Monday, July 18, 2011

Beyond Instinct by Lynn Ames

Book: Beyond Instinct
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.  


  1. Wow! U come up wit thiz? Did U even read it? Soundz like U got a grudz! Pull UR head outta it, thiz is GREAT book. LA knowz how 2 writ!!!!!!

  2. Greetings, Anonymous - thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment on this review. As a reader and a reviewer, I am compelled to be as honest as I can be with my opinions, even if I have to sometimes offer up criticism. I am also aware that not everyone will agree with me. Know, however, that I agree with you that Ms. Ames, indeed, does know how to write.

  3. I thought Lynn's 8th novel was fantastic. I'm so pleased that she is planning a sequel. I can't wait to see what becomes of Vaughn and Sage and their budding romance. The one thing I appreciate most about Lynn's novels is her attention to detail and the obvious time that she puts into researching especially the little odds and ends that are often overlooked by most writers. I thought the way she dealt with the artery (not aorta) repair was both plausible and believable. The twists of the plot also kept me guessing until the end. While it made sense that Senator Snowe had some knowledge of the bad guys the fact that she wasn't aware of the assassination plot (not sure why you thought she was) until it almost happened kept the suspense alive. All in all one her best yet and a definite must read!

  4. Dear Anonymous - you got me dead to rights. I called it an aorta not an artery; I misspelled the Senator's name, and I'm only aware of seven books by Ms. Ames, not eight. I apologize profusely to the readers and to the author for my mistakes. As for what the Senator knew, my take on the bathroom scene is that she knew something was going to happen just not when and where and by what degree. Be that as it may, I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for Ms. Ames, and consider myself a serious fan of her writing. Still, I stand by the overall assessment. As a reviewer, I have to give my honest assessment of each book, even if that sometimes means offering criticism to authors I love to read. Thanks for taking the time to read the review and comment. It is appreciated, and taken to heart.

  5. Thanks Salem. I think the one you're missing is the Outsiders which Lynn wrote with Georgia Beers, Susan Smith and KD McGregor. Can't wait for the sequel!

  6. Right you are about Outsiders, a great collection of novellas with an edgy theme. I wasn't counting it as a "Lynn Ames book", per se. I tend to think of it as a compilation / anthology by various authors. No matter what it is called, a very good read.

  7. Outsiders was written by Lynn Ames, Georgia Beers, JD Glass, Susan X Meagher and Susan Smith. FYI.

    Love the blog, Salem. Truly. Keep up the good work.

  8. Hi Carleen - Thanks for the clarification on Outsiders and for stopping by - very much appreciated!

  9. Salem West,

    This is my first reading of a Lynn Ames and I loved “Beyond Instinct” for all the reasons you mention: “an all-out, start-to-finish rush to save the girl/save the Senate Majority Leader… techno-geekery, [super creative] girl kidnapping on camel, chicken cordon bleu turns screaming one-nighter; merry band of rogues always managing to outthink, out perform, and out pace conga line of bad guys nipping at their heels. … Vaughn/Sage cuddling in various states of dress (and undress) … squabbling “I love you/You can’t, I’m not good enough for you” … fun, tasty tensioned story moving at a fevered pace.”

    I also had some “wait a minute-this-can’t-be- happening,” too unrealistic (the “blood” flow came close to my tolerance threshold) feelings as well.

    And you forgot to mention Justine’s convenient safe houses and sibling fibs.

    But, hey, this is entertaining fiction.

    Vaughn’s jumping out of bed having died, having a collapsed lung, cracked chest, punctured artery? Hey, if Sam Spade can do it – why not a super lesbian?

    I LOVE “‘good’ super lesbians.” I sense that you do too.

    You are a good writer yourself and you are right that a critique should cover strengths and weaknesses of the work because both are always in evidence.

    However, I probably would have rated this work above 4.1 of 6.

    Aside from my appreciation of Lynn Ames’s good writing and her handling of the genre, I appreciate Beyond Instinct’s setting as it taps into my particular nonfiction writing interest: current affairs, contemporary international affairs/foreign policy [;].

    Thanks, Salem West. I'll look for Ames' next effort as well.


  10. Carolyn - what an honor to have you stop by TRR and offer up your thoughts on Ms. Ames' book. I agree that the author did an admirable job in taking a snapshot of current affairs in West Africa (and one could argue, the USA, as well) and raising it into the consciousness of her readers. I will, indeed, give her props for that. As a reviewer, assigining a rating is one of the hardest and most unscientific parts of the business. I can honestly admit that when I go back and read some of my past reviews, I sometimes argue with myself as to whether a particular rating is too high or too low. Still, I have to stick with my assessment at the time. Ms. Ames has a very large and loyal following, which she deserves because she is smart, hard working, and clearly talented.

    I would suggest you also check out Amy Dawson Robertson's debut, 'Miles to Go' [reviewed in June 2011]. While the setting takes place around 9/11, it is clear that many of the events in play in the world at that time have not changed as much as we would like to believe. Ms. Robertson is also a very talented writer, and I believe you will enjoy the read.

    I have added you blog, Todays Insight News to my blogroll at the bottom of the page, so interested readers can follow, as well.

    Again, thanks for stopping by, and don't hesitate to let me know if you run across any books or authors you believe I should take a look at.