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REVIEW:  Mercy by HelenKay Dimon

REVIEW: Mercy by HelenKay Dimon

Mercy

Dear Ms. Dimon,

I’ve read and loved some of your small town contemporaries and there are more on Mt. TBR.  I tried one of your erotic shorts a while ago and decided that I preferred your straight contemporaries.  I thought you wrote sex scenes well but there wasn’t enough story/romance in it for me to be completely satisfied.  When I saw Mercy first listed at Goodreads, I thought it would be worth taking a punt – perhaps good sex scenes and a longer format would equal a win for me.  The blurb was certainly intriguing too.

After she infiltrated his business and betrayed his trust, a disavowed CIA agent must seek sanctuary in the bedroom of a man who will either help her, kill her, or bring her to her knees…

Becca Ford is on her own. Eight months after she headed up a sting operation to take down millionaire club owner Jarrett Holt, the other agents in her special ops team have been eliminated under odd circumstances, and she needs a place to hide.

Jarrett is a man who prefers darkness to light. He deals in the only truly valuable currency—information—and his supper club caters to an exclusive clientele. It was an uncharacteristic moment of weakness when he let a woman into his life. But it’s not luck that the criminal charges disappeared . . . as did the evidence.

When Becca returns to the club seeking his help, Jarrett doesn’t want to hear her story. But he does want her body, and demands that she give it to him. He’ll keep her safe—for now—but it’ll be in his bed and on his terms, until he says they’re done.

As is obvious from the blurb, Becca and Jarrett have history and it is really there they fell in love.  So this story isn’t so much a courtship story as unravelling a big misunderstanding (and solving a mystery). Big mis is my least favourite trope but here I could certainly understand why both felt betrayed in one way or another.  It’s that rare case in a contemporary where it was understandable why both would be mistrustful and dole out information slowly.  And, even when the truth was told, it wasn’t automatically believed.  That made sense too, in the context of the story.

Becca and Jarrett apparently always had a very physical relationship.  Jarrett was destroyed by Becca’s betrayal. She was working undercover to obtain information about him and when he was arrested, she was giving him a blowjob. The arresting officer was Elijah Sterling – a colleague of Becca’s – and Elijah didn’t even let Jarrett do his pants up before leading him in handcuffs past a parade of media.  Jarrett had deep feelings for Becca and he’s not a man to trust or love easily.  When Becca turns up at his club seeking sanctuary, he thinks he wants revenge.  He wants to get her out of his system and he thinks pure unemotional fucking will do that (as if it ever does in Romancelandia). Some of the interaction between Becca and Jarrett skirts a fine line on the consent issue – but Becca always makes it clear – both to Jarrett and to the reader that she does in fact consent.  Even when Jarrett denies her clothing for the first few days.

This is an erotic romance with emphasis on erotic.  The sex is plentiful, detailed and ubiquitous. For the first two thirds of the book there is barely a scene which does not involve sex.  I admit that I found it a bit wearing and frustrating – I wanted to get to the explanation of what had happened, the investigation of who was behind it all and to the part where they were talking with more than their bodies.  I’m a person who normally does read all the sex scenes and is quite happy to read a story which is full of them.  But here, I felt fatigued by it after a while. The narrative would progress and tantalise me with some tidbit or fact and then the sex would interrupt it.  While there were some aspects of their relationship which were played out through their intimacy – the first time Jarrett kisses Becca on the lips really says something – I felt that many of the sex scenes interrupted the story rather than helped tell it.

There is another romantic storyline featuring a gay couple and I was happy to see that in a mainstream release.  Those sex scenes were also plentiful (and there was no shying away from the gay sex which I also appreciated) but I felt a little lost as to why the pair had anything but a physical connection.

This book is a lot darker than a one such as Lean on Me  – with intrigue, spies, black ops and subterfuge being the order of the day. The sex was well written and very hot but, for me, there was too much of it and it got in the way of the story.  Jarrett and his Club Manager and friend Wade Royer, both have dark pasts which are not whitewashed.  They were violent criminals but Jarrett decided he was going legit and he insisted Wade come with him.  Jarrett is a ruthless businessman and his history means he’s not afraid of getting his hands dirty.  Becca, for all that she is a CIA agent, has used sex and subterfuge to get information and nab criminals – she’s no goody-two shoes.  She’s very tough and strong and smart.  When Jarrett was arrested for selling drugs she felt betrayed on a personal level (as she had fallen in love with him and believed him to a legitimate businessman – finding the drugs came as a huge shock) and she wasn’t thinking clearly.  So it made sense that she wasn’t in a place to ask the relevant questions and didn’t see that there were things which didn’t add up.

Towards the end, things became a little harder for me to follow but I expect that’s because I’m not very good at mysteries.  I certainly bought the connection between Jarrett and Becca, but I would have liked more character development and a little less sex. (Does anyone believe I just said that? *checks self for a fever*).

Grade: C+

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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REVIEW:  Going Rogue by Robin Benway

REVIEW: Going Rogue by Robin Benway

benway-going-rogue

Dear Ms. Benway,

Your previous novel, Also Known As, was one of my favorite novels last year. I was charmed by prodigy safecracker Maggie and her family of spies. In that novel, Maggie and her parents are sent to New York to stop a journalist from exposing the secrets of the organization they work for. To do so, she had to get close to the journalist’s son, inadvertantly falling in love with him — and the idea of a normal life — along the way. I thought Also Known As stood well as a standalone and didn’t need any sequels but unlike many other cases, I was delighted when I discovered there was another book about Maggie and her friends.

It’s been a year since the events of Also Known As. Senior year is rapidly approaching, which means college applications and graduation. Or it would, if you were a normal high school student. And while Maggie has been pretending to be just that, there’s no escaping who, and what, she truly is.

When her parents are framed for stealing some priceless coins, Maggie is determined to prove their innocence. After all, she strongly suspects her parents are merely collateral from the Collective’s anger with her. But the more she tries to keep her family safe, the more she realizes the Collective is trouble. Other agents have left, driven away by circumstances similar to the one now plaguing her parents. There are rumors of agents who’ve gone bad. Worse yet, Maggie learns a painful lesson: sometimes you can’t keep your professional life and your personal one separate.

This is a difficult novel to discuss. While reading it, I really enjoyed. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. It sucked me in and kept me engaged. But now that I’ve spent some time away from the book, I can see that it has one very noticeable flaw.

The novel almost tries to do too much. There’s the plot involving Maggie’s parents and the Collective. There’s the plot involving Maggie and Roux’s strained relationship once it becomes apparent Maggie’s gone active again and has to keep secrets from her best friend. There’s the plot involving Maggie and Jesse, who she also has to keep secrets from and if this sat poorly with Roux, it sits even worse with her boyfriend. There’s the fact that Maggie’s attempts to clear her parents’ name has to remain secret from them, thereby straining their relationship.

Don’t get me wrong. I like these plotlines. They’re all interesting areas that I’d like to see explored. But to do so well, there need more space. Going Rogue is just a little too short to do them all justice. But by trying to include all of them in the novel, they all get short-changed. I’m still not sure I completely understand what Dominic was trying to do.

On the other hand, I liked that Going Rogue addressed the “I just want to be normal” trope that is so prevalent in many novels. Maggie comes from a family of spies. She is a genius safecracker. She loves it. But she wanted to be a normal girl who stayed in one place and got a boyfriend too. She got but a year into that life and she’s bored. When given the opportunity to return to the spy life, she jumps at the chance. Maggie’s boredom and repeated denials of being bored rang very true to me. A normal life sounds good and all but if you’re a teenager with an amazing talent and a chance at a more exciting life, wouldn’t it be more believable to jump at that opportunity?

I still love Roux and her friendship with Maggie. In many ways, my wanting to see more of that relationship is what led to my disappointment at how underdeveloped the conflict between Maggie and Roux was. Things haven’t changed. She’s still a social pariah and Maggie is her only friend. The idea of Maggie leaving is too much for her to bear so their friendship breaks and Roux starts avoiding Maggie. This is an angle that just needed more page-time.

The same can be said for the time devoted to Maggie and Jesse. Early in the novel, much is made of Jesse and the return of his mother into his life. Maggie subsequently makes a mistake that could jeopardize everything and while her error in judgment leads to trouble in their relationship, the mother is barely mentioned again. Huh?

Despite these flaws, I still really liked Going Rogue. It’s over the top and fun, and sometimes I need that. I especially recommend this to fans of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series, who might be looking for something similar now that series is completed. B-

My regards,
Jia

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