Can You Forget? by Melissa James was first published at The Romance Reader in 2004. Back then I rated it 3-Hearts (C grade) and gave it an MPAA sensuality content rating of PG-13.
Dr. Tallan “Irish” O’Rierdan has spent the last several years working as search and rescue for a spy organization called the Nighthawks. It’s his job to go into war zones and save the innocent, and it is on one such mission that he nearly dies. Now with a leg that barely works right and a scarred face, he’s hiding out on a tropical island playing the role of a beach-bum pilot and ignoring persistent calls from his Nighthawk boss.
Mary-Anne Poole is Tal’s childhood sweetheart and a nurse who turned her back on medicine to become world famous singer Verity West. She too is recruited by the Nighthawks, because as Verity West she can get close to the rich, famous, and unscrupulous. She hides behind her ice princess persona, plays cat burglar when necessary – but in actuality she hasn’t left the chubby girl who so desperately loved Tal that far behind. When Tal drops out of his job as Nighthawk operative, Mary-Anne is called to bring him back into the fold and complete a dangerous mission. Seems there is a traitor in the Nighthawk camp – and it’s up to Tal and Mary-Anne to catch the bad guys.
Can You Forget? features two of the more credible themes in Romance Novel Land – friends-to-lovers and reunion. Mary-Anne and Tal are both desperately in love with each other, but circumstances have kept them apart. Even though they both were married to other people, they couldn’t seem to completely let go of each other. While they find themselves now thrown together for the sake of a mission – they both think that staying together would be impossible. After all, Verity West is an international star with paparazzi hiding around every corner, and Tal is a scarred has-been. Their past and present circumstances, along with their unresolved feelings for one another, make this a very emotional read.
Unfortunately it all gets a little lost in the technicalities. Can You Forget? is book two in the author’s Nighthawk series and reads like a book two. There is a lot of back story that just isn’t provided. For instance, I never got a good handle on exactly who the Nighthawks were. They’re super-secret, the operatives know nothing about each other, and call each other by code name. Mary-Anne and Tal are both Australian, much of the story takes place in the Mediterranean, and there is mention of an office in Virginia. So are the Nighthawks an international, U.S. or Australian organization? And how do they recruit?
It also doesn’t help matters that there are two main bad guys in this story. Bad guy #1 is obsessed with Verity West and is some sort of arms dealer. I’m assuming that bad guy #2 is a holdover from the first book in the series, Who Do You Trust? He’s mildly interested in getting at Tal, but he’s more interested in getting at the couple from that first book. The need for revenge on this earlier couple isn’t explained outside of the villain’s obsession with that earlier heroine.
It’s these unexplained details that make the book a little too crowded. When the focus is solely on romance between Tal and Mary-Anne the story really works. James has the talent to write an emotional love story, with lots of angst and tears to pull at the reader’s heartstrings. Unfortunately, Can You Forget? reads very much like a series and the technical, on-going aspects of the Nighthawk story left this first time reader at a disadvantage. If you’ve read that first book, by all means this book two is an accomplished series romance. However, curious newcomers would do well to start at the beginning.