by Misty Evans, contemporary (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-082-0
Misty Evans' debut effort Operation Sheba is an interesting romantic suspense story. After all, I don't come across a heroine taking down the bad guys with only an iPod at her disposal.
Julia Torrison and Conrad Flynn were fellow CIA operatives as well as lovers, at least until about a year and a half before the story takes place. Con had a mission of some sort in Berlin and Julia, who didn't know the complete details of that assignment, was his back-up explosive expert. She helped blow up buildings, in other words, although she'd like you to understand that she only blows up buildings belonging to terrorists, so there. The mission was botched spectacularly when the bomb Julia had set up exploded prematurely. Julia was convinced that Con died in that explosion and she since then has been living in some sort of guilt/regret/I-don't-care funk.
She has a new identity now - Abigail Quinn - and she no longer does field works for the CIA. Instead, she now does what she considers a glorified desk job and she also sleeps with her boss Michael. I tell you, these CIA people sure can be incestuous that way. Well, Julia is in for a surprise when Con shows up in the bedroom that she shares with Michael one fine morning and tells her that he's going to need her to take down a mole in the agency. Who, in this case, is Michael Stone. Oops.
Now, if Con is sensible, he will show up at Julia's doorstep and gently tell her everything she needs to know, such as why he isn't dead like she believes him to be all this while and how he is so sorry to have caused her so much pain. And they will then be very sensible and this story will end by page 150 with everyone smiling and thinking that the world is a beautiful place indeed. Alas, what I get instead in Con making some ridiculously corny come-ons to the shocked Julia before ordering her to meet him at midnight (how clichéd) so that he can tell her that he's really such an ass. Not that he tells her that, exactly, but really, he's such an ass.
The story is interesting and Julia delivers pretty adequately as a kick-ass type of heroine who is neither annoying nor over the top nor emotional in a crazy way, but my enjoyment of Operation Sheba is severely compromised by the continuous existence of Con. Seriously, he's such a bloody asshole that I am convinced only readers with high threshold of tolerance for asshole heroes will fully appreciate this asshole in all his asshole glory. I won't be spoiling the story if I reveal that Julia ends up with Con in the end, which irks me to no end because Michael is the one who helped her pick the pieces of her life back together while Con is away finding ways to stretch his asshole factor to gaping-wide proportions. Really, I detest Con in this story. He's not a woobie or an emo, he's just an ass.
Operation Sheba is an interesting debut effort. I also enjoy how Ms Evans attempts to and succeeds quite well in getting me to relate to Julia's emotional turmoil in the story. The author tries to make her heroine a well-developed character and I appreciate that. Alas, for too long Con is this unapproachable asshole whom I suspect is supposed to be mysterious and exciting but ends up being a total jerk instead. As a result, I have no idea what Julia sees in this cold bastard son of a reptile and a donkey. I'd rather she ends up with Michael, to be honest, because at least I can see where Michael is coming from in this story even at his far from admirable moments.
Con is just an asshole. Yes, I love saying that. Con is an asshole. Boy, that is cathartic. It even feels good. Con is an asshole. I can do this all day and night, I tell you. Con is an asshole.
Anyway, this is not a bad first effort at all. It's just unfortunate that I am not a fan of the hero and therefore the so-called romantic aspects of the story leave me feeling rather nauseous. Have I told you that Con is an asshole?
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