Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Maya Banks -- Softly At Sunrise

Maya Banks -- Softly At Sunrise

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥. ♥   {3.25}
Action: ♠ / Emotion: ♣♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦.♦ / Suspense: ♠
Action: 1.0 / Emotion: 2.0 / Romance: 3.0 / Sensuous: 1.5 / Suspense: 1.0  //  Laughter: 1 / Giggle: 1  //  Tears: 0 / Teary: 0

Setting:       Dover, Tennessee
Era:             Present Day (2012)
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Thank you Maya Banks for writing Softly At Sunrise, a novella featuring characters that were introduced in The Kelly Group International "KGI" Series.   When reading a series of books like this, the characters that walk through the pages of the books become "real" to readers.   So when an author closes the book, the characters are usually relegated to the annals of history.   But not to the readers!   They are still walking through our minds and we often think, "I wonder how "hero hunk-a-licious" and "heroine sassy" are doing?"

Ethan and Rachel Kelly were the featured hero and heroine of The Darkest Hour, the first book of this series, but they did not become a favorite fictional couple.   Nevertheless, it was wonderful that Maya Banks took time from her busy writing schedule to re-visit Ethan and Rachel so that fans could see how their relationship was progressing.   (Absolutely love it when authors cater to the wishes of their fans!)

As a reminder, the following events occurred in The Darkest Hour.   After believing that Rachel had been killed in an airplane crash, a year later Ethan was suffering extreme grief at the loss of his wife.   When Ethan learned that Rachel was not dead, but rather a captive being held in the jungles of Colombia, the Kelly brothers and their KGI teams rescued her.   Rachel had lost great portions of her memory due to being drugged for a year.   Rachel was very fragile when she was returned home and was treated like she was no more substantial than a spider web and the slightest friction would destroy her.

Ethan, who had handed Rachel divorce papers right before she left for her South American mercy mission with fellow teachers, was riddled with guilt and just wanted to make the best of his "second chance."   Ethan turned into an emotional wreck, who bent over backwards to make Rachel feel safe and supported her on her road to recovery.   Therefore, readers were never presented with a picture of Ethan in his role as an awesome, alpha ex-Navy SEAL male, but rather a guilt-ridden, 'cry at the drop of a hat' husband.

Maya Banks opened Softly At Sunrise four years later, painting a picture of Rachel thinking about how her relationship with Ethan had progressed as she prepared for her first day of work as a substitute teacher at the middle school.   Ethan was still over-protective and Rachel was tolerate of Ethan's need to always know where she was because of his fear of losing her again.

Rachel and Ethan were also in the process of moving from their old home (which was filled with hurtful memories for Rachel) to the new home they built in the new Kelly Compound.   That meant Kelly clan gatherings to help them move!   Eagerly reading to see how Ethan and Rachel had evolved and how they were going to interact with all the Kellys, it was a bit disappointing to find that Banks was again, going to just skim the surface of emotions, and continue to paint Rachel in the role of a damaged survivor who was slowly getting better, but continued to paint Ethan as a sugary-sweet, over-sensitive husband, who would do anything to make sure that he didn't ruin his second chance with Rachel.

The biggest problem with this novella was the sweetness factor.   It was so sweet that Banks almost had readers reaching for a toothbrush to get that overly sugary taste out of their mouths.   It was wonderful to read that Ethan and Rachel had progressed to the place that they were trying to make a baby.   And it was easy to celebrate with them that they were successful.   And, naturally, a new father and mother are going to become all ooey-gooey about the pregnancy, but Banks continued to paint Ethan as the sole member of the marriage carrying guilt.

It takes two to make or break a marriage!   Ethan keeps blaming himself for all the problems in his marriage.   But since Banks never told readers exactly what happened before Rachel was taken captive in Colombia, it is easy to assume that Rachel acted like a needy, immature little girl instead of the spouse of a Navy SEAL.   If Rachel had been a mature women, she would have known how much being a SEAL meant to Ethan and never let him quit the teams, which was the second major fracture in what was probably a rocky marriage to begin with.   (The first major fracture was Rachel's miscarriage.)

And while Rachel apparently assumed no responsibility for the role in her broken marriage, it was nice to note that she at least had matured enough to recognize that if Ethan quit KGI for her, he would, again, be unhappy.
"Do you want me to quit KGI?" he asked in a serious tone.
She blinked in surprise.   Then she studied the earnestness in his expression inside.  
"I never wanted you to quit your SEAL team.   That was your decision.   What I want is for you to be happy, and working with your brothers makes you happy.   I can see it in your eyes when you come home from work.   We're older and wiser now, Ethan.   We're stronger than we were when you were in the Navy.   I have a solid support system when you're away on a mission."   (Ethan and Rachel, page 379)
Banks did a great job of trying to include all the Kellys (biological, adopted, and by marriage) and the KGI teams into the story.   But as the novella was only about 103 pages long, it was impossible to do more than mention each Kelly brother, his wife, a short synopsis of their stories (as had happened in their books) as they moved through the story.

Banks passed up a excellent opportunity to entertain readers with some wonderful "girl talk" when Rachel, Sophie, Sarah, and Shea went to the Feed and Grain Mill in Big Sandy for ladies night out.   Rather than feature the personalities of each of the women who were married to big, macho, alpha Kelly boys, the conversation was centered on P.J. Rutherford and her disappearance from the teams.   Yawn!   All one has to do is read one of Pamela Clare's I-Team books to see the difference between the conversation held by the Kelly brothers' wives and the dialogue that rocked between the reporters on the Denver Independent I-Team when they got together to discuss their men.   The difference is like night and day -- remarkable versus mundane!

In the previous books of the series, Banks had made it apparent she likes to feature the male-based banter between the military men who walk though the pages of these books.   Why didn't she throw in some of that male banter in Softly At Sunrise to compensate for the sickly sweet factor?   Rather, Banks threw in another sweet, but cute laughter-inducing scene.
"Sam and Nathan are holding down the fort over at Sam and Sophie's.   You should go offer them moral support."
Ethan laughed.   "More likely I'll watch while Charlotte paints their fingernails, and then I'll get to call them pussies."
Sophie glared at Ethan.   "Just wait, Ethan.   Your day is coming.   Miss Charlotte will corner you, and I guarantee that you won't tell that child no, and you'll be sporting pink, glittery fingernails and toenails."
"God help me," Ethan muttered.   (page 332)
This is really much more Rachel's story than Ethan's story.   Rachel was given 79.6% point of view voice time in the book, while Ethan was only given 20.4% point of view voice time.   Banks told readers how Rachel felt as she spent time with Ethan as they spouted numerous times how much they loved each other and included two spicy lovemaking scenes.

Rather than feature the personalities of the characters that were included in this story, Banks decided to throw in a gratuitous almost suspenseful, action-filled scene in which the gun-wielding father of Rachel's student, Jennifer Winstead, showed up in the classroom to create havoc so Ethan and his brothers could jump into action to protect their own.   Again, because this was a novella, the action was mostly the dialogue that passed between Rachel and Kent Winstead rather than the details of the Kelly brothers' efforts to drop into the classroom so Ethan could save Rachel.

In additional to the other members of the Kelly clan, Banks gave readers more details about Sean and Rusty in this book, which leads one to believe that eventually these characters are going to be given their own book.   And to also wonder if it will be the same book.   Two new KGI team members were introduced in this novella: {1} Skylar, a sharpshooter, and {2} Edge, a big man, who was obviously going to be good in hand to hand combat.

While Softly At Sunrise is a nice addition to The Kelly Group International "KGI" Series, it is not enticing enough to actually purchase.   Thankfully, Maya Banks included this novella in the back of the sixth book of the series, Shades of Gray.
--Vonda M. Reid (Wednesday, January 21, 2015 : 7:14 a.m.)     [361]

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" [Breckenridge]: On The Run From Step-Father
09.06-2014When Day BreaksDaryl "Swanny" Swanson: scarred from battleEden: supermodel
10.06-2015Darkest Before DawnHancock:: leader of Titan. . .

Characters Found In "Softly At Sunrise"
Character Description
Ethan Kelly[Hero] [Book 1 / The Darkest Hour] Rachel's husband (287) SEAL; resigned commission because felt guilty wasn't there for Rachel when she miscarried; made him desperately unhappy; strained marriage (288) piercing blue eyes; feared losing Rachel again (289) over-protective (290) the middle son; 3 older brothers; 2 younger brothers (305) lived with the knowledge that he'd once rejected Rachel; didn't want to mess up his second chance (308) dark hair (340) solidly muscled body; body of a warrior; lean and hard; no spare flesh anywhere; broad shoulders (341) lean, muscled chest; dark skin (377)
Rachel Kelly[Heroine] [Book 1 / The Darkest Hour] long hair; thought dead for a year; tiptoed through life the past couple of years (287) young; miscarried when Ethan was away with his SEAL team (288) taking a substitute teaching job (289) loved peach colored roses (293) still gaps in her memory; captured four years ago; a year hooked on drugs, physical and emotional trauma; remembering hurt (295) had been a prisoner in unimaginable circumstances (296) gained weight she'd lost in captivity; willowy; lost the look of fragility; rounded hips; plump breasts (308) long hair was thick, glossy and healthy looking; contented look in eyes (309) dearly loved by Ethan's brothers and parents (313) 12 weeks along with twins (323) drove Honda Accord (328)
. . .. . .
Mrs. Ashton[No Appearance] middle school teacher; in a car accident; would be out for several weeks (318)
Sean [Cameron][Secondary Character] sheriff's deputy; younger than all of the Kelly brothers, but he was a solid and dependable as someone well above his age; working a case in cooperation with Henry County and the state police (333) honorary member of Kelly clan (385)
[David] "Cole" [Coletrane][No Appearance] [Book 6 / Shades of Gray] not dealing well with P.J.'s lack of contact (290)
Edge[Secondary Character] new recruit; on Joe and Nathan's team; sharpshooter; big man; his specialty was obviously going to be in hand to hand combat; he was a former MMA fighter and brute force was his strong point; looked like a mean bastard; had history in the military; was disciplined and had intense focus; a very solid addition to KGI (351)
Elizabeth [Farnsworth] [Bezerra][No Appearance] Rio brought her to Kelly compound when on assignment; pre-teen girl that Rio and Grace had adopted after her father had been killed in the mission that will brought Rio and Grace together (330)
Charlotte Kelly[No Appearance] Rachel's niece (289) Sam and Sophie's daughter; adorable toddler doted on by every member of the family (305)
Donovan "Van" Kelly[Secondary Character] [Book 8 / After The Storm] hasn't built a house in the compound (297) third Kelly son; not married; busy with KGI (305)
Frank Kelly[Secondary Character] father to Kelly clan (298) Ethan's father; had heart attack few years ago (304) lived in same home for 40-odd years; not willing to move to compound (331)
Garrett Kelly[Secondary Character] [Book 3 / Hidden Away] one of Rachel's favorites; been there for Rachel during her first miscarriage; a steadfast friend, always had a shoulder to lean on during Rachel's recovery; year younger than Sam; recently married to Sarah (305)
Joe Kelly[Secondary Character] [Book x / Title] hasn't built a house in the compound (297) youngest Kelly son; twin; not married (305)
Marlene Kelly[Secondary Character] a teacher; proud that Rachel followed in her footsteps (291) mother to Kelly clan (298) lived in same home for 40-odd years; not willing to move to compound; had once been kidnapped (331) tended to lay claim to people whether they wanted to be claimed or not (333)
Nathan Kelly[Secondary Character] [Book 4 / Whispers In The Dark] Ethan's brother; youngest Kelly son; twin; recently married to Shea (305) escaped after being tortured for months by the enemy (334)
Sam Kelly[Secondary Character] [Book 2 / No Place To Run] renting truck to help Ethan and Rachel move (299) oldest Kelly son; married; Sophie's husband; Charlotte's father (305)
Sarah [Daniels] Kelly[Secondary Character] [Book 3 / Hidden Away] recently married to Garrett (305) brother died taking a bullet meant for Sarah (334)
Shea [Peterson] Kelly[Secondary Character] [Book 4 / Whispers In The Dark] recently married to Nathan (305) Grace's sister had telepathic abilities; talked to Grace daily (330) helped Nathan and Swanny escape captivity (334)
Sophie [Lundgren] Kelly [Secondary Character] [Book 2 / No Place To Run] Charlotte's mother (298) Sam's wife (305) had traded herself to her madman of a father to rescue Marlene (334)
Grace Peterson (Bezerra)[No Appearance] [Book 5 / Echoes At Dawn] Shea's sister; married to Rio; lived in Belize; had telepathic abilities; talked to Shea daily; Rio brought her to Kelly compound when on assignment (330)
Rio: (Eduardo Bezerra)[No Appearance] [Book 5 / Echoes At Dawn] KGI team leader; married to Grace; lived in Belize; extremely protective of Grace and Elizabeth (330)
Rusty[Secondary Character] home from college for the weekend; helping Rachel box up stuff for move (290) blossomed into a beautiful young lady, a long way from the scrawny, surly teenager with ragged, brightly dyed hair who'd stolen into Marlene and Frank Kelly's house a few years earlier; could hold her own with the Kelly clan and could be plenty sassy when the occasion called for it (297) softened under the love and tutelage of Marlene and the rest of the Kellys; not the best relationship with Rachel because she had joined the Kelly family at the same time Rachel had been rescued (298) drove jeep (301) honorary member of Kelly clan (385)
P.J. Rutherford[No Appearance] [Book 6 / Shades of Gray] left KGI; only female KGI member (290) things had gone terribly wrong on a mission and she'd walked away in the emotional aftermath (291) a fixture at KGI (334) had fallen off the map mouths earlier; tough; a fighter (335)
Steele[No Appearance] [Book 7 / Forged In Steele] not happy with P.J.'s resignation; won't replace her (290)
Principal Talbot[No Appearance] principal of the middle school (317)
Swanny[Secondary Character] [Book 9 / When Day Breaks] Kelly family friend; member of KGI (304) so alone (333) escaped after being tortured for months by the enemy (334)
Skylar Watkins[One Appearance] new KGI recruit (291) on Joe and Nathan's team; sharpshooter (351)
Jennifer Winstead[Secondary Character] one of Rachel's students; particularly bright; studious nature; took her classes seriously; didn't answer questions on test; beautiful, shy little girl (321) 13-y-o; parents were getting a divorce (322
Kent Winstead [Secondary Character] Jennifer's father (346)

Locations, Organizations Found In "Softly At Sunrise"
Location / Organization Description
KGIKelly 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) the Kelly brothers' special ops group (287) all of the man of KGI had protective streaks a mile wide (330) were the best of men; had a strong sense of family and justice (368)
Big Sandytown where Feed and Grain Mill was located (328)
Colombiawhere Rachel had been held captive (334)
Doverwhere Kellys' lived (298)
Feed and Grain Millrestaurant Sophie, Sarah, Shea, Rachel went out to eat (328)
Kelly Compoundeach house was set up so that it maintained its privacy from the other houses; they could see as little or as much of the rest of the family as they wanted; the houses were spread out and backed up to the lake so that each one had a magnificent view of the water; the training facilities and the war room where most of the planning and staging went on were well away from the houses so that there was at least a semblance of normalcy to the residences (331)
Murray, Kentuckywhere large women's clinic was located; right across the border, close to where Ethan and Rachel lived (320)
Paris, Tennesseehad smaller hospital and clinic (320)
South Americawhere Rachel went with fellow teachers on mercy mission five years ago (288)

"Softly At Sunrise" Quotations
292She had a new dream now.   To stop living in the past.   To move forward.   New house.   New life.   New chance to make things right and leave the past precisely where it belonged.   (Rachel)
342No matter what the future held for them, she knew they would face it together.   She'd never have to be alone again.   (Rachel)
390She was a Kelly.   And she was loved.   (Rachel)

"Maya Banks -- Softly At Sunrise" 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
. . . . . . . . .. . .
4.62 average{176 reviews}Amazonas of: January 21, 2015
4.50 average{88 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: January 21, 2015
9.0 out of 1006-10-2013boeklogboek--Aurian // good review, good synopsis {gr16}
B08-28-2012Delighted Reader--Shari // great review, although not in agreement
4.17 average{4,463 ratings}Good Readsas of: January 21, 2015
3.0008-24-2012Good Reads // Amyagree with this simple review {gr18}
4.0003-16-2013KD Did It - Takes On Books--Kathy Davie // like format, simple review {gr15}
--05-14-2014Joyfully Reviewed--Miranda Grissom // PR review
4.07 average{22 ratings}Library Thingas of: January 21, 2015
3.50--Manic Readers--Ivy D // pretty good
Article03-10-2012Marilyn's Romance ReviewsMeet Maya // interesting details
4.5004-13-2013Novels on the Run--Michelle // good review, even if don't quite agree {gr13}
7.8 (Good)08-21-2012Pearl's World of Romance--Pearl // excellent review
5.00--Romance Junkies--Chrissy Dionne // some good details
4.0008-21-2012Romance Novel News--Jennifer Porter // very good review
enjoyable10-24-2012Romancing The Book--Jen // gushy / hasn't read books
4.00--RT (Romantic Times) Books Reviews--Dawn Crowne // PR review
3.0008-21-2012Scandalicious Book Reviews--Scandal // pretty good / hasn't read books
4.33 average{15 ratings}Shelfarias of: January 21, 2015
Interview08-20-2012Smexy Books--Mandi // questions about the series and this book
A / Hot07-05-2013Smitten With Reading--Christi Snow // pretty good review, don't agree
--08-21-2012Sonya's Stuff--Sonya // good review
4.0008-18-2012The Book Nympho--Jonetta // good review, don't agree {gr4}
4.2510-24-2012The Geeky Bloggers Book Blog--Felicia // okay, gushy
3.00 // Hot: 2.0008-23-2012Under The Covers--Francesca // agree {gr5}
--08-30-2012USA TodayBest Week: #45 / Weeks On List: 1
3.2501-21-2015Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

♥   Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book (Shades of Gray)
♥   Very Subjective Rating

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