Saturday, May 02, 2009

Feature Review: "Defender," By Catherine Mann

My considerable obsession with male genitalia aside, you may be surprised to learn the membrum virile ain’t the body organ for which I hold the most admiration.

Oh, no. I’m far more egalitarian than that. The mound of flesh and cells, the glorious, pulsing-with-life collection of tissues and blood vessels that really gets my senses all aflutter is a bit more pedestrian, perhaps a little more hard workin’ a lot more of the time and – truth be told – not hardly as sexy.

Yes friends, even though it can be described as ‘roped with a big vein,” the unisex organ of which I speak is one that -- when my brother coughed up one of his to save my life – became my forever fave…the kidney.

In my uniquely self-absorbed way, I assume whenever an author writes about organ transplantation in a romance – I know, gets me hot, too – she’s doing it just for me. So imagine my state of unbridled euphoria when I read Catherine Mann’s awesome new novel, “Defender,” based on the highpoints of my very own transplant story:

Musician heroine one year post-transplantation takes part in sexy, hi-profile performing gig? Check! Heroine’s feeling a little squeamish about whether men might be able to relate to her “issues” even though the transplant gives new life and excellent health? Check!

Super-gorgeous jet jock rescues fair maiden and new organ from shark-infested waters, catches a glimpse of her all curvy and wet in her pageant-type gown and decides he can overcome his PTSD, save the day with her help and show her he’s strong enough to be the man of a woman who’s ‘been to the mountain’ and lives life with a new perspective? Che -- um, well, my guy still refuses to wear the “Top Gun Role Play” gear I bought ‘im, but he’s got the last part in spades to this day…

OK, so maybe Mann doesn’t know I exist – and “Defender” isn’t a tribute to chicks who go to the Miss America Pageant a year after renal transplants. But “Defender” most definitely is the gripping, timely and slow-burn sexy start to her Black Ops romantic suspense series that’s gonna take over that place on your bookshelf reserved for Shamelessly All-American Heroes and The Women They Live (and would die) For.

Test Pilot Jimmy Gage is a guy focused on a mission: Find and save a fellow Black Ops team member who’s been kidnapped and most likely won’t survive being tortured. Gage’s life’s a little more simple when he’s got a task that keeps his mind off the people he’s let down and couldn’t save – and the time he spent being tortured behind ridiculously hard-to-define enemy lines.

Smack dab in the middle of inching closer to finding his team member, Gage and crew are sidetracked plucking out of the Mediterranean a bunch of USO entertainers whose ship’s been blown apart – one of whom is an irritating blonde sweetheart Gage tries to convince himself is nothing but an armful of sequins and hairspray.

Symphony conductor/USO singer Chloe Nelson would rather larger-than-life, intimidating and arousing flyboy Jimmy Gage think her an airhead than pay attention to their attraction. If he gets close, she fears he’ll be like the other men who run when they figure out she’s got the focus and intensity of spirit that comes from surviving debilitating illness and earning a new lease on life – yet with no guarantees.

Yet Gage and Chloe are survivors, drawn to one another despite their demonstrated fear of few things in life except emotional connection. They tenuously explore a relationship against a backdrop war and of danger fomented by a sadistic rogue extortionist/murdress. Soon, Chloe becomes as embroiled in the sitch as Gage and the Black Ops team and both she and Gage learn whether their desire to help “save the day” is as much about doing right by their country, as it is about finally doing right by their hearts.

Catherine Mann’s Black Ops series is sharp and engaging and is just gonna get hotter. Like your favorite “Band of Brothers” (BOB) series, Mann’s created well-and-truly drawn guy’s guys who seem to think and thankfully communicate like men while getting cold cocked emotionally when the right woman comes along. And Mann keeps the love story tension high w/out sacrificing the suspense plot, a gift to the romance reader “all about the love.”

Competing at the Miss America Pageant -- I remember thinking, “I just may have a shot at this thing. Unless that gorgeous Miss Mississippi has a damn heart transplant.” Luckily, the big prize I won was reaching millions of folks on the Miss A broadcast, telling them how important it is to consider organ donation and talking to one’s family about it.

So, please, head to and check out the deets on organ donation. Then do yourself a favor in the here and now –

Buy the book.

What do you love about Band of Brother (BOB) series? What are your fave Catherine Mann books -- (Mann has long written for Hquin Silhouette and is a RITA winner)? And, what's your favorite body organ and why?

Check out “Hot Shot,” Mann's May Black Ops novel. He knew her when she was young. ‘nuff said.
Zack Knight visits along w/ his BFF, Eve, Monday for the "Under Fire" Drop Day Partay! Prizes!


David B. said...

Favorite organ? You're kidding, right? (Too easy....)

Okay, my favorite organ of the body is the heart. then the liver. then the spleen. Also really like the ureter, bladder and urethra. Pretty fond of the hypothalamus and thyroid. Not a big fan of the esophagus nor the trachea. But love the lungs.

David B. said...

But Seriously...

How completely cool is it that a kidney transplant recipient ends up the main female character here. As Michelle alludes to, I have a little experience with falling in love with a woman who has a donated organ "from another man", so I can tell you that this is a book for me.

This must have been a special read for you, Michelle. It's going to be for me, too.

Sorry about the first post. I just could't resist.

Julie in Ohio said...

Are the eyes an organ?? They are the first thing I notice on anyone and are my favorit part. You can tell alot about someone by their eyes. Not to mention that they are so unique, different colors and shapes.

I'm not familiar with Catherin Mann's books but it sounds like she writes the kind the heroes I like. True, I like the all but my favoritest favs are the take charge rescuers. Ahhhh.....

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I think they do refer to eyes as organs, Jules. And you're right, there are so many subtleties. I guess I really could spend more time thinking about other organs. You don't think I'm shallow, do you?

This book definitely is 'meatily' suspenseful, with lots of backstory. The love story is very important, but the action and susp story are almost equally so, which is great for fans of rom susp, rather than the flat-out-nothin-but-net love story. Mann is a kind of protoge of Brockmann, I guess, perhaps just a critique partner, so protoge may be too strong a word. But you definitely could get excited at the similarity of BOB tone. That said, this is no Troubleshooters knock off. It's a beast all its own, and a very cool series far's I can tell. Can't wait to read HOtshot and hopin to find it asap. :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Dave, I kept wanting to call the heroine KidneyGirl, but I was concerned folks might find that disrespectful, rather than sweet like I always found it. And I felt Mann did a great job of tapping into the concerns of many transplant recipients, not necessarily mine, but of many of all those hundreds and hundreds of recips I met that year I was Miss PA and the couple years after. The heroine's case was different from mine, but not different from friends of mine. Her first transplant - a kidney from her father -- failed; her current "graft" is her second, and is a 'cadaveric' donation from a serviceperson injured/declared brain dead from injuries, I believe, from war. She volunteers for the USO as a way to give back.

I think for many folks who receive what we cheezily call the Gift of Life, it's important to 'give back.' Yet it may be hard to understand unless one's gone through it. Still, going through it makes one a saint deserving of respect by no means.

The other thing about this heroine is she's a little embarrassed of her surgical scar which is kind of small. I wouldn't take that away from her. But, considering I was muchmuchmuchmuchmuch younger then, I remember not minding it being seen when wearing a bathing suit. Kind of like a badge of honor. But I wouldn't subject anyone to that these days. ugh.

Yet Mann nicely pairs the hn with a guy who's got his own scars, and doesn't necessarily give either of them 'healing' from the other on that score. Which is kinda ok. Not all problems need to be solved in a romance. The whole 'you. complete. me." thing can be a bit much to swallow when characters are really damaged.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oh, and did I mention there's baklava?

Vanessa Kelly said...

Wow! This series sounds great! I love romantic suspense with a heavy dose of action. My husband really liked Suzanne B's books, so maybe he'll like this series, too.

You know, I think I'm partial to all my organs! Can't really pick a fav.

Mujerluminosa said...

Hey Michelle,
You're reviewing one of my favorite authors Cathy Mann. I absolutely loved Defender -- Jimmy Gage is one joining my list of Cathy heroes that are keepers. Next to Jimmy,my all time favorite character is Grayson from her Wingmen Warrior series. Jimmy Gage will break your heart; and Chloe more than holds her own as his mate.
Her stories not only touch your heart, and revs it too, but she has tackled so many different issues with grace, pluck, and intelligence.
I will read anything Cathy writes period.
My favorite organ -- the brain.
All the best,

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

hi, Vanessa! You know, Dave B's asked me if he can read this, too. I think guys totally would dig this series. There's also terrific secondary story of attraction, I guess I'll call it, and Mann nicely tees up interest in the rest of the guys and potential interests including a very over-the-top Italian pop star. And, yeah, there are so many good ones, organs, it's hard not to be fond of em all.

mujerluminosa, you so brighten up the place! Lovely to see you. I didn't know about Mann's Wingman Warriors series, but I'm so glad you mention it. She's a writer who's definitely made me crave more of her novels and, clearly, she's been doing so for you for a long time. Although this is my first of hers, I get the sense she's doesn't write cookie-cutter heroes, so I can't wait to spend more time w/more of her boys.

And you make a great point about her tackling issues w/grace,etc. Her 'transplant heroine' definitely worked for me. I did laugh to myself at one point when she got a bloody gash on her leg during a big to-do and didn't freak that it might get infected cause she's got a lowered immune system from drugs that keep the kidney from rejecting. Clearly, the hn isn't obsessive compulsive about that like I am when I travel. It made me laugh at myself, which I liked a lot.

Mann also totally tapped into the hn's fear about men understanding her health issues, then did a terrific thing w/how she has Gage handle it in a really human way that makes him even more heroic to me.

amy kennedy said...

Okay, so yes, I have -Donor- listed on my driver's liscense, I've also talked to my husband about it--sos he knows.

My favorite organ is the spleen, purely for the laugh factor (clearly I watch too many episodes of the Fairly Odd Parents)

Michelle, I have to read this book, and her others. BOB books just do something to me...the comaraderie, the loyalty, the waiting to see who will be in the next book-erie.

Portia Da Costa said...

I really enjoy reading about characters who've struggled through adversity and through injury, and who still deal with the scars both physical and emotional, while fighting for normality, wholeness and happiness.

They can be tough for their partners to deal with, but for me, that only makes their relationship story all the more satisfying.

Manda Collins said...

Hey, Cathy Mann is in my RWA chapter and is so sweet! So, congrats to her on her new series. I can't wait to dive into it. She writes some dead sexy military men.

I've gotta say I enjoy reading about characters who have been through real life adversity. Even if the reader hasn't gone through it herself, chances are she knows someone who has.

My fave organ has to be the heart. It's pretty complex and mine has been fixed a couple of times and for some reason keeps on ticking away. (For which I am truly grateful!)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hiya, Manda! We're very grateful your heart's so beautiful, too. I remember when I used to hang w/lots of 'transplants,' I never could get over the heart txplt recipients. The heart just seems so extraordinarily vital. but they and the docs always were like, 'oh, no, the heart's no big (transplant). It's the liver that's the toughie.' I was part of the Transplant Games -- and, God, no, dn't worry, I didn't actually move my body and compete -- and I couldn't get over all the folks who'd been through these miraculous surgeries and were competing in these transplant games.

I also had friends from a group called the "Zipper Club," who all had heart transplants. At that time -- and it may be different now -- the incision for the heart transplant looked like, you guessed it, a verticle zipper over the upper chest. :)

Hiya, Portia! I'm with you. I think that's why I love war hero stories so much. Deep wounds w/women can be really tricky, don't you think? Heroes are just easier cause the can be so walled off to begin with. But when both the hero and hn are really strong to start, the hn having to do some healing really works well. The man's just gotta be man enough. Which don't always mean alpha, but I'd like it if it did.

Ames, you rock you donor, you. And, can one ever watch too many eppies of Fairly Odd Parents? The Crimson Chin? Wanda? That funny goat and mayor episode? I could talk FOP all day. And have. I think with our kids.

Unknown said...

Ahh another author that I didn’t know about. Her books sound really intriguing I really enjoy the action packed ones. I just recently read JoAnna Ross and really enjoyed her books too. More books to add to the TBR pile :o)

I don’t know if I could pick a favorite organ since I’m kind of attached to all of mine haha I know that was pretty lame lol. But I think I’m with Julie about the eyes. For the most part you can tell a lot about someone by looking into their eyes.

Laurie G said...

Code of Honor, On Target are the last two books of hers that I read. I like how the military guys all stick together and watch out for each other and their wives and their families. I also like the nick names and how they get them Rodeo, Postal etc.

Favorite body organ: mouth/lips: kisses, talks, touches, opens to eat