Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.
Angel’s Hero and Angel’s Truth by Liz Borino
From the cover art alone you can tell that this is going to be a quality piece of work right here. We’ve got completely hairless, airbrushed models, dramatic photo-shop angel wings, and the American flag. What’s not to love?
For $2.99 a book, you get a slice of pure camp amazeballs, straight from the four-story fudge fountains of fan fiction mountain. I get the distinct feeling that somebody spent an evening ctrl+F-ing “Guy from One Direction” and ctrl+V-ing “Guy from this Book” before sending it off to the fine people at Lazy Day. To their credit, I didn’t find a single typo. Brava.
You may recall that I just wrote a treatise illustrating my undying love for the m/m genre and the fine, if socially isolated women who produce it, but I enjoyed this book for all the wrong reasons. You guys know I’m over the moon when a piece of entertainment is the exact right kind of bad. It’s actually hard to do, which you can tell by the four separate posts I wrote last year for books I started, but abandoned in 2013 (1, 2, 3, 4). It’s easy to make something boring, or pretentious. It’s hard to make something so gloriously over the top that I read and re-read passages for their sheer ridiculousness. I spent one entire 40 minute car ride telling my straight, novel-hating boyfriend all about CIA analyst Aaron Collins AKA Angel and his harrowing story of true love in the time of terrorism, because this is the kind of distilled melodrama that I spend years trying to find.
This isn’t schadenfreude because Liz Borino shouldn’t feel sad about this. And if she did, it would ruin it for me. Liz, if you’re out there, I want you to take all the pride an author deserves to take in her work. But you should probably stop reading right now because I loved these books like a fat sociopath loves taking cake from other kids and then pretending that they bullied him for being a fat kid. In other words, just look away, it’s about to get weird.
So, the premise is that Aaron Collins and his husband army captain Jordan Collins are married, work together, and go on missions together. Until the one mission they’re separated, and Jordan totally dies. Except that he doesn’t! Hilarity ensues.
In a nod to the same three dudes who seem to star in every m/m fantasy, Jordan is racially ambiguous and Aaron is tall, but this is kind of over the top. A half Korean half African American orphan, swole as fuck at a shortey short six feet (or so) Jordan is dwarfed by his seven feet and change peaches and cream partner.
They also have the kiss of death: couple tattoos on their forearms that, if I’m reading right, look like this:
And that’s just the physical description.
On the mental level, every character in this book is an incompetent moron. Plot elements seem to happen because no one is smart enough to keep them from happening. Jordan disobeys a direct order and gets sent home from Afghanistan with no change in his assignment, his working conditions, or his rank. Randomly, the new director of the CIA is a flamboyantly gay major general who wears Dora the Explorer t-shirts, dresses in drag to go to Rocky Horror, and absolutely insists on doing every single don’t in even the shittiest sexual harassment handbook ever written. The CIA is run like a sorority on a soap opera (“Ugh, Aaron, your man is totally pissing everyone off, so we’re letting the new guy go with him to Afgahistan even though he’s an expert on North Korea because you’re apparently the only two people who analyze shit at this whole entire agency”). And Aaron himself mopes around like a spurned middle school girl because “no one takes him seriously!” At least he gets fired.
After Jordan’s “death” Aaron apparently has no friends beside Jordan and Jordan’s adopted dad, and he can’t talk to anybody about the fact that his old boss is totally creeping on his steeze. So he spends the entirety of that part of the story scared like a bunny that the evil drag major will rape him (or something?) I guess he forgot he was A MILLION FEET TALL. Meanwhile Jordan is being cared for in a secret prison in Afghanistan by a nurse, who is also the forward thinking liberal wife of a powerful Taliban leader, but who, only weeks or months before, was getting strapped with C4 along with other poor street urchins in what would have been a suicide bombing except for that direct order Jordan disobeyed at the beginning of book one. So in as little as three weeks, this woman moved from being road chowder to a trained trauma nurse and the honored first lady of Prison Camp A, or whatever. Time moves strangely here. Even more strange, she somehow knew that it was Jordan’s refusal to engage that saved her life. Which is why she makes sure he lives even as she lets all the other POWs die for lack of supplies.
The Taliban and the Afghan government are referred to interchangeably throughout the book. I know, with so many other things going on, the fact that this bothered me speaks volumes to my liberal arts education, and the lack of perspective that sort of ordeal can instill in a person.
But I digress.
This book is filled with seriously wacky shit. At a certain point the CIA, the army, and the United States government all get together and decide that a formerly dead, now retired, but still severely injured and traumatized POW captain, his formerly of the CIA, now a freelance systems admin husband, and an enemy nurse they met over Skype (oh wait, they never meet her, they only have Jordan’s word that she’s cool) are the best bet for taking down an Afghan chief and a corrupt major general who’s not only conspired to murder dozens of American soldiers, but who’s been selling American military secrets to the fucking Taliban (AKA the Afghanistan government).
Aaron has a brother and a dad who do nothing but prove that he is definitely the smartest person in his family (even though no one ever LISTENS to him. GOD, DAD!) The North Korea expert who was the only operative everybody knows didn’t die with Jordan in the “fire” that killed everything except his uniform, which was perfectly preserved, just disappears and nobody thinks that’s weird until the end of the book when his entire story is just tucked nicely into place (double agent, of course). For some reason Jordan is a hacking expert in addition to being an Army commando. CIA analyst/freelance systems admin Aaron seems to have absolutely no clue about computer stuff. And, apparently evil treasonous major generals just keep their passwords taped to the underside of their keyboard tray like your grandma.
And then everything wraps up so perfectly that they have to end the series with a celebratory skydive.
If you ever wonder if the digital landscape is ruining the American imagination, you need to read these books.
It’s not so random that I couldn’t follow the narrative, but it’s just random enough to keep my analytical mind racing with every passing page. These books were amazing. They were everything I could have hoped for. Book one, Angel’s Hero, is already out and available on the Kindle store. Sadly, you regular humans will have to wait until next week, March 12, to get book two, Angel’s Truth in your hot little hands. Aren’t you sad?
Real review: 1 out of 5 stars
Personal enjoyment in star form: 5 out of 5