Author: Lynn Ames
Publisher: Phoenix Rising Press
Several years ago I found myself needing to be somewhere without roads, and flying first class on a “private” airline called something snappy like Daryl’s Airplane. As I recall, the ride looked like a converted school bus without doors, and the pilot wasn’t wearing shoes. He was, however, wearing pants, and had a shoulder holster with a vintage .38 S&W. The co-pilot was drinking a Tusker and talking to himself in hushed tones.
I was the one seated on a chicken crate near the back holding a spirited conversation with a goat.
The point is that sometimes things don’t go the way you expect them to, and you have to make it up as you go.
Beyond Instinct is the seventh novel by perennial favorite, Lynn Ames. In this fast-paced story, we’re introduced to Vaughn Elliott, a former hotshot handyman for the Company. For the last year, she’s been riding a desk after an unauthorized job went south and took the life of her friend and lover, Sara. The physical wounds have healed, but not so much the ones to her heart. She’s been moved to the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Force, and was handpicked by someone high up in the US Government to oversee security for a visit by congressional VIPs to Mali, a small West African nation. Upon arriving, she is greeted by her handler, the striking Sage McNally, who works at the U.S. Embassy in Mali.
The two women tussle with an instant attraction, but quickly give in to the thrumming, humming lust and share a wild night of steamy passion. The next morning, though, Sage disappears while running, and Vaughn’s spidey senses send her in hot pursuit. Vaughn quickly figures out that something is rotten in the state of Mali, and calls a few select friends to help find and recover Sage. Thus begins an full tilt, around-the-world sprint that exposes a tangled web of treachery, pits shiny good versus slimy evil, and tests the boundaries of attraction, friendship, and duty.
Part of the beauty of any Lynne Ames book is that we’re introduced to beautiful, strong, talented women with a powerful sense of right and wrong. They usually have equally strong and talented friends – men and women – and their relationships tend to run deep and wide. Beyond Instinct is no exception to this rule. Here we’re introduced to Justine, Sebastian, Jackson, and Nate. All are powerful allies, and all willing to put their lives and their livelihoods on the line for Vaughn. We’re also introduced to serial bad guys - the malevolent men who are willing to destroy the lives of anyone that steps in their path, usually to protect some secret borne of hubris and astoundingly poor decision-making.
And, no doubt, exacerbated by an unfortunate case of erectile dysfunction.
Beyond Instinct is an all-out, start-to-finish rush to save the girl and save the Senate Majority Leader. I loved the techno-geekery, learning how to kidnap a girl on a camel, and how to turn chicken cordon bleu into a screaming one-nighter. Our merry band of rogues always manages to out think, out perform, and out pace the seemingly endless conga line of bad guys nipping at their heels. And, Vaughn and Sage manage to cuddle in various states of dress (and undress) when they’re not squabbling over “I love you/You can’t, I’m not good enough for you.” All of this was fun, created some tasty tension, and kept the story moving at a fevered pace.
However, there are a few pesky little odds and ends that hogtied me . . .
The greatest of these is the bothersome convenience of everything: Sage looks like Sara; An unending stream of friends willing to die and/or sabotage their careers to help out; Friends of friends taking on the CIA as a “sure, m'kay, no problem”; Nobody in any West African country willing to sell out to CIA muscle or money; Senator Stowe just happening to know all about the bad guys, and be on top of the assassination plot; Edgar keeping a log of all his dastardly deeds as they were planned and then thwarted; the FBI brother in just the right task force; the good guys walking up and arresting the bad guys at their front doors; and Guilty on all counts. Don’t get me wrong, I get that Vaughn and Sage were pawns in someone else’s game, but everything just falls into place too easily.
Perhaps it’s unfair of me as a reader, but when I got to the end, the first words out of my mouth were, “Really? That’s it?!?”
The other thing that makes my left eye twitchy is how quickly Vaughn jumped out of bed, and what she is able to accomplish after having her chest cracked open and an aorta repaired. While I have no doubt she is one of the rare and few Super Lesbians with the secret power of instant regeneration, even for her that had to leave a mark.
Not to mention, hurt like an ever lovin’ mother . . .
So, with the good comes a little bit of bad. I’m a fan of Lynn Ames, always have been and probably always will be. I love her books, love her characters, and love what she can do to just about any plot she gets her hands on.
But, there were things I really liked about Beyond Instinct, and a few I really didn’t. On the Rainbow Scale, I’m giving it a 4.1 out of 6, because something was missing for me.
It’s not enough to stop me from reading her next book or the one after that, it’s just that this one didn’t stick it’s landing.