Under Fire

Reviewed by:

Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


Under Fire (Defend and Protect #3)


Lynn Blackburn


Revell (a division of Baker Books)


Publication Date:

March 7, 2023




352 pages


Secret Service agents Zane Thacker and Tessa Reed have been figuring out their relationship for some time. Zane was there for Tessa when alcoholism took her to rock bottom. He would do anything for her… but his childhood with an alcoholic mother keeps him cautious. When the president plans a visit to Raleigh, they must work closer than ever to make sure all goes smoothly. A potential terrorist threat means they have to be extra-vigilant. When someone launches an attack on Tessa, things get even more complex.

Defend and Protect fits into the current team tag approach to romantic suspense series. Readers get a group of people working together in a profession that allows for some great action scenes (search and rescue, defense contractors, what have you). In the first book, all of these people are suitably single at first. Each book gives readers a different teammate saving the day while pairing up with someone. Thus, the series can have action and romance, without focusing on just one person—which would reach Die Hard levels of absurdity. You can only have a single person save the day so many times before it feels ridiculous.

Done well, it’s a compelling formula, and Blackburn does it well here. She keeps the story focused on the characters who haven’t been paired up yet, now surrounded by married friends. Rather than having characters ignore their pasts, she uses past stories to make this one interesting. Zane and Tessa talk about how their coworkers have paired up. Their coworkers give relationship advice without being pushy. The past provides humor and character development, without the book referring so much to the past that readers get annoyed.

Since the formula means the whole cast has gone through several death-defying adventures in past books, Blackburn has them discuss that too. Other Secret Service agents wonder if the Raleigh office is hexed. Zane and Tessa worry about proving those misconceptions wrong. Again, there’s enough referencing past books to make the past adventures interesting, without becoming so backward-glancing that the book feels inbred.

These thrillers usually have another layer of past—some past pain that affects what’s currently happening. The presumably dead parent reappears. The ex visits. The unsolved case gets reopened. You get the idea. Blackburn does a better job than in previous books of balancing the past pain and the current dilemma. In my review of the prior Defend and Protect book, I found the past pain more fascinating than the current dilemma. Here, Blackburn starts with a dramatic scene telling readers something scary, which simultaneously becomes a motivation for Zane and Tessa to discuss the past, and something informing their present investigation. The backstory and current events feel weaved together, aiding each other instead of competing.

Blackburn does overdo the ending a bit, for semi-understandable reasons. This is a romantic suspense thriller, so no one expected “… and they stayed just friends ever after.” It’s also book three in the series, and these series typically stop at book three. So, it’s to be expected this is the end of all things. Blackburn resolves everything nicely, then gives two flash-forwards showing the golden times that came. It’s romantic but feels like a director’s cut where the movie keeps going after all the important things have been wrapped up.

Precision entertainment and a definite improvement over previous books in the series.

ASSESSMENT (Rating 1 to 5 stars)

Rating (1 to 5 stars):

4 stars

Suggested Audience:

Fans of crime thrillers with an NCIS-style story and a strong romance angle.

Christian Impact:

Blackburn uses the fact her heroine is a recovering alcoholic to make the usual faith elements (characters praying for strength, for each other to stay safe) feel integral to the plot. She also takes advantage of the fact her characters have a community of coworkers (seen in previous books) to show people helping each other on their faith journeys. This makes the religious angle believable and interesting, not just window dressing.

Note: readers may want to read the previous books in the series first. ECLA reviews are available below:



Under Fire (Defend and Protect)



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