This story picks up immediately where Whispers in the Dark left off. Rio, member of the KGI/Kelly Group International (private hostage/kidnap victim recovery group) is on a mission, and this time it’s personal. After taking one look at Grace Peterson in the surveillance video at the KGI compound, Rio felt knocked in the gut not on by her beauty but the fear in her eyes. Memories from years ago of his younger sister, Rosalina, flooded to the surface of his mind. Vivid images of the look in his sister’s eyes facing the knowledge of her imminent death along with her unborn child’s. Rosalina died in Rio’s arms and shortly after, Rio tracked down her killer and administered his own form of vengeance leading to the killer’s excruciating death. Rio was not able to save his sister, but he is determined to protect and return Grace safely home to her sister Shea, vowing to not let her slip away.
As a former solder and assassin, Rio was trained to remain non-emotional while breaking the rules when necessary to complete the mission at hand. After joining the KGI, Rio finally felt a sense of belonging to a group whose mission was for the greater good. Since becoming a part of the KGI team, Rio has always maintained a sexy, mysterious charm within the prior books so naturally I was anxious to read his story. He lives in a very remote area of Belize and is an extremely private person. While we don’t receive much of a back ground of Rio’s family, we do get a glimpse of his missions throughout the years and how he has struggled with his own morals and integrity up until now.
The story starts with immediate action and a steady pace as we witness Rio’s rescue of Grace and how he and his team lead her out of the mountains with the enemy closely on their heels. The enemy is a special ops “off radar” group known as Titan and they want to capture and use Grace and her healing abilities for their own agendas. After Rio and Grace make it out of the mountains, he whisks her away to his home in Belize to heal and form a plan of action to protect Grace and her sister, Shea, from the Titan group’s grasp.
I had a difficult time with the introduction of a paranormal element (telepathy) in Whispers in the Dark. In my opinion, it came across as cheesy and unnecessary adding this component to a well established romantic suspense series. I am a Maya Banks fan and have read this series from its start but I feel like as the books have progressed, the storylines have lost a lot of their edge. I will say that the (telepathic) connection between Rio and Grace felt a little more believable and less corny. The difference in Echoes at Dawn is primarily the fact that we have an emotionally stronger hero and heroine both individually and as a couple. There was nothing week about Grace, even after facing all the hell she went through. Rio was courageous, solid, and true. He didn’t sugar coat anything with Grace, told her the truth in what they faced as a mission as well as the feelings he developed for her along the way. Rio and Grace have a strong chemistry and I think this is well developed especially with how he mentally and physically aids her through the mountains giving her a will to survive. She learns to trust him and rely on him and given her circumstances this is a huge feat. What I did not like (and again this occurred in the prior book) was the quick declaration of love between the two. Their interaction is intense and emotional and I wanted to savor that more with a build up to the “I love you” moment but we are not given that opportunity. Once the love card was played their pairing lost it’s edge and became a little too sweet and sappy for my taste. Finally, this series has been based on the support and unity of the Kelly family as a whole but we get very little page time with the rest of the characters. The focus of the book is all Rio and Grace and although that is not a bad thing, the family connection and involvement is what I’ve come to enjoy with the series so it was disappointing for me as a series reader.
Echoes at Dawn delivered its share of action, romance and suspense. I’m just unsure where Ms. Banks is taking this series and if we will ever get back to the core elements that made the stories riveting, passionate and emotionally gripping leaving the reader desiring more.
“The only time I expect you to obey me without hesitation is when your life is on the line and we’re in a combat situation. The rest of the time, you’re perfectly free to argue all you like. But I’ll tell you now, if I tell you to do something when it counts and you balk, I’ll tan your behind. You don’t get a free pass from me just because you’re gorgeous and I happen to be in love with your ass.”