Rendezvous in the Himalaya

Rendezvous in the Himalaya - Angela Koenig Note: possible spoilers for Book 1, but none for this book.

Haunted by the horrific results of her disastrous stint as an IRA operative, Jeri walked away from the movement and never looked back. Not wanting to waste her many talents, Jeri freelances for her old Yugoslav training comrade and bff, Rafi, who has apparently moved up in the world. Amidst the chaos of the old USSR falling apart, Rafi has discovered a knack for entrepreneurship--matching customers and suppliers, of anything from maps to tanks to mercenaries-for-hire.

No longer tied to any group or ideology, Jeri is now free to pick her jobs, to atone for her past and in search of absolution. However, danger is never far behind, as the British SAS, who lost one of their own supposedly in the hands of Jeri, has long memories, and an even longer reach.

One such mission takes her to the mountains of Nepal, where Jeri bumps into a woman in the middle of nowhere, as if she were dropped onto her path by fate itself. A strange and shared feeling of recognition sparks a strong attraction. But what right does Jeri have to bring her nomadic world of danger and violence into the life of an emotionally lost, fragile and very innocent woman seeking the answer to life's mysteries.

In the first book, the author set a high bar for a amazing read, successfully combining suspense, drama, introspection and romance, with prose that's beautiful and evocative. The second book is just as good, and with the added bonus of having a more optimistic tone throughout. As before, we're completely transported to another place--this time to the harsh terrain of one of the most unforgiving places on earth. Against that backdrop the author weaves a thrilling tale of adventure and...okay, I was going to say romance but that sounds too shallow and would be a disservice to the book. It's much more like a love story for the ages. The kind that transcends time and life itself. Like the majestic Himalayas.

Even more absorbing than the physical journey through the mountains is the emotional journey of two hearts yearning to be one, but held apart by reason and common sense.
This tug of war between hearts and minds forms the emotional crux of the book, and by itself would have been enough to carry it, but, there is so much more on offer. The reader isn't magically transported to the Himalayas just because it's a nice exotic location to set an adventure in, or because the author has been there on tour and would like to share it's wonders with us. And this is where the plotting takes it heads and shoulders above the usual lesfic we read. The main subplot involves an attempt to expose the quiet and insidious subjugation and extermination of an ancient native culture by an overbearing government. (We don't actually get many details on this which is great storytelling as the author never loses focus on the main plot. The subplot remains that - a subplot.) And there's a sweet sub-subplot involving an interrupted love story. The supporting characters are all fully fleshed out. Lady Bolingbrook, the UN official Jeri is escorting practically deserves her own book, if only she were a lesbian. ;) There's also some social commentary about one of the most serious issues of the day, the Aids epidemic.

The most amazing thing is the smooth flow of the plot and the brisk pacing. All these myriad issues, settings, and subplots are so seamlessly woven together in such a way it never feels dragging, jarring, extraneous, preachy or forced. That's a lot of adjectives but nothing I say will ever come close to the pure pleasure of reading the book yourself. The beauty, sensitivity and depth of the author's prose just can't be adequately described in a review.

My only gripe and it's a minor one is that I wish Jeri and Lady Bolingbrook had spoken more about the elephant in the room and come to some kind of definitive closure on it. The movie fan in me was actually expecting some grand cinematic action set piece where Jeri famously and ostentatiously saves Bollingbrooks life and they are somehow even, or something cheesy like that. :) But that's entirely due to a steady diet of Hollywood movies where the audience has to be 'shown' the happy ending, lol.

5 stars