high up in his chain of command. When Jordan learns that an order has been issued for his death, he escapes and starts off on a perilous journey back to the States and Aaron.  But who can Jordan trust if  he makes it back home to the man he loves? And is he putting Aaron in danger by returning home?

Angel’s Hero is the first book I have read by Liz Borino.  The first in a series, it introduces us to the main characters, Jordan Collins, an Army Captain of mixed ethnicity (part Korean, part Black), who has become disillusioned with his Army superiors enough to be looking at early out and another career.  His husband, is CIA operative Aaron “Angel” Collins, stationed at CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA.  They met 11 years earlier at meeting of CIA interns and low-level Army officers and clicked even though DADT was still in place.  The time periods fluctuate between years from present time to the past as flashbacks show us how the men meet and fall in love.

The dialog and scenes that play out between the couple are lovely.  I believed in their romance and deep connection and that made the events that followed believably painful and full of anxiety.  What I found less plausible was the conversations Aaron had with his new superior at the CIA and his status as a CIA agent.  His conversations are a constant flow of information about himself, his husband, his husband’s plans upon leaving the military, nothing seems to be held back and this man is not only his new boss but someone who is alarmingly intimate for someone he just met.  Had that been a conversation between two people in any other job it still would have felt too familiar and odd.  But in intelligence officers that are practically strangers?  It never felt convincing and took something away from believing in the author’s world building.

As I said, I liked the characters and the relationship between Aaron and Jordan. That felt easy and loving, just as one would expect from a long established domestic partnership.  But almost immediately, other errors popped up to distract me from the events occurring within the plot. These are blunders that cannot be mistaken for artistic license.  One such example of artistic license would be putting a McDonald’s on a street corner where it doesn’t exist (that occurs here too). It’s entirely possible that a McDonald’s could appear in a new location, so that works even if you are familiar with a neighborhood.

No, I am referring to descriptions or information used as to set a scene that are obviously incorrect.   Here is an excerpt that shows some of the issues found within the story:

July 2013 Bethesda, Maryland.  Aaron inhaled the mixture of pine, leather, cherry blossoms, and the freshness of his husband, Jordan. The cherry blossom scent drifted through the cracked window letting in the July air, and the cruel light streaming through the window implored his eyes to open. Aaron resisted because as soon as he acknowledged the morning, he would have to be responsible. Get up, put on clothes, and take Jordan to the airport where he’d board a plane and disappear for three months. Jordan’s shortest deployment to date, and also the only one Aaron would have no part in.

This paragraph opens the second chapter and two facts jumps out at me immediately as a resident of the Washington DC Metro area.  First is the fact that it is July in the story and the cherry blossoms are blooming.  Now Washington, DC’s (and Bethesda’s) cherry blossoms are world renown.  People all over, especially in China and Japan, plan their vacations to coincide with our Cherry Blossom Festival.  Which happens in April.  Around here everyone breathlessly awaits the NPS announcement that tells the region when to expect the Japanese Cherry trees to start blooming each year.  Some years it is late March, most times it is April.  Never, ever, is it in July.  The second issue is the idea that anyone in this area would open a window in July, letting in the 90 percent humidity and intense heat that July in this region brings.  And unless the scent of pine is from Pinesol, that doesn’t happen at this time of year either.  Both the bloom date of the cherry trees and our temperatures in July are easy to research.  Yet that didn’t happen to the detriment of the story.

For me the best part of the story occurs when Jordan is a prisoner in Afghanistan.  Borino builds up the suspense and precariousness of Jordan’s situation with great descriptions and the addition of Adeela Nadar, a nurse at the prison.  But again, I wondered if a female nurse would have been allowed near male prisoners or any male for that matter.  Over and over, Borino asks the reader to suspend our belief given what we know about the Afghanistan culture and the extreme Islamic beliefs in that region that would allow a woman to work within that environment.  Again it’s a matter of terrific characters versus unrealistic situations.

Other notes made during reading include notations about landing a plane near Bethesda (totally urban, no airport) and finding oneself 10 minutes from home by the street signs.  Or arriving via airplane at an unidentified airport within the Beltway, wounded and without identification and you are not detained? By anyone post 9/11 and Homeland Security?  And that close to Washington, DC, no airports major or local are within 10 minutes of Bethesda, MD.  Unfortunately, all these mistakes pop up at the most inopportune times, yanking this reader out of the story each time such a mistake is mentioned.

The ending is heartbreaking and the emotions it engenders are real.  I liked so much about this story but the errors kept this reader from the total enjoyment that I wanted to feel.  Perhaps if you are not from this area, then the mistakes that occur here won’t bother you or interfere with your reading pleasure as it did mine.

I need to see what happens next as the ending itself is a bit of a cliffhanger.  So on to Angel’s Truth (Angel #2) I go.  If you are new to this series as I am, they should clearly be read in the order they were written.

The Angel series:

Angel’s Hero (Angel #1)
Angel’s Truth (Angel #2)

Cover art by Anthony Walsh.  Lovely cover, and the models work for the characters within.

Book Details:

ebook, 79 pages
Published February 26th 2014 by Lazy Day (first published February 25th 2014)
ISBN 1016125812 (ISBN13: 9781612581248)
edition languageEnglish
seriesAngel #1