REVIEW: Stranded with a Spy by Merline Lovelace
Dear Mrs. Lovelace,
When I’ve had a bunch of disappointing books in a row, I know I can turn to you to pull me out of my rut. Whether it’s a historical (which you don’t seem to write much anymore) or contemporary or romantic suspense, you generally hit the spot and give me something readable. The 2007 release “Stranded with a Spy” is no exception.
It’s easy to see your own military background in the grounding language, geography and set up of the book. You know Washington, the power playing, and the military subculture that permeates the book. Yeah there’s a lot of ‘gee-whiz’ technology the hero Cutter Smith relies on but the man is endowed with enough cool headed calm under pressure as well as intelligence to make me believe in the fact that he’s a top agent with this particular ‘Romance book’ secret government agency.
I like how you work in the current reality of TSA screening for air flights to get the plot going coupled with the age old sexual shenanigans associated with politics and normal old greed to provide the bulk of the storyline instead of relying on any more mysterious terrorists to be the bad guys. Money is all the reason most real life villains need to get out of bed these days and it’s a rare week that we don’t learn of somebody getting their hands on a mass of financial information stolen from a laptop or from a computer system hack.
The reality of the heroine’s allegations of sexual misconduct against her congressman boss being turned on her seems reasonable too. As you say, look what happened to Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky. It provides a good reason for Mallory Dawes’ decision to flee to France as well as, as far as Smith is concerned, a perfect justification for her to have stolen the bank files of so many government employees.
I like that he’s professional enough to withhold his judgment on whether she’s the main culprit or is merely a mule unwittingly carrying the information until he’s tailed her a while and gotten to know her. And I also like that once she finds out what he suspects her of and what he’s done so far, that Mallory takes a little while to get over the sense of betrayal. Perhaps not quite enough time but the way you set up the plot demands a quick resolution.
I loved the information about all the places that Mallory and Cutter see in France though it did tend to drag in a few places. I would adore spending an afternoon as they did exploring a winery and eating a scrumptious meal washed down by apple brandy. And thank you for the effort you put into the speech patterns of the French characters. To be honest, I found Mallory’s assertion that she doesn’t mind Uncle Sam probing through her personal life to help catch terrorists strange in light of the fact that her personal life has already been torn through by the media after her charges against her boss. You’d think the woman would want to keep her private life private after that. And who leaves their passport in a rental car while they sight see? Okay, she’s tired after a long transatlantic flight but still… I also got annoyed at diversion of this book for the possible set up for another book. At least I guess that’s what you were doing.
Romance mixed with suspense is a tricky balance. Especially when the page count is that of a category book. This one manages to work though I would have wished for more time spent resolving the heroine’s anger and not so rushed a romance. Still it’s a B-