St Martin’s Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-01560-0
Historical Romance, 2013
Back in the 1970s, I enjoyed following the TV series Mission: Impossible. We have the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), comprising often unbelievably capable specialists coming together to concoct and carry out plots and machinations to take down villains who are usually untouchable by conventional law. A common pattern in every episode is that the IMF team is always smarter and better than the villains, and the master plan will always be doable no matter how convoluted it can be because the team has all kinds of near-infinite resources at hand. However, always within the last half hour of so, something always happens to threaten the plan, forcing the team to make last minute adjustments in the nick of time to still ensure the success of their plan.
I think of that old TV show because Zoë Archer’s Nemesis, Unlimited group is quite similar to IMF. Okay, you can make more modern comparisons, such as to Scorpion or Leverage, but I feel that the level of specialist abilities of each member of Nemesis, Unlimited puts that group closer to the camp level that is present within the IMF. The thing is, while the IMF team is usually a group of five, the author has Simon Addison-Shawe, the hero of Dangerous Seduction, be a one-man team capable of specialist abilities of at least three different agents. And then, there isn’t even a contrived “Oops… there is a chance that something may go wrong at the last minute, oh no!” twist to create any suspense whatsoever. The end result is basically an episode of Mission: Impossible where the entire team is in a tank driven by special guest star Mr T, reprising his BA Baracus role from The A-Team, steamrolling the opposition who doesn’t even have a chance to put up much of a fight.
Simon Addison-Shawe poses as Simon Sharpe, a former soldier now looking for a simpler life, to get himself hired as the new machinist in the Wheal Prosperity Copper Mine in Trewyn, Cornwall. The real reason he’s there is to investigate whether there is any truth to a troubling report alleging that the miners here are being treated like slaves by the people that run the mine. Sure enough, he discovers a small community of simple folks who are living in poverty and in fear of the bullies running the show. Simon finds an ally in Alyce Carr, the local troublemaker who constantly tries to stand up to the management but lacks the support of others to make any real progress. Of course, he and Alyce would fall in love as they eventually work together to take down the oppressors and free the workers from the evil capitalist scums (in a democratic non-communist way, of course).
Alyce is another capable heroine from this author, although she occasionally shows some bewildering tendency to get all moral and uppity when situation favors the more pragmatic and flexible. I mean, if I were her, I’d be thrilled to discover that Simon is here to help her people instead of acting all offended because he lied to her about his real identity when they first met. Hello, he is undercover – what does she expect him to do? Then again, if these women are any smarter, they’d probably be heroines in stories of other genres. Back to Alyce, she’s mostly strong-willed, smart, and resolute. I also like that she has principles and beliefs that are not necessarily tied to her family members. Most heroines tend to merely echo their beloved fathers or brothers – basically, their philosophy in life boils down to “I love the guys in my family so I agree with everything they say and do!” – but Alyce shows that she is her own person and she forms her own principles based on her own personal values as well as experiences in life. I like this.
Simon, on the other hand, is the entire IMF and A-Team cabal rolled in one hot package. A talented master of deception and disguises, a capable pugilist, a B&E expert, a mechanical guru, and a talented lover in the bedroom – if this guy can walk on water, I won’t be surprised. He’s a nice character, works well with Alyce and their personalities are well matched, and they have good chemistry. The romance isn’t the strongest here, but it’s developed enough, and there is a good balance of action-oriented and emotional scenes here. But Simon’s awesomeness ends up being the biggest problem here because he is too obviously better than his opponents. There is no fair fight here. The match is over the moment he shows up on page one – it’s just a matter of time before he delivers the coup de grace.
As a result, Dangerous Seduction may have strong and capable main characters with good chemistry, good pacing, and solid narrative voice, but it lacks an integral component that would have made it a solid read: suspense. Not once do I have this feeling that the good guys may lose. The story quickly loses steam and, as much as I like the main characters, I start to find the story too easy to put down when something more interesting comes up to distract me. It’s a shame. The characters deserve a better story than one where they just dance all over the bad guys to the point that their victory feels almost unfair.