REVIEW: Money Honey by Susan Sey
Dear Ms. Sey:
I admit that your book intrigued me because the cover was akin to Julie James’ books and after I read the first chapter, I emailed a friend to let her know that I was hooked and had she read it too (the answer was negative). This story is a bit of a spin off of the Thomas Crowne Affair trope – sexy thief chased by uptight law enforcement officer. A number of people liked this in the Eve Dallas series and a number of people liked the trope in the Samantha Jellicoe series. While Money Honey doesn’t have the same feel (more toward the Jellicoe series than the Eve Dallas series), the base conflict is similar.
Patrick O’Connor was a master thief who gave up the criminal life and became an FBI informant when his sister became entangled with the law. (The chef sister and her casino owning husband were written like former stars of their own book and I was mildly surprised that there was no previous book telling their love story). Liz Brynn, FBI agent, and his sister, changed his life irrevocably and O’Connor resents this a bit. When his sister calls for help, Patrick comes immediately but maybe not just for the all good reasons:
Did he want to witness the two women who between them had turned his life upside down go after each other like a couple of feral dogs?
“Why, yes,” he said, a smile spreading over his face. “Yes, I do.”
Patrick was trained by Jorge Villanueva and when Villanueva’s actions imperiled Mara, Patrick chose his family over Villaueva. Villanueva has been nursing a bad, bad grudge against Patrick for years and Villanueva has come to Mara’s town to play out a fantasy revenge scenario. Liz Brynn is trying to catch a counterfeiter that may or may not be connected to Patrick’s past. I could easily do the math.
I think O’Connor worked well for me because we were invited inside his head and were privy to his mass of insecurities. His bravado and intentional needling of Liz was done to create distance between himself and Liz. “The urge to smooth his shirt was unbearable, but he didn’t give in. He shook his head at his own foolishness, sank deeper into the indolent slouch he knew she hated and stepped into her world.” Further, for all his outward protestations of being completely insular, his actions betrayed him. He flew across the country, played nice with the FBI – all to save his sister.
Mara, Patrick’s sister, however, shoots back at him. “It’s not like I asked you to sacrifice yourself on the altar of my freedom, Mr. Christ Complex,” Mara said. “It’s entirely possible that I’d have managed the situation on my own.” I appreciated Patrick’s pomposity, deliberate or no, being punctured now and again.
Liz Brynn is a fairly complex character. She understands Patrick on some level (he’s trying re exert control over the situation by engaging her sexually because he knows that it makes her uncomfortable) but she misses the obvious childish cues that he likes her (because this is akin to the grade school version of pulling the girl’s hair or dipping her ponytails in inkwells). She’s competent at her job but her rigidity to the law comes from a dark place in her past. I also liked how Liz was honest with herself about her attraction to Patrick, her weakness toward his advances.
But Liz was nothing if not pragmatic. Love didn’t last. Everybody knew it. If she was in love–and she was too scrupulously honest to even think about denying it–the only smart thing to do was embrace it. Accept it. Accelerate it toward the inevitable messy end. And in Liz’s experience, nothing propelled a romance toward a crash-landing faster than sex.
I also appreciated that Liz wasn’t constantly one upped by Patrick. In one significant area, Patrick was slow on the uptake whereas Liz caught on quick to the real danger. I felt that there was a very natural build in the case which lead to a personal conflict and resolution for Liz that had both everything and nothing to do with Patrick. (To say more would be a spoiler but I mean this to say that without the personal conflict and subsequent resolution, I wouldn’t have found the HEA as believable between the two).
Now, the suspense was a bit of a caricature and the story’s strength rests largely on the dialogue and the emotional interplay between Patrick and Liz. The sexual heat of the story was akin to a Julie James’ novel relying on the tension versus consummation. I enjoyed this debut novel and will definitely read the next Sey story. B-.