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on June 30, 2004
All The Queen's Men is an emotional novel which packs the same punch as another Linda Howard book I read recently, Cry No More. What these novels both have in common is HEARTACHE - the characters have tragic pasts, baggage from previous relationships and at the same time are dealing with serious and dangerous situations. All in all, this leads to a read which can seem bittersweet at times and is definitely not as carefree as other Howard romances such as Dream Man or Heart of Fire.
Niema and John are likeable, well-rounded characters. Niema is still grieving for her loving, tough late husband when John comes back into her life. She is a charming mix of toughness and vulnerability, and I really liked her. John is the typical 'hard man' who is smarting from how his first marriage ended and, to some extent, is unable to express his true feelings because of his dangerous job. The relationship between the two definitely seems meant to be and most of their interactions are a mix of passion, tenderness and love.
As other reviewers have mentioned the ending is quite abrupt, but it made me cry anyway because I was so happy for them both. Overall I was unable to leave this novel for a moment while I was reading it, but I don't reread it often simply because it makes me feel sad - despite the happy ending. I can't help but think that their lives will be hard because John will always have to look over his shoulder and be ready for an old enemy to attack him and Niema again.
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on January 10, 2004
I've recently become a big fan of Linda Howards and have been buying up most of her books. I had read "Kill and Tell" a few months ago and became very intrigued with one of it's characters, John Medina, a CIA operative. This book is actually Johns story.
The first part of the book starts off in Iran, 5 years earlier. John is on assignment with several other people, including Niema and her husband Dallas Burdock (a Navy SEAL). During the operation Dallas is killed and John helps Niema escape. Now to the present. John has always had a thing for Niema but had stayed away because he wanted her to find happiness. Now they are sent on a mission together and he decides he doesn't want to give her up. The rest of the story is about their mission which I won't spoil.
Now some reviewers had a problem with the first time John and Niema make love. Some even said it bordered on rape. I didn't see it like that. Niema's reluctance to make love to John had nothing to do with her being unwilling. She just didn't like the location of where it happened and I don't blame her.
Some reviewers felt that at times John was too cold. Again I didn't see that. He was controlled and in his line of work you would have to be. There were times, like when he was bandaging her feet, that I felt he was very sweet.
There were only two things I didn't like about the story. One was John is always portrayed as "wanting" Niema but I would have like to have heard him say he loved her. The second was the sightseeing trip toward the end of the book. I'm sorry but if your being chased by a bunch of goons your not going to go off sightseeing. Other than that it was a pretty good read.
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on June 27, 2003
Romance Suspense is a category in romance writing that is becoming more and more popular. I have been a reluctant reader of romance suspense because the action pages usually surpass the romance pages. I often find that this romance suspense writing lacks over true suspense writing outside of the romance arena and have therefore been critical of it. But I also decided to look at this increasingly popular category and read these books expecting the romance to be secondary to the action and determine if I could see the book in a better light. And I picked All the Queen's Men with this new attitude. This book has little romance and the leads spend at most one-third of the book alone together. But it was a very good CIA type story regardless, full of dangerous thrills and tension, and I did not find it at all boring or lacking. I knew from reviews that it was not as sensual a book as most Howard books. I also had been introduced to the hero in the book Kill and Tell. This is its sequel. I knew I would like a story about John Medina. Plus, after reading this book, I can safely say that this is the best Howard suspense book yet. In my mind, All the Queen's Men is superior to Dying to Please and Mr. Perfect, two of Howard's other romance suspense books. There have been many Howard books that I loved more than All the Queen's Men but those were considered contemporary romance and were primarily romance stories.
John Medina and Niemi Burdock first meet when they begin a joint mission five years earlier that included Niemi's husband, Dallas. Dallas was killed on that mission and John was the one that got Niemi out of Iran safely and soothed her through the rough days that followed her husband's death. For the past five years, Niemi has lived a secluded life and works at a technical job with the CIA. She has not seen John during those five years but John has kept track of her - his CIA boss makes sure that all goes well for her at John's request. He has always cared for her and finally decides she has had five years to find someone else to marry and since she hasn't, he is going to be the only man in her life from now on. He believes she blames him for her husband's death and is greatly relieved when he finds out during their first visit after all these years that she does not blame him at all. She actually blames herself.
John Medina does everything well - he is so well trained and is just so cool. But he doesn't know much about personal relationships. He has operated in the black for so many years with so many identities that he is unable to form long-term relationships. Niemi has given up her sense of adventure after losing her husband and is a very sensible and serious person now. She has kept physically fit and is a very capable woman. She was always intimidated by John and doesn't believe he thinks all that much of her. Both Niemi and John are very likable characters - possibly some of my favorites - especially Niemi. She is a great heroine. Of course, as usual, they are both very attractive people and that is important in this story since part of their future mission will rely on others noticing this attraction as well.
The first days that John and Niemi spend together when he is training her for their mission are precious but there is nothing overtly romantic between them. I state that as a complaint. The romantic possibilities were so great and the chemistry could have rocked the pages had the romance been given more exposure. We are given so little time with just the two of them and even most of that time is concentrated within the pages prior to their realization of their mutual caring. There are two or three sensual scenes that come close to the end and they rate about a 3.0 out of 5.0 (see More About Me for rating guidelines). See - I still had to mourn to loss of the romance for the suspense.
The villain is certainly the most different one I have ever read. No wonder it got the AAR's Favorite Villain Award the year it was published. You actually like this villain and don't want him to get hurt. Most of the villain's scenes show a man that is kind, respectful, and at times extremely touching when those scenes are about or include his daughter. The villain is actually a reason that I enjoyed this story as much as I did.
I really did enjoy All the Queen's Men despite its lack of romance. What romance there is - is very powerful! The story never dragged and I really liked all of the characters. Howard was able to create some sort of magical element that made it a really good read just as it is.
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on October 27, 2002
I enjoyed the tension and chemistry between John and Niema right from the beginning. There is something very tender about a man holding back, wishing the best for the woman he loves and finally any restraint is just too much for the intense feelings.
John unhurriedly proceeded to make Niema aware of him but still exercised extreme control of himself. So when he was touched to the extent to express his feelings for her, it became so intense and powerful that just took my breath away: when he allowed himself to look at her with all the love in his eyes, when he impulsively wished to kiss her when she sweetly felt sorry about him needing to kill his wife, when he eventually told her of his pent-up love for her, and the need to abstain from seeing her at the hospital. All these just touched something in you and contrasted much with the man the author tried to portray as in total control of himself with punishing discipline.
The story is more of a romance set in a thriller setting than a thriller with a romantic twist. But I'm not complaining about it, in fact, rather pleasantly surprised by it.
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on May 21, 2001
Linda Howard remains one of my favorite authors, not only because she tells a great story, but because she mixes sensual romance into the mix without being too obvious.
The plot is well-developed, and the characters are compelling. My only beef is with Ms. Howard's almost cartoonish portrayal of "black ops" spies. I actually happen to be related to many Force Recon (USMC)and other assorted marines who work in recon/intelligence... I can assure you that, while I of course don't know particulars of their missions, they don't have unlimited expense accounts and most certainly are not James Bond-type spies (despite what they tell the girls at the bars). But this is fiction, and romantic fiction at that, so you allow some "poetic license."
Actually, this book is one of the only that manages to bridge the gap between "erotic romance" and "spy thriller" without giving the reader giggle fits. I read Clancy, for example, and always squirm uncomfortably at the occasional sex scene. I also read the "super-erotic" writers such as Susan Johnson and Robin Schone, and squirm uncomfortably at their attemtps at intrigue.
Linda Howard has managed to combine the two genres in an intriguing way. Her gradual blend towards Romantic Suspense seemed to manifest in "Son of the Morning" (an excellent read, BTW), and continues up to this book. The plot and ending of this book are solid (not inspiring, but worth reading), although she's written better.
Bottom line: If you're a romance reader, read this book. If you're a suspense reader, read this book.
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on January 13, 2001
This is the third book I've read by Ms. Howard, and I must say that I now see what all the fuss is about. "Now You See Her" and "Mr. Perfect" were both tremendous disappointments in the plot department, although the sex was good. In this book, she has redeemed herself in my eyes. In the future, I will look for her adventure/thriller novels as opposed to her romance-driven ones. I found this book to be a page-turner---I could not put it down! I became entranced and entangled in the lives of Niema and John and, later, Rosnard. I found the characterizations to be well drawn and engaging. I found her writing to be sophisticated and engrossing. (Her style actually reminded me of the old Sidney Sheldon...)And I appreciated that Niema's character did not mirror the brazen, brassy, ballsy, vitriolic heroine of "Mr. Perfect." I was most thankful for that. I appreciated the sexual angst surrounding the build-up to Niema's and John's first sexual encounter. Best sex scenes: between the guard and the secretary (some slight S/M for you kinky folks out there!) and the couch scene where Niema and John are doing some fierce "undercover" work as they prepare themselves to get about chair-gripping tension! I was riveted to the page. Yes, it was *sex* as opposed to *making love*, but I found it plausible given the context of the situation. As for some reviewers who have criticized the ending and wondered why "did they leave the yacht to go sightseeing" I believe that the author used this as a literary ploy in order to re-introduce Rosnard into the picture. I, too, found the action onshore a bit *unbelievable*, but was able to reconcile my disbelief with what I believe were the author's intentions to move the story along to its conclusion. All in all, a very good read.
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on September 12, 2000
I fell for John in Kill and Tell (despite that fact that he was mostly a shadowy figure there - maybe that's why!) :) I couldn't wait to get a hold of this book when I found out that he was getting his own story. Wasn't disappointed by John's character - he turned out like I thought he would. All the Queen's Men is a great book to curl up with - fast-paced action that makes it hard to put down, electrical interactions between the heroine and the hero, and the pre-requisite evil figure tearing them apart. The world of spies have always been glamorized in tv and in books and this is no different. Which is okay with me since that's part of the reason why I read about espionage agents - the larger than life qualities of the heroes. Despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed the book I still couldn't give it 5 stars and that's for one reason only - the action storyline was wrapped up too quickly. It left me hanging and wanting more. Ms. Howard is still one of my favorite authors though and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book!
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on May 25, 2000
I loved this book! No great mystery or suspense, more of a romantic adventure, but it was very enjoyable to read. The the writer gave the main characters terrific interaction and chemistry. And we even got a tantalizing glimpse into some wonderful supporting characters. The only reason I didn't give the book 5 stars was 3 complaints I have about the ending:
1. The villian was too nice. I don't personally know any gun-runners, but I sincerely doubt they're as easy-going and sympathetic as the writer made this one.
2. The 2 heroes do something totally stupid near the end of the book. I won't tell you what it is, you'll have to read it, but even an amateur wouldn't have been this dumb. They're supposed to be professional spies, so I think the writer could have found another way to accomplish the ending.
3. If there's a sequel then I don't have a third complaint, but if this is it... The male hero is a worn-out agent who's already taken too many risks and is being urged to retire - the female hero is a desk agent who saw her husband killed in the field - so why would they chose the ending that Ms. Howard wrote?
Have I aroused your curiosity? Read the book, whether you agree with me on any of my 3 complaints or not, you'll love the story just the same!
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on April 10, 2000
This book is exactly what you would expect of Linda Howard's move into the suspense genre and it has not, in any way, affected the quality of her writing.
Don't pay any attention to people who say it's different in style, too sensual, too boring, too whatever... Any avid Linda Howard reader would recognise her style under any pseudonym. Too sensual? Not if you've ever read any existing Linda Howard novel, and boring - don't make me laugh.
The story grabs you from the very beginning and never lets go - not for a bit. I was ecstatic to witness the return of John Medina - he was one of those cleverly hinted at characters in one of her earlier novels. Niema is heartbreakingly feisty and vulnerable at the same time, like most of Linda Howard's heroines. John is the strong, silent loner who, in any other book, would be called a stereotype, but in this one just... fits.
The plot is strong and moves at a fast, suspense-filled pace. Surprisingly, one of the secondary characters strikes a bitter-sweet cord in your heart. Just when you thought you'd sifted out the good guys from the bad.
I too, can't wait for Chance McKenzie's story (please don't let it be too far away). In the meantime, I'll make do with anything Linda Howard has to offer. She hasn't disappointed me yet - and that is something I can say about very few authors in all my years of reading.
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on February 16, 2000
I'd never read Linda Howard before, but decided to try this book after reading a few reviews. I very much enjoyed it. I really didn't know what to expect so reading a romantic thriller was a pleasant surprise.
I must admit, it doesn't seem as if "thriller" writing is this author's strong point, but that's only because the book lacked the "hard edge" that a lot of thrillers have. But that's not to say it doesn't work. It does. However, the author's strength is in her romance writing. She created a romantic tension between John and Niemi that just about had me swooning. And to top it off, I was pleasantly surprised (okay, shocked) at the sensuality of some of the romantic scenes. The two genres together made for an entertaining good read.
The characters were great too -- John Medina is strength personified. He's all man and he's strictly business, with one exception -- Niemi. Not only that, he has some very creative ways to get them out of a jam. Niemi, on the other hand, loves the excitement of undercover work, but she's not too sure about her feelings for John, or any man for that matter. She'll soon find out.
The plot is good, the setting is varied, and the pace is fast. Bottom line, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it.
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