Title: The Strength of His Heart
Series: Enhanced World: Book Four
Author: Victoria Sue
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 214 Pages
Category: Paranormal, Sci-Fi
At a Glance: The romance in The Strength of His Heart was just a bit of a mess for me. This is still a strong series, though, with fascinating characters, and I look forward to the next installment.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: To protect and serve…. All Vance Connelly ever wanted to do was continue his family’s tradition and join the Tampa Police Department, but his dreams were crushed the day he woke with the enhanced mark on his face. After years of struggling to adjust to life as an enhanced human, by a stroke of luck, he met Talon Valdez and became a proud member of the FBI’s Human Enhanced Rescue Organization.
Samuel “Angel” Piper is eager to leave his DEA undercover work behind as he joins the HERO team as Vance’s regular human partner. But Sam’s painful past is ever present, just below the surface of the life he has built for himself as an ambitious young agent. When the team investigates rumors of a new drug using enhanced blood, the case’s mysterious connection to Sam threatens not just his life but Vance’s.
Trust doesn’t come easy for Sam, but Vance is willing to fight to convince his partner that the strength of his heart might be the salvation they both need.
Review: Let me begin by saying that I have enjoyed Victoria Sue’s Enhanced series very much, and this fourth installment, The Strength of His Heart, should be read in order after the first three, or you will be unable to follow all the connective tissue between these novels, which includes a wide variety of characters. In this book the author focuses on Vance, the gentle giant of the enhanced team, who is one of the four that was partnered with a human counterpart. Fans will recall Sam being introduced in book three and will remember how he is vastly different from Vance, both physically and emotionally. It’s these differences that will initially drive Sam and Vance apart but ultimately allow them to find common ground.
After a mission gone south lands Vance in the hospital, Sam realizes that the partner who threatens to undo all the careful walls Sam has built up against his painful past is willing to go to any lengths to protect him. Vance has a huge crush on Sam and with just the least amount of permission, that crush could blossom into much more. This was the sweetest element in the novel, in my opinion, and it also became a missed opportunity by the author to really create a beautiful romance. Sam cannot escape the dark memories of his past physical and emotional abuse, and finds trusting someone who could so easily overpower him hard to do. So Sam lies to Vance about his sexuality, even though it means the mixed up feelings Sam has growing for Vance are tossed aside. The two move forward in an uneasy partnership and when Vance is sent in undercover to the enhanced prison, it is a matter of time before Sam realizes just what he has tossed aside in the act of self-preservation. Now he must get to Vance and tell him before it is too late.
Once again, author Victoria Sue weaves a fast paced action adventure featuring her uniquely enhanced team of FBI agents. With multiple twists and turns, this story seemed to be even more complicated, plot-wise, than its three predecessors. I admit there were times when I had to really think about who was part of the enhanced team so I could keep track of the multiple characters in certain scenes; however, that was easily sorted, but the romance aspect of this novel took a bit more suspending of disbelief, if I am honest. It was this that moved this novel from a complete success to something a little south of a five star read. The problem wasn’t that both Vance and Sam had some deep past trauma to sort through. Poor Vance, a giant of a man with incredible strength, strives to free himself from feelings of inadequacy, and the danger he has presented to his loving family in the past—this all due to a nasty team of educators who made Vance feel like a dangerous outcast in his teen years.
Sam, on the other hand, was treated horribly at the hands of an addicted mother who used him in order to get her next hit and then tossed him aside. Foster care found him locked in a place where abuse was used to keep him in line by two older boys who used their strength and physical size to keep Sam intimidated. This then sets up the idea that Sam struggles to trust Vance, even though he knows the man would never hurt him.
All the elements were present to make this story a sweeping romantic action adventure, but unfortunately, the romance angle seemed to disappear and reappear at intervals and really stretched one’s imagination to find it plausible or realistic. I understood Sam’s need to protect himself, but the lack of progression in his and Vance’s relationship, the constant pushing away of Vance, the seeming selfishness and fear that held Sam back from trusting Vance, that never got resolved, and the strangely rushed and totally unbelievable ending was just too much to absorb. We flew from one incidence of Sam being mean and pushing Vance away to Vance returning like a whipped puppy just so he could be near Sam. I struggled to call this a romance, primarily because there was never any real emotional growth or intimacy between the two men. The two attempts at sex both ended badly and resulted in Vance exiting right.
Due to the confusion of what was the author’s attempt at creating a slow burning love story between Vance and Sam, the novel felt unfinished and the ending felt tossed in at the last moment in order to save it. I really enjoyed the introduction of Vance’s brother, Daniel, to the team, and I also thought the key plot to hurt the enhanced was well done. However, the romance in this one was just a bit of a mess for me and gave the novel a thrown together feel that made this installment the weakest thus far. This is still a strong series, though, with fascinating characters, and I look forward to the next installment.
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