Friday, January 30, 2015

Maya Banks -- Forged In Steele

Maya Banks -- Forged In Steele

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ . ♥   {3.15}
Action: ♠♠♠.♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦.♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠.♠
Action: 3.5 / Emotion: 3.0 / Romance: 5.0 / Sensuous: 2.5 / Suspense: 3.5  //  Laughter: 5 / Giggle: 4  //  Tears: 0 / Teary: 1

Setting:       Costa Rica, Central America
                     Dover, Tennessee
                     Kosovo (Southeastern Europe)
Era:             Present Day (2013)
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Maya Banks has managed to write another entertaining, easy to ready, not really Romantic Suspense book with the addition of Forged In Steele as the seventh book in The Kelly Group International "KGI" Series.   However, Banks has managed to stay on track by writing another disappointing book.   Just a personal observation, but maybe Banks should concentrate on "quality" rather than "quantity" when it comes to publishing her books.

Although there were some inclusions in this book that made it an enjoyable read and a nice addition to this series, there were a number of things that totally ruined this story.   And the number one ruin was the way that Banks took a macho, all male, respected team leader, nicknamed "Ice Man," that she had, basically, described as the strong, silent type and turned him into a feminine sounding, blathering, diarrhea of the mouth, way too syrupy sweet man in love.   For reference, here are some of the descriptions ascribed to Steele in the first seven books of this series.

The Darkest Hourice blue eyes (37) rock-hard assurance in his voice (41)
No Place To RunKGI Team Leader (137) he mostly stood and watched, his intense gaze taking in everything around him; he looked cold and intimidating (140)
Hidden AwayKGI team leader; ever silent (180) a machine (181) usually stoic expression (183) unruffled as ever; never interfered with team's private lives; when they were on a mission, their asses belonged to Steele, no questions asked, they followed his command without question (282)
Whispers In The DarkKGI team leader; blond hair; tall; piercing blue eyes; cold eyes (198) eyes like blue ice; muddy blond hair with lighter streaks through the short-cropped strands; authority figure; commanded respect (217)
Echoes At Dawnother KGI Team Leader; ice-cold bastard, more of a machine than a man, and he had an uncanny instinct for nosing out trouble, which meant no one ever got the upper hand on him (29)
Shades of GrayP.J.'s team leader; didn't sugarcoat shit; if you screwed up, he called you on it; if you did your job, he didn't give you any special accolades (2) lived just outside Nashville; a loner; didn't like to be intruded upon; didn't intrude upon others; P.J. respected him (31) a hard ass; had team's unwavering loyalty; gave P.J. a chance in spite of her record; one bad ass mother-- and he could do it all (38) calm, unruffled voice (50) strong hands; blue eyes (78) legendary composure; all about the team, he lived it and breathed it; had never failed a mission before (82) cold; formidable (83) cold-blooded machine; possessive and protective towards his team; didn't take any shit from anybody; expected his orders to be instantly obeyed (99) never one to mince words; wanted information short, concise, and to the point (247)
Forged In Steelerarely spoke (17) standoffish (18) piercing blue eyes (20) ripped set of abs; broad, muscled chest with a smattering of blond hair over the hollow (25) cool; unflappable; eloquence was not one of his strong points (31) mouth-watering; hard; muscled; tight; not a spare ounce anywhere on his body; lean abdomen with a ripped six-pack; broad shoulders and chest with bulging muscles in his upper arms; his thighs resembled tree trunks, thick and sturdy (32) hard as nails warrior (40) everything about him was sexy (46) not a polite guy; wasn't into casual, polite conversation (64) not a warm, affectionate guy (71) blunt; straightforward; never one to mince words (77)

The biggest question that comes to mind in this series of books is why Banks insists on defining a group of alpha males who are members of a family-oriented black ops organization and turn them all into way over the top mushy husbands?   To be quite honest, after reading the first seven books of this series back-to-back, Banks has created a burning desire to want to go pick up a Suzanne Brockmann Troubleshooters book or one of Cindy Gerard's Bodyguard books and read a true Romantic Suspense book where the author leaves the macho alpha military-style hero with his alpha maleness intact.
It fascinated Steele how such big, badass men dissolved into putty around the women they loved.   . . .

. . .   He didn't begrudge the others their happiness if that was what did it for them.   But he wasn't in a hurry to make himself vulnerable by handing over his balls to a woman like so many members of KGI had already done.   (Steele, page 60)
Banks started the book out in her typical, 'grab the reader's immediate interest' way by featuring Steele and his team on a mission trying to rescue Christina Westlake, a bikini-wearing, long-legged blond, from the hands of some apparently bad guy named Matteo Garza from his high-security palatial home.   Steele, Christina and his team managed to sustain several injuries during this mission gone wrong because Christina didn't want to be rescued.   One has to assume that the mission took place somewhere near Costa Rica, where Dr. Maren Scofield ran her free clinic to the poor and destitute so that Steele's KGI team can drop by for some medical care.   Banks has been briefly inserting Maren into the previous books of the series, in essence making her part of the massive KGI family, as the go-to doctor when someone needs tending.

One of the things that Banks has stressed all the way through this series of books is that family unity and family loyalty is the number one criteria for any interaction with anyone tied to the Kelly clan or KGI.   And Sam Kelly, the oldest son of Frank and Marlene Kelly and the number one co-leader of KGI, is just as guilty of making everyone within his realm "family" as does his mother, who was infamous for adopting human strays.   So far Marlene has adopted three notable characters into her "family," namely: in The Darkest Hour, {1} Rusty, the fifteen year old desperate runaway, and {2} Sean Cameron, the young Stewart County sheriff's deputy; and in Whispers in the Dark, {3} Daryl "Swanny" Swanson, Nathan's fellow prisoner of war.

In each book Banks emphasizes the family bond and spends a great deal of time trying to insert the entire, growing Kelly family into the story.   Because the family was already large, being comprised of the six Kelly brothers (Sam, Garrett, Donovan, Ethan, Nathan, Joe) and the ten members of the KGI teams belonging to the two Team Leaders, Rio (Terrence, Diego, Alton, Decker, Browning) and Steele (P.J., Cole, Dolphin, Renshaw, Baker), when you start adding adoptees, wives, children, new KGI operatives, and honorary family members, the cast of characters becomes humongous.

Banks tries to insert some Kelly family time into each of her books and she attempts to mention as many of the family members as possible.   In fact, because of the way some of the cast members are dropped into each story (after their book has been published) and a brief synopsis of their "story" is told, it is impossible to follow all the ties to all the characters unless one has read each of the previous books.   Banks is also quite determined to reveal as few physical and background details about her cast of characters as possible, thus, leaving many of her, nevertheless, intriguing characters in the shadows.

For instance, take Steele.   Amazingly, Banks told us how old he is (something she tends not to do).   And the only way we know his hair color is if we read and remembered it from Whispers In The Dark.   But how tall is Steele?   Does he have a strong jaw?   Does he have a chiseled chin?   Has his nose ever been broken?   Banks does not paint a clear picture of her characters.   Oh, she gets the hunky, muscled, well-built part down pat, but quite frankly, heros need to be more than strong muscled chests and six-pack abs.

The same can be said for Maren's physicality.   Sure we know she comes to Steele's chin, but since we don't know how tall Steele is, we don't know how tall Maren is.   Maren has blond hair (how long? and styled how?) and blue eyes (framed by short, stumpy lashes and poorly plucked brows?) behind her glasses.   What shape is her beautiful face -- heart, oval, square and does she ever wear any make-up?   Get the picture -- Banks lets her readers look at her characters through a foggy glass.

But back to the story.   When Steele and his team arrived at Maren's doorstep, Steele was still the cold, reserved, automation that Banks had painted in the previous six books of the series.   But, then Steele does something surprising, he suggests a one-night stand to Maren.   Even though many women would find the way that Steele propositioned Maren quite offensive, it really fit the personality that Banks had created for Steele.   His bluntness and lack of finesse were grin-worthy.
"I want us to have sex," he said bluntly.

"Ooo-kay," she began slowly. "You want to have sex with me.   You want to have sex with the woman to whom you've never spoken more than a few words at a time.   . . ."
. . .
"Why?" She has softly.   "You don't even like me, Steele.   You can barely stand to be in my presence."  
. . .
His eyes narrowed.   "You drive me crazy.   You're under my skin.   Stuck deep.   I don't need you there.   You're a distraction, and I can't afford distractions.   So we'll have sex and then I'll stop fantasizing about what it's like."

"I have to say, that's about the worst proposition I've ever heard in my life."

Steele shrugged. "So I'm not a sensitive guy."   (Steele and Maren, page 30, 31)
And because Maren had the hots for Steele, they had a hot, sizzling, sensual night in bed.   Banks is quite talented at writing love scenes that are filled with spice and heat.   And apparently Steele liked to talk during sex!   Who knew!

Maren had no expectations of a repeat performance when Steele left in the morning.   But since this is Steele's and Maren's book, it came as no surprise that Steele returned for more hot monkey sex.   And the first string of Steele's "Chatty Cathy" is pulled.
"If you want an explanation, I can't give you one because I have no idea what the hell is going on either.   I couldn't stop thinking about you.   It was bad enough before we actually had sex, but after?   I haven't thought of anything else but you, and it's [screwing] with my focus.   So now I'm here, and I'm liking being here a hell of a lot, and I'd like to hang out with you at the clinic because I came to see you, and if you're there and I'm here, I won't see you."   (Steele, page 84)
Banks began erasing Steele's six-book personality and began to try and paint a totally new picture of him.   Steele went to the clinic with Maren and somehow managed to turn into Mr. Almost Warm and Fuzzy to Maren's patients instead of the Ice Man we all know and love.
She had spent most of the morning gawking at just how good he was with the children.   And the women as well.   At first, they were intimidated by him, but in no time at all, they warmed up to his gruff personality and the children all clamored for his attention.   . . .  

Seeing Steele in a non-professional capacity when he wasn't Steele the team leader, but rather Steele the ordinary, not-so-superhuman badass was . . . eye-opening.   . . .  

He was approachable.   Suddenly very human and not the machine other members of KGI had half-jokingly called him.   (Maren, page 85)
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". . . given what I've known of you all this time, you have to admit that it's like looking at two entirely different people.   I would say talking to two entirely different, but Steele the badass didn't ever speak to me.   Or not more than a few one-word responses here and there.   Steele, the human is flirty, has a sense of humor, smiles a lot and says nice things that make me all shivery on the inside."   (Maren, page 91)
Steele and Maren spent time together talking and making love and Banks passed up a golden opportunity to elaborate on Steele's background -- on what made him the Ice Man.   Maren asked Steele about his background and Banks only gave readers crumbs.   Sure they were tasty crumbs, revealing the loss of his parents and brother, but Banks dropped his development at age seven.   Doesn't Banks know that readers want to know what happened between the time Steele became an orphan, who moved in with father's older sister, and his appearance twenty-nine years later as the cold-natured KGI Team Leader.

Thankfully, Banks did a better job of background development with Maren.   And, finally, Banks gave one of her heroines a nice, ordinary family.   Well, not really ordinary.   Maren's parents, Dr. Matthew Scofield and Dr. Diana Scofield had traveled all over the world with their children, Kevin and Maren, donating their time and services to those in need.   Dr. Kevin Scofield, Maren's older brother, walked in his parents footsteps just as did Maren.   They were a tight-knit family who used Skype to stay in constant touch.

Naturally, Steele is called back to Tennessee for a mission.   Banks continues to stress the romantic relationship growing between Steele and Maren as he reluctantly takes his leave.
"I'm coming back," he said in a strained voice.   "Believe that, okay?   I know I never said I'd be back that first time, but this isn't over.   We are not finished.   As soon as I wrap things up, I'm heading back."   (Steele, page 109)
How many times have authors come up with unique ways to create a scenario in their Romantic Suspense books to develop a situation in which the heroine is put in a precarious situation so the hero can realize how much his heroine means to him and find a way to save her.   Most of the time, the sequence of events authors have devised are believable and entertaining.   But, just as she did in Shades of Gray, Banks developed a plot that was unrealistic.   Maybe if she had given readers some background details from the point of view voice of the villain (like Karen Rose does) we could have swallowed the premise that Javier Mendoza, an arms and drug trafficker, who was the number four man on the CIA's most wanted list, was so obsessed with Maren that he had her kidnapped from her clinic and taken to his heavily guarded home to be his dinner companion.   Seriously!

Again, it's that lack of background detail that gets Banks in trouble.   Maren has been in the area for four years and now, out of the clear blue, she learns that the current drug lord has the hots for her.   Maren even wonders out loud to Steele later on in the story why Mendoza singled her out.   Well so did readers!   The story could have been developed in such a manner to make this believable.   Instead, Banks just plopped her characters into place at the time and in the manner in which she needed to further the story line with no viable justifications for doing so.   The readers are left to shrug their shoulders, question why this was happening, and keep on reading, hoping an answer would be forthcoming.   (That did not happen.   Basically, Banks needed the villain to be obsessed with Maren, so he was -- no reason given.)

This is an example of where Banks's lacks the necessary creativity in writing Romantic Suspense books.   This book is no more suspenseful than the other books in the series.   In fact, this (like all the other books in the series) is just another Contemporary Romance book with a hot, hunky, military man on the cover.   Again, Forged In Steele has a slight aura of suspense, but the book is really about the growing relationship between Steele and Maren and how they can be threaded into the tight-knit tapestry that is the Kelly clan.

Mendoza, along with his number one henchman, Armand, takes Maren with him to Paris where she can tend him after he undergoes radical reconstructive plastic surgery to change his looks along with his name to escape from any law enforcement agency who was after him.   Three months later Maren is tending Tristan Caldwell (formerly, Javier Mendoza) and realizes that this smooth, charming, possessive predator is soon going to cross the line and take her to his bed.   Maren, who has no way of escape, has been praying that Steele would come to her rescue before Caldwell does something to harm the child she and Steele made (in spite of the condom Steele wore).   (The condom pregnancy is another one of those lose threads that Banks leaves hanging around.   Couldn't the condom have broken -- or something -- to explain the pregnancy?)

Banks includes a very interesting secondary character (introduced in Whispers In The Dark), Hancock, to come to Maren's aid.   Banks is really talented at including just enough information about her secondary characters to draw our undivided attention.   Hancock, the leader of the secret black ops group known as Titan definitely draws great interest.   Everyone at KGI believes Hancock is even more of a machine than Steele, but Banks has made it obvious that there is a heart beating underneath his cold, calculating exterior.   Armand is Hancock (and, yes, didn't we see that one coming!)

Hancock calls his teacher and mentor, Rio, and arranges to remove Maren from Caldwell's nefarious, licentious hands and readers are entertained with another exciting action sequence.   During his interactions with KGI and, particularly, Steele, it was interesting that Banks went to a lot of trouble to include lengthy conversations revealing that Hancock was just as honorable and on the side of right as his counterparts -- no matter what they thought.
"Despite what you may think of me, I have no desire to see an innocent person hurt.   I have an objective.   Something you should understand.   Succeed at all costs.   Nothing gets in the way."

"That's where you're wrong," Steele said in a deadly soft tone.   "If you're trying to compare yourself to me to ease your conscience, that's bullshit.   I don't use innocent people to achieve my objective."   (Hancock and Steele, page 299)
Hancock comes to Steele's home to warn him that Caldwell is one sick puppy who is seriously obsessed with Maren and will go to any lengths to get her back.   Naturally, Banks arranges events so that Maren must present herself to Caldwell to save her parents.   Hancock, then becomes a part of the totally unbelievable finale (like the kind of stuff Bruce Willis pulls off in Die Hard With A Vengeance).   For a detailed list of the sequence of unlikely events that happens during the helicopter scene, see Lilly ~ Lihllith~'s review on Good Reads.

And by the time Banks gets to this scene, she had totally turned Steele from "Ice Man" into "Mr. Warm, Mushy, 'Way Too Sickeningly Sweet', 'Let Me See How Many Verbose Ways I Can Tell Maren I Love Her' Man".   Being a slow reader, who doesn't skim when reading books, even I felt my eyes crossing and my attention wandering trying to read all the mush that Banks wrote when she left Steele and Maren alone at his home.   Talk about sugar overload!   It was way too much and it was particularly distressing because it came from 'One-Syllable' Steele.

Banks was also on a "Baby" kick in this book.   Not only did Steele find himself in the waiting room of the hospital when Rachel gave birth to Ethan's twin sons, Ian and Mason, but the talk about babies ran prevalently throughout the story.   Of course, part of the reason for that is because of Steele's and Maren's thoughts and discussions about their impending parenthood.   And Banks finished off the book by presenting Steele and Maren in the delivery room.   And, okay, the last scene and the last two paragraphs of the book were excellent, but all the baby stuff before that was headed in the direction of Robyn Carr's The Virgin River Series.

Banks sometimes inserts scenes in her books that defy logic and common sense and makes one wonder why in the world she would include that.   Again, back to the babies and the helicopter scene, when KGI was rushing up to the downed helicopter and it was obvious that Hancock was seriously wounded and needed to be tended to immediately, Banks included an event that had readers scratching their heads and thinking, "did I just read what I think I just read?"   And, seriously, did Donovan just do that?   (See Baba's Good Reads review, which details the ludicrousness of this event.)

Granted, not all of the scenes between Steele and Maren were disgustingly sweet.   Banks was right on target when she wrote the very moving scene between Steele and Maren before they embarked upon the mission in which Maren was going to present herself to Caldwell to save her parents.   It was similar to the incredibly moving line that Daniel Day Lewis said to Madeleine Stow in Last of the Mohicans.
"I'll never stop looking for you, Maren.   If that bastard gets away with you, despite our best efforts, I will never give up, and I need you to do whatever it takes to survive.   I'll never think badly of you for doing what you have to in order to protect yourself and our child.   Don't anger him.   Don't antagonize him.   Cooperate fully and wait for me, because I'm coming.   I'll never rest until you're back with me where you belong."   (Steele, page 323)
Having complained about it in previous reviews, it was nice that Banks finally allowed the big, bad alpha hero to save his heroine in her time of danger in this book.   Sure, Maren was involved in the exciting action scene, but Banks did allow Steele to show his stuff in the end.

Because Banks was so busy emasculating Steele, she passed up a wonderful opportunity to feature Steele's interaction with his team.   Since P.J. and Cole were just featured in the previous book, Shades of Gray, Banks inserted several special moments between Steele and P.J., but that was about it.   Banks was just starting to bring Dolphin, Renshaw and Baker to life in Shades of Gray and since it was reiterated that Steele's life was all about his team, it would have been really nice to continue to develop Dolphin, Renshaw and Baker by letting them have some individual, personality-revealing interactions with Steele, their respected team leader.   Especially since Steele revealed how he felt about his team.
"He [Rio] thinks his team is the best. I know my team is the best."   (Steele, page 249)
In closing, Forged In Steele is another enjoyable, but slightly disappointing addition to The Kelly Group International "KGI" Series.   The book included the following: {1} Jackson Steele, a strong, silent, macho hero who was reduced to spouting sickly sweet confessions of love over and over again; {2} Dr. Maren Scofield, an intelligent, dedicated, straight-shooting heroine who somehow seemed to turn into a hapless victim; {3} some pretty exciting action scenes added some adventure to the story; {4} a dearth of suspense due to lack of background and buildup in the plotting; {5} a wonderful start to a budding romance turned into a contest of how many sappy ways could 'I love you' be expressed; {6} incredibly sizzling, hot sex; {7} a slight emotional connection to the characters resulted in laughter and a teary moment; and {8} secondary characters that added volume and depth to the story; {a} the Kelly clan: {1} Sam Kelly, {2} Sophie Kelly, {3} Charlotte "Cece" Kelly, {4} Garrett Kelly, {5} Sarah Kelly, {6} Donovan "Van" Kelly, {7} Ethan Kelly, {8} Rachel Kelly, {9} Nathan Kelly, {10} Shea Kelly, {11} Joe Kelly, {12} Frank Kelly, {13} Marlene Kelly, {14} Rusty, and {15} Sean [Cameron]; {b} the KGI operatives: {1} P.J. Rutherford Coletrane, {2} [David] Cole Coletrane, {3} Baker, {4} Renshaw, {5} Dolphin, {6} Rio, {7} Skylar Watkins, {8} [Daryl] "Swanny" Swanson, and {9} Zane "Edge" Edgerton; {c} Rio's family, {1} Grace [Peterson] [Bezerra] and {2} Elizabeth Farnsworth [Bezerra]; and {d} the others, {1} Javier Mendoza / Tristan Caldwell, and {2} Hancock / Armand.   Since Banks has done such a good job of inspiring interest in the future protagonists of this series, it is impossible not to want to read future books in the hopes that maybe, just, maybe, Banks will bring her characters to life and let the hero remain an alpha male.
--Vonda M. Reid (Thursday, January 29, 2015 : 12:26 p.m.)     [363]

Books In The Series: "The Kelly Group International "KGI" Series"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.09-2010The Darkest HourEthan Kelly: ex-Navy SEAL, Fourth SonRachel Kelly: his wife, captive
02.12-2010No Place To RunSam Kelly: KGI co-Owner, First SonSophie Lundgren: daughter to arms dealer
03.03-2011Hidden AwayGarrett Kelly: KGI co-Owner, Second SonSarah Daniels: half sister of Garrett's nemesis
04.01-2012Whispers In The DarkNathan Kelly: prisoner of warShea Peterson: telepathic connection
05.07-2012Echoes At DawnRio (Eduardo Bezerra): KGI Team LeaderGrace Peterson: telepathic and healer
5.508-2012Softly At SunriseEthan Kelly: KGI Operative, Fourth SonRachel Kelly: his wife
06.01-2013Shades of GrayDavid "Cole" Coletrane: KGI Sniper, Steele's TeamP.J. (Penelope Jane) Rutherford: KGI's best sniper
07.06-2013Forged In SteeleJackson "Ice Man" Steele: KGI Team LeaderDr. Maren Scofield: Doctor in Costa Rica
08.01-2014After The StormDonovan Kelly: KGI co-Owner, Third SonEve "Evie" : on the run
09.06-2014When Day BreaksDaryl "Swanny" Swanson: scarred from battleEden: supermodel
10.06-2015Darkest Before DawnHancock:: leader of Titan. . .

Characters Found In "Forged In Steele"
Character Description
Jackson Steele[Hero] bored out of his mind when spent 2 months training recruits (9) rarely spoke (17) standoffish (18) piercing blue eyes (20) ripped set of abs; broad, muscled chest with a smattering of blond hair over the hollow (25) cool; unflappable; eloquence was not one of his strong points (31) mouth-watering; hard; muscled; tight; not a spare ounce anywhere on his body; lean abdomen with a ripped six-pack; broad shoulders and chest with bulging muscles in his upper arms; his thighs resembled tree trunks, thick and sturdy (32) hard as nails warrior (40) everything about him was sexy (46) tattoo on left shoulder, a dove with wings outstretched as if landing, with talons extended and curling around a blazing arrow, clutched in the beak was long-stemmed rose and a single teardrop was falling from the eye of the dove (47) Never Forget under the dove (48) didn't have a family at home to spend downtime with; had no wife, no loved ones; when he wasn't on a mission, he retreated to his farmhouse; firmly believed in the mantra Live and die by the team (55) proud of his iron control (56) had farmhouse and 100 acres not far from Kelly compound (59) short-cropped hair (60) KGI was his family; loyal to them above and beyond just being people he worked for (63) not a polite guy; wasn't into casual, polite conversation (64) not a warm, affectionate guy (71) blunt; straightforward; never one to mince words (77) approachable; suddenly human (85) flirty; sense of humor; smiles a lot; says nice things (91) father was ambassador to Libya; grew up in the embassy; father and brother killed in embassy bombing when he was 7; a Marine saved his life; raised by father sister's who was older and in poor health; joined service rather than go to medical school (97) a Marine before joining KGI (98) gorgeous, though not in a pretty, polished way; rugged; scars; his face was hard and when he wasn't smiling he looked absolutely intimidating; when he smiled, those ice blue eyes warmed (103) had always been able to calculate each situation with complete cool and calm (152) did things his way (176) overbearing (225) nearing 40 (230) Jackson (242) wants everything a certain way; a control freak; a clean freak; everything in house is organized; never forgets anything; mind like a steel trap (246) competitive (249) short-cropped hair (278) fierce blue eyes (279) black-and-white kind of guy (306)
Dr. Maren Scofield[Heroine] blond (6) pretty (10) parents and brother supportive of her drive to provide medical care for underprivileged people in need; Kevin was her best friend (13) well liked and respected; villagers adopted her, took care of her and her cottage; had been in Costa Rica 4 years; lived in cottage not far from clinic; cottage cluttered; hardly a neat freak; rather absent-minded about non-important things; in her work she was focused; and other things, not so much; wore glasses (16) intelligent (30) boobs weren't perky (32) abdomen was squishy because she didn't exercise enough and she enjoyed her sugar; wasn't huge or anything but she wasn't one of the super slim women or the curvy ones who looked lush and beautiful (33) personalized each exam (90) 'say it like I see it' girl (91) gives as good as she gets; saucy (92) absent-minded; a total klutz (100) light blond hair (107) inheritance from grandparents (115) über-responsible; steady and stable; always had a welcoming smile, a warm shoulder; always offered comfort and reassurance; good to her toes; sunshine in sugar all-in-one package (144) blue eyes (201) suck at numbers (209) never draws attention to herself; did job quietly without a fuss (223) don't take orders well (225) self-sufficient; confident; capable (238) disorganized; absent-minded (246)
. . .. . .
Armand[Major Secondary Character] assigned to watch over Maren; Mendoza's henchman; tall; muscled; almost never spoke; missed nothing; piercing gaze; knew everything that went on under Mendoza's roof (124) had the warrior persona; his expression was always unreadable; never detected any hint of emotion; he was just blank; scary (125) American; used military jargon (126) tip top shape (183) nice to Maren; look of a predator about to pounce on his prey (184) massive body (190)
Baker[Infrequent Appearances] KGI operative; member of Steele's team (2) always alert, attentive, ready for action (137)
Elizabeth Farnsworth [Bezerra][No Appearance] Rio and Grace's adopted daughter (57) Gordon Farnsworth's daughter; orphaned; a precious little girl that Rio and Grace had adopted; Grace healed at great risk to herself (173)
Grace [Peterson] [Bezerra][Minor Secondary Character] [Book 5 / Echoes At Dawn] Shea's sister; extraordinary ability to heal (54) communicated with sister via telepathy (174)
[Eduardo] "Rio" [Bezerra][POV] [Secondary Character] [Book 5 / Echoes At Dawn] KGI team leader (54) lived in Belize with Grace and Elizabeth (57) quiet; reserved; entire team kept to themselves, quiet and moody just like Rio (59) short one man on his team (175) did things his way (176) competitive (249)
Brumley[No Appearance] P.J. killed in cold blood while Steele watched (306)
Sean [Cameron][Rare Appearances] local Sheriff's deputy; an honorary member of the Kelly family (62)
Doc Campbell[No Appearance] thinking of retiring; still makes house calls (265) older than dirt (368)
Carlos[Rare Appearances] Mendoza's henchman; tall, barrel-chested man; arrived at clinic, asked Maren to join Mendoza for dinner; spoke English impeccably, but with an accent; looked like a thug but spoke like a gentleman (14) drove Range Rover; hulk (119)
David "Cole" Coletrane[Secondary Character] [Book 6 / Shades of Gray] KGI operative; member of Steele's team; newlywed; married to P.J. Rutherford (2) now that married had dropped any semblance of keeping emotional distance from P.J. during missions (10)
P.J. (Penelope Jane) Rutherford Coletrane[Secondary Character] [Book 6 / Shades of Gray] KGI operative; member of Steele's team; [implied sniper] (1) newlywed; married to [David] "Cole" Coletrane (2) had gone lone wolf, bent on vigilante justice (4) temperamental woman; emotional and psychological trauma had been off the charts (8) unhappy with Cole's lack of professionalism during missions (10)
Diego[One Appearance] member of Rio's team; arrived to help rescue Maren (155)
Dolphin[Infrequent Appearances] KGI operative; member of Steele's team (2) irreverent attitude; had the ability to lighten almost any situation with his quirky humor (7) always alert, attentive, ready for action (137)
Zane "Edge" Edgerton[Secondary Character] KGI's newest recruit; on team three (54) quiet and reserved; had a sharp eye for detail; wasn't loud, didn't need to be heard on every matter and he paid attention; was a mountain of a guy, easily the biggest guy in KGI; made even Garrett look small (138) really big; stony looking; quiet and definitely reserved; wasn't bad looking at all, if you went for the strong, silent type; dark; dark eyes, dark hair, dark expression; very somber (260)
Gordon Farnsworth[No Appearance] brought down by Titan; responsible for Grace's abduction; Elizabeth's father (173)
Matteo Garza[One Appearance] high-security palatial home; where Christina Westlake was staying (2) trying to flee his home without Christina when Steele invaded his home; beefy arm; used Christina as a shield (4) local police in his pocket (6)
Hancock[Major Secondary Character] [Book 10 / Darkest Before Dawn] Titan's leader; Rio had trained him (172) had his fingers and a lot of shady dealings; wasn't clear who he worked for (173) cagey, paranoid bastard; ice in his veins (178) Rio didn't trust him; very exacting (188) arrogant; utterly confident (191) never know what he's thinking; like a machine; no emotion; no feelings; soft spot behind icy exterior (199) had a knack for gaining the villain's trust and making himself invaluable to them; eventually exerts a lot of influence and control over them (302) so buried in gray, may never see sunshine again; soul may be damned, but can look at himself in the mirror every day (306)
Charlotte "Cece" Kelly[Rare Appearances] Sam and Sophie's daughter (62) sweet baby cheeks (255)
Donovan "Van" Kelly[Secondary Character] [Book 8 / After The Storm] leader of KGI; didn't officially lead the teams, but had taken the lead on missions plenty of times (58) had a soft spot a mile wide and a mile long for women and children (134) a more affable, easy-going member of the Kelly clan; when he set his mind on something, he was like a pit bull latched onto a prime piece of beef (141) a pilot (158) nerd boy (267)
Ethan Kelly[Secondary Character] [Book 1 / The Darkest Hour] [Novella 5.5 / Softly At Sunrise] KGI operative; married to Rachel; big man; short-cropped hair (60) a younger brother (61) father to twin boys; smiled warmed his face (232)
Frank Kelly[Rare Appearances] owned hardware store (62) [father] to Kelly brothers (63)
Garrett Kelly[Minor Secondary Character] [Book 3 / Hidden Away] leader of KGI; didn't officially lead the teams, but had taken the lead on missions plenty of times (58) Sarah's husband (62) the biggest guy in KGI before Edge's arrival (138) infamous for swearing (139)
Ian Kelly[Rare Appearances] one of Rachel and Ethan's twin sons (257)
Joe Kelly[Minor Secondary Character] [Book x / Title] led the third KGI team; youngest of the Kelly brothers; Nathan's twin; served in the Army until recently; had been injured and returned home to heal before his discharge (54) simmered with impatience and frustration; hot tempered and quick to want to act (143)
Marlene Kelly[Rare Appearances] mother to Kelly brothers (63) reminds Steele of his own mother (99)
Mason Kelly[Rare Appearances] one of Rachel and Ethan's twin sons (257)
Nathan Kelly[Minor Secondary Character] [Book 4 / Whispers In The Dark] led the third KGI team; youngest of the Kelly brothers; Joe's twin; served in the Army until recently; had been kept a prisoner and tortured for months; Shea's husband (54) calm; laid-back (143) a better pilot than Donovan (158)
Rachel Kelly[Secondary Character] [Book 1 / The Darkest Hour] [Novella 5.5 / Softly At Sunrise] Ethan's wife; expecting twins (60) first to marry into the Kelly family; traveled a long winding road back to Ethan; rescued by KGI after it was discovered she was alive and held prisoner after everyone believed her dead an entire year; one of the strongest, most loving women Steele had ever met (63) mother to twin boys (232)
Sam Kelly[Secondary Character] [Book 2 / No Place To Run] KGI; responsible for rescuing Maren from dangerous situation in Africa (15) leader of KGI; didn't officially lead the teams, but had taken the lead on missions plenty of times (58) Sophie's husband; Charlotte's father (62) friends with Maren for long time (255) Maren was like a sister to him (263)
Sarah [Daniels] Kelly[Rare Appearances] [Book 3 / Hidden Away] Garrett's wife (62) trying to curb Garrett's swearing (139)
Shea [Peterson] Kelly[Minor Secondary Character] [Book 4 / Whispers In The Dark] Nathan's wife; a telepathic empath; had reached out to Nathan in darkest hour and saved him (54)
Sophie [Lundgren] Kelly[Rare Appearances] [Book 2 / No Place To Run] Sam's wife; Charlotte's mother (62)
Ivan Maksimov[No Appearance] Russian; man Hancock was after; feared; reputation for being utterly ruthless; rumored he'd killed one of his own children in front of its mother as punishment for the mistress defying him (301) later sold the woman into sexual slavery, her mutilated body had been found when she'd attempted to help Interpol agents (302)
Marissa[No Appearance] Mendoza's servant (121)
Javier Mendoza / Tristan Cladwell[Major Secondary Character] shady at best; the locals feared him and never dared show him disrespect; was catered to, appeased and otherwise pacified fit by everyone including the police (14) had his hand on the pulse of the entire area (16) surprisingly good looking; tall; dressed in expensive slacks and a button-down shirt; had dark hair and dark eyes with an olive complexion; looked as though he kept in shape, judging by his broad shoulders and muscled arms; there wasn't a spare ounce of fat on him either; his smile showed his perfectly straight, white teeth (120) slight accent; utterly skeevy; fake charm (121) ran the entire area; was the law around here (122) an army guarding his residence complete with watchtowers and manned gates (153) up to his ears in arms and drug trafficking (156) cagey; slippery as an eel; changes names and appearances like most people do underwear; number four on CIA's most wanted list (157) Tristan Caldwell; new name; light sleeper; entire face had been reconstructed (165) were colored contacts, turning his eyes smoky blue (166) smooth demeanor (168) an up-and-comer; gained a reputation for getting things done (302)
Alex Mouton[No Appearance] Sophie's uncle; KGI dismantled his operation (156)
Kyle Phillips[One Appearance] commander of black ops team that worked for Resnick (155)
Renshaw[Infrequent Appearances] KGI operative; member of Steele's team (2) always alert, attentive, ready for action (137)
Adam Resnick[One Appearance] KGI's shadowy CIA contact; helped resolve the mess made during the rescue (135) chain smoker; nervous; agitated (156)
Rico[One Appearance] Sam paid him to keep and eye on Maren; got complacent and wasn't vigilant at his job (146)
Rusty[Secondary Character] the youngest Kelly adoptee into the family; home for the summer between her freshman and sophomore years of college; currently helping out in Frank's hardware store (62) had always been a loner; wasn't clingy or needy, although she was more vulnerable than she allowed others to think; had perfected the 'I don't need anyone" attitude; Frank and Marlene considered her a daughter; had grown into a beautiful young woman now that she'd gotten rid of the crazy neon colors and a lot of the sulky attitude (63) had some very hard knocks early in life; resilient; smart; extremely loyal to the Kelly's (64) overly sensitive; wanted to study criminal justice, but afraid of Kelly brothers' protective attitude (65)
Dr. Diana Scofield[One Appearance] Maren's mother; a doctor; had traveled all over the world before having children; had lived stateside and practiced medicine until children were past toddler stage; had packed them up and set off too far-flung places once again to donate time and services to those in need; retired and living in Florida, enjoying shopping and golf; Skyped regularly and emailed weekly (13) home-schooled her children; a genius (100) intelligent; warm; loving; a heart the size of Alaska (345)
Dr. Kevin Scofield[No Appearance] Maren's older brother; currently on assignment in Saudia Arabia; Maren was his best friend (13) 2 years older than Maren (99) a photographic memory; can recall even the smallest bit of trivia; absorbs everything and retains it (100)
Dr. Matthew Scofield[One Appearance] Maren's father; a doctor; had traveled all over the world before having children; had lived stateside and practiced medicine until children were past toddler stage; had packed them up and set off too far-flung places once again to donate time and services to those in need; retired and living in Florida, enjoying shopping and golf; Skyped regularly and emailed weekly (13) smart; absentminded (100)
Griffin [Steele][No Appearance] Steele's brother; killed in embassy bombing when Steele was 7 (97) 16-y-o when killed (98)
[Mrs. Steele][No Appearance] Steele's mother; warm person that everyone loved; it wasn't the fake political polish that so many wives had perfected; she was genuine, the real deal; everyone who met her was instantly charmed (98) could remember anyone's name after meeting them once; made everyone feel special, like they mattered, from the lowest ranked to the highest; she had a smile for everyone (99) // hanging thread: what happened to her?
[Daryl] "Swanny" Swanson[Secondary Character] [Book 9 / When Day Breaks] KGI operative; on team three (54) stood quiet, away from the others; self-conscious about the jagged scar the covered one side of his face; he'd been captured with Nathan when both were still in the Army, and they both had been imprisoned and endured months of a unspeakable torture; rarely spoke; he blended, a perfect chameleon (142) you could be in the same room with him and forget he was even there; he was a master at never drawing attention to himself (143)
Terrence[One Appearance] Rio's right hand man; arrived to help rescue Maren (155)
Skylar Watkins[Secondary Character] KGI's newest recruit; on team three (54) a crack shot, even impressed P.J.; lethal in hand-to-hand combat (137) lethal with a knife; could take down Garrett, a man twice her size (138) more bubbly and outgoing than P.J.; had an infectious smile that immediately put people at ease; a lot of blond hair that fell in soft waves and layers over her shoulders and down her back; blue eyes; pale skin (260)
Christina Westlake[One Appearance] parents were paying KGI a mint to go in and wrest her from the grasp of Matteo Garza; did not appear to be in any sort of distress; pranced around in a thong and bikini top and 5 inch heels, laughing and smiling and looking smugly content (1) leggy blonde (2)

Locations, Organizations Found In "Forged In Steele"
Location / Organization Description
KGIThe Kelly Group International: a super-elite, top secret, family-run business. Qualifications: High intelligent, rock-hard bodied, military background. Mission: Hostage/kidnap victim recovery. Intelligence gathering. Handling jobs the U.S. Government can't. (back cover) elite ops private group (17) Sam, Garrett and Donovan didn't officially lead any of the teams (58) loyal and had each other's backs; considered every team member a family member (139)
KGI Team Threethey were sharp and eager to learn and they didn't have huge egos, which was a big positive when it came to training (137)
Steele's Teama solid, unbreakable unit that had been greatly tested; they were more than a team; they had been the most important people in Steele's life; they clicked; they worked in perfect accord; they had chemistry that often took years, if ever, to develop (288)
. . .. . .
Africawhere Maren worked before setting up clinic in Costa Rica (15) KGI had gotten her out when she and several other aid workers had been held hostage by a militant rebel group (129)
Belizewhere Rio lived with Grace and Elizabeth (57)
Costa Ricawhere Maren operated a clinic (13)
Craig Municipal [Airport]airport that Caldwell may use to take Maren away (319)
Doverwhere Maren could open her medical practice so could be near Steele (355) where Kelly clan lived
Flagler Countyhad an airport that Caldwell may use to take Maren away (319)
Henry Countywhere Kelly jets were currently hangared (252)
Kelly Compoundwhere KGI located; where most of Kelly family lived
Kosovowhere Rio going to meet Hancock to pick up Maren (179) in eastern Europe somewhere (182)
La Fuerza Públicathe Costa Rica police (14)
Libyawhere Steele's father served as an ambassador (97)
Murray, Kentuckywomen's clinic that Rachel and Sophie went to (248)
New York Citywhere wealthy businessman that hired KGI to retrieve his children lived (135)
Prishtinawhere KGI and Maren landed helicopter; Kelly jet waiting there (196)
San Josewhere Maren sent her lab work (114)
Saudia Arabiawhere Kevin Scofield was currently on assignment (13)
St. Augustine, Floridawhere KGI and Maren landed (319)
Tennesseewhere KGI was located (108)
Titanhad started as a government covert black ops organization that didn't officially exist; a few years ago it had ceased to unofficially exist either, and it had been disbanded; only it was still alive and operating (173) gone rogue (176) not on Uncle Sam's payroll any longer; not traitors; have the best interests of this country in mind; still have access to contacts and Intel; take private assignments that no one else has the resources to touch; aren't bound by politics and bullshit foreign policies; aren't afraid to get our hands dirty if the cause is righteous; don't just work for U.S. interests, but take out any threat to national and world security (305)
war roomwhere 3 KGI teams met for post-mission report (53) where most of the planning and intelligence meetings took place (253)

"Forged In Steele" Quotations
20Yep, Steele was in typical form.   What she wouldn't give to shake him up.   Just once.   She wondered if anything ever ruffled him.   Caught him off guard.   Or surprised him.   (Maren)
29His kiss was an absolute shock to her system.   Electric.   Fierce.   Demanding.   (Maren)
31His eyes narrowed.   "You drive me crazy.   You're under my skin.   Stuck deep.   I don't need you there.   You're a distraction, and I can afford distractions.   So we'll have sex and then I'll stop fantasizing about what it's like."
 "I have to say, that's about the worst proposition I've ever heard in my life."
 Steele shrugged. "So I'm not a sensitive guy."   (Steele and Maren)
33He gestured down.   "Look at this.   Do you think I get this hard for 'blah'?   That I am so horny and desperate that I'll [screw] anything . . .?   Jesus Christ, woman, I'm a . . . walking hard-on around you.   Haven't you ever noticed?"   (Steele)
52it was likely far better to have never had scorching-the-sheets sex with Steele than to have had it, tasted it and know she'd never have it again.   (Maren)
65He shrugged.   "It doesn't matter what I think either.   That's a choice you have to make for yourself.   No one else can make it for you."   (Steele to Rusty)
77he closed the distance between them and pulled her roughly into his arms.   He angled his head and pressed his lips to hers, devouring her mouth in a hot, breathless, toe-curling kiss.   (Maren)
100"So what are we doing here, exactly, Steele?   I'm not good at coy little games.   I suck at flirting or pretending to not want something I desperately want."   (Maren)
156Maren wasn't just under his skin.   She was inside him permanently.   She belonged to him.   He'd staked his claim whether she realized it or not.   (Steele)
192"Now you owe me and don't think I won't collect."   (Hancock)
224"I may not have planned this any more than you did, but I want to be a part of my child's life, Maren.   I want to see you get bigger.   I want to feel him or her kick inside you.   I want to see the sonogram pictures.   I damn sure want to be there for the birth.   There's no reason for you to do it alone.   You won't be alone.   Because I'll be there.   Every step of the way."   (Steele)
249"He thinks his team is the best. I know my team is the best."   (Steele)
251"I've never been in love before.   I don't know what it feels like.   But if it feels like I've been gutted and ripped in two because you're missing and I have no idea where the hell you are and if you're hurt or afraid, then yeah, I'd say I'm in love with you.   Or if it feels like I don't ever want to be away from you, even for a few minutes, and that I want to spend every day of my life making sure you have everything you've ever wanted.   Or maybe love is feeling like I've been handed the most precious gift anyone has ever given me because you're here in my arms and your pregnant with my child."   (Steele)
251"I'm taking you shopping for some clothes.   And if that doesn't say I love you, I don't know what does.   I don't go shopping for anyone."   (Steele)
258Rusty had a total deer in the headlights look.   Rachel's mouth was gaping open, Ethan just looked confused.   He stared at Steele as though aliens had invaded his body.   (Maren)
305"Think what you want of me, Steele.   I don't give a ----.   But for a man I'm trying to help, you have a shitty way of showing gratitude."   (Hancock)
357"I took down the ice man."   (Maren)

"Maya Banks -- Forged In Steele" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
----Maya Banks' WebsiteAuthor
----Maya Banks' FacebookAuthor
----Maya Banks' TwitterAuthor
--12-19-2013Maya Banks' Blog--Maya Banks / very interesting article about readers' reviews
. . . . . . . . .. . .
----Fantastic FictionList of Maya Banks' Books
----Fict FactList of Books In The Kelly Group International "KGI" Series
----Fiction DBList of Maya Banks' Books
----Order of BooksList of Maya Banks' Books
. . . . . . . . .. . .
positive06-26-2013Abigail Books Addictionshort, okay, but poorly written
4.56 average{370 reviews}Amazonas of: January 30, 2015
4.50 average{164 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: January 30, 2015
--07-02-2013Bodice Rippers, Femme Fatales and Fantasy--Shauni S // okay, brief, no details
2.0007-07-2013Backchatting Books--Vilia // excellent review, spot on about book's problems {gr10}
3.7502-06-2014Book Binge--Tracy // pretty good review, good points
Superb08-29-2013Book Obsessed--Tasha // not much detail, PR sounding
B+06-25-2013Book Pushers--MinnChinn // excellent review, good details
4.0012-06-2013Books, Movies, Reviews, Oh My--Kathy Davie // see KD Did It - Takes On Books
5.0006-20-2013eBook Obsessed--Lucy Dosch // good review
5.0002-xx-2014Fallen Angels--Tammy / all PR, not worth reading
positive07-22-2013Fresh Fiction--Louise Evans // pretty good synopsis
4.32 average{7,194 ratings}Good Readsas of: January 29, 2015
2.0007-09-2013Good Reads // Baba . . .great review // spot on {gr2}
5.0006-30-2013Good Reads // Book Loverdisagree, great quotes, validated her reasons {gr3}
3.0012-18-2013Good Reads // Christyagree with valid itemized points {gr22}
5.0012-31-2013Harlequin Junkie--Sara // well-written, good synopsis, PR-sounding
4.0012-06-2013KD Did It - Takes On Books--Kathy Davie // great review, love the characters format
----KT Books Reviewsno review // excerpt from books
4.03 average{33 ratings}Library Thingas of: January 30, 2015
Article03-10-2012Marilyn's Romance ReviewsMeet Maya // interesting details
4.5011-07-2013Novels on the Run--Michelle // okay review, not many quotes
4.0001-07-2015On My Shelves--Ezinwanyi // okay, brief
4.1 average{76 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: January 30, 2015
5.0007-28-2013Ramblings And Reviews--Jill // brief, no detail, PR sounding
5.0007-28-2013Reading In Pajamas--Donna // brief, too pat, PR sounding
4.5006-26-2013Romance Novels News--Jennifer Porter // okay review, a bit gushy
Perfect 1007-24-2013Romance Reviews Today--Jennifer Bishop // good synopsis and review
----RT (Romantic Times) Books Reviews--Melanie Bates // PR blurb
4.5010-07-2013San Francisco Book Review--Jennifer Moss // brief, not any detail
4.10 average{10 ratings}Shelfarias of: January 30, 2015
2.5006-27-2013Sonya's Stuff--Sonya // great review, made some good points {gr5}
A+06-25-2013The Good, The Bad and The Unread--Sandy M // well-written, no spoilers, no qualifiers {gr9}
positive07-11-2013The Reading Café--Vickie M // excellent synopsis, good review
4.0006-25-2013Under The Covers--Francesca // brief, PR sounding
--07-04-2013USA TodayBest Week: #15 / Weeks On List: 2
3.0012-10-2013Yummy Men and Kick Ass Chicks--Julie // excellent review, great points
3.1501-30-2015Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

♥   Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥   Very Subjective Rating

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