The title(s): Men of Mystery: The Bride's Protector; The Stranger She Knew; Her Baby, His Secret
The author: Gayle Wilson
Publication: Harlequin, 1999
Got it from: Freemont Books, 2009
I picked this 3-in-1 book up in a pile of 25 cent romances at the local used bookstore, and I gotta say that for approximately 8 1/2 cents each, they were quite the bargain. I reluctant to post the covers, though, since they're kind of 1990's awful although strangely the more I look at them, the more bizarrely compelling they become. (Hawk looks like Mark Harmon, and Jordan looks like a really young Patrick Duffy, and Griff just has a lot of chest hair going on).
Each of these books can be read on their own, but like a Nora Roberts trilogy it's much more satisfying and everything makes a lot more sense if you read them all together, in order. The three heroes in the series are ex-CIA agents, part of an elite team that assassinates terrorists and other assorted baddies.
The first story, The Bride's Protector, opens shortly after the death of the team's leader, Griff Cabot (or is he dead...? Dun dun dun!) Hawk, who's the team's sniper, has just returned from Baghdad after taking out Griff's killer. Since he's gone all rogue, the feds are on his behind. Meanwhile, ex-model Taylor Stewart is preparing for her wedding to a foreign sheik's son. Having doubts about her wedding, she goes into her fiancee's hotel suite only to see his bodyguards assassinate somebody. She escapes and ends up in Hawk's hotel room. Suddenly he's being accused of the assassination and the two have to go on the run together. The story was very well done, suspenseful and exciting - although the romance took a backseat to the plot.
The second story, The Stranger She Knew features Jordan Cross, who helped Hawk at the end of the last story and now has to change his face to avoid his enemies. Unfortunately the face he ends up with is exactly the same as one Rob Sorrel, who's wanted by the mafia for stealing 16 million. Jordan ends up finding Rob's wife Kathleen and her two small kids and protecting them. At first Kathleen thinks it's her ex-husband, but Wilson thankfully doesn't let the deception linger and Jordan's true identity is revealed. Of all the stories, this one was my favourite. The romance took a much bigger role than the other two stories, but the suspense was top-notch.
The last story, Her Baby, His Secret features Griff's girlfriend, Claire Haywood, who made appearances in the first two stories to help Hawk and Jordan. Claire's secret is that she became pregnant shortly before Griff's "death." When her baby is kidnapped, Griff comes out of hiding to help save their child. I didn't like this story as much as the first two - I found it too suspenseful and the romance wasn't as interesting. But still, for 8 1/2 cents, it was a pretty good read!
There are other books in the "Men of Mystery" series (with much better covers, I'll add) and I wouldn't hesitate to pick them up from another used book store. It's easy to see why Gayle Wilson has won so many RITAs - her books are extremely well-written with interesting plots and characters.