Review: Shades of Gray by Maya Banks

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Length: 282 pages (includes an additional 100 or so pages of novella)
Pub Date: January 2013
Publisher: Berkley (Penguin)
FTC: Purchased myself

Maya Banks writes in just about every genre out there, but her KGI romantic suspense series is my favorite. Or it was until she left the straight suspense and ventured in the land of woo-woo with the last two books in the series. Don't get me wrong, I like woo-woo. I still read paranormal romance. But I intensely dislike when a series starts out as one thing and morphs into another. Thankfully, the series is back on track with Shades of Gray.

This is the story I've been waiting for. PJ, a trained sniper, and Cole have been dancing around each other for several books now. And this book dives right in with a relationship beginning in the very first few chapters.  The rest of the book isn't so much about them, as dealing with the aftermath of an op gone horribly wrong. And that's where I have some issues with the book.

[Spoilers Ahead]

Just once, I would like an author of romantic suspense to let a strong woman in a "man's world" be strong without resorting to mutilation and violence to show her "strength." Christine Feehan did it not once, but repeatedly, in her Drake Sisters series and now it seems as if Maya Banks has fallen into the same trap.

During an undercover op, PJ is drugged, brutalized, sliced with a knife, and raped. All while her team listens in, helpless to get to her. The rest of the book is the aftermath of that and PJ's extremely bloody revenge.

It's not a bad book. The rape and its aftermath are handled with care by the author. But I would have preferred a different conflict for PJ. One that didn't resort to what is a horrible, stereotypical plot device in romantic suspense. I felt like it was an unimaginative direction to take the series. But that seems to be my own personal bugaboo regarding romantic suspense.

As always, the writing itself is top notch. We get a little more fleshing out of some of the other team members, and the requisite cameos from other characters who already had their stories told.

Fans of the series who did not like the paranormal direction Banks was taking the series will likely enjoy this one. Even with the eye-twitchingly trendy title.

My Grade: B-

The Blurb:

P.J. and Cole were sharpshooting rivals on the same KGI team and enjoyed a spirited, uncomplicated camaraderie. Until the night they gave in to their desires and suddenly took their relationship one step further. In the aftermath of their one night stand, they’re called up on a mission that goes terribly wrong, and P.J. walks away from KGI, determined not to drag her teammates into the murky shadows she’s poised to delve into.

Six months later, Cole hasn’t given up his search for P.J., and he’s determined to bring her back home where she belongs. Bent on vengeance, P.J. is on a mission that will plunge her into a serpentine game of payback and make her question everything she’s ever believed in. Cole—and the rest of their team—refuse to let her go it alone. Even if it means sacrificing their loyalty to KGI and their very lives…

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