St Martin’s Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-01559-4
Historical Romance, 2013
Sweet Revenge is the start of a new series, a straightforward historical one this time, revolving around Nemesis, Unlimited. Hey, don’t scowl. If you are familiar with Zoë Archer, you should know that she goes for the Indiana Jones-like high adventure kind of historical stories than, say, Georgette Heyer. Not that there is anything wrong with this, if you ask me, I just don’t want people to be hypnotized by the magic nipple on the cover and purchase the book expecting this to be a standard spy-and-damsel historical romance. It has spies, but there aren’t any damsels in distress in sight in this one.
Jack Dalton, currently enjoying the hospitality offered by Dunmoor Prison, has only one desire that kept him going since his imprisonment: to kill Lord Rockley who murdered his sister. When he discovers that Rockley is in the neighborhood at the beginning of this story, he breaks out like a boss, only to discover that he has been lured out by the agents of Nemesis, Unlimited. That group is a covert one dedicated to seeking justice for the downtrodden who have been abused by those upper class scumbags, and they want Jack to help them take down Rockley. Jack isn’t keen, but it looks like he has no choice if he wants his revenge. Eva Warrick has her gun aimed at him, so he better not try anything funny. At least, not anything that she wouldn’t want him to do.
Some patience is needed with Jack. Initially, he seems like the role model for Leeroy Jenkins – you tell him to stay put, he’d charge ahead anyway; you tell him to close his eyes as you throw out flash powder, he immediately looks in the very direction you tell him not to look. He also has a tendency to announce his plans out loud – he’s going to sneak away after this, so everyone listen up – until I can only narrow my eyes at him and wonder whether this guy is capable of keeping his mouth shut. He doesn’t seem very bright, does he? The thing is, this is Jack’s character. He’s not very bright. Okay, he’s capable of being smart, but he thinks he’s dumb, so he ends up doing dumb things – he’s his own self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. He will find some confidence in his own abilities to think as the story progresses.
Eva is an action heroine that delivers. Okay, she falls squarely into that trope where guys use their fists while girls use guns – Jack is the muscle, she is the gun lady. But the author allows Eva to do what Eva is said to be good at without putting Eva into a position of weakness for the sake of letting Jack be more “manly”. She’s a tough cookie with determination and poise to match. She also doesn’t do that “I’m an innocent virgin – ooh, that is the first penis I’ve ever seen, and it’s so cute!” thing, which is nice as this means she’s pretty much Jack’s equal in the bedroom too.
These two have some red hot sexual tension between them, and enough romantic connection to make the romance believable. It’s not too deep a romance, but there is enough character development to go with the romantic moments to make the whole thing feel solid, real.
The thing that keeps me from giving this book a better rating is the fact that the action elements can be on the dull side. Lord Rockley is a flat villain, and, right now, Nemesis, Unlimited itself doesn’t jump out as a kick-ass organization. Eva is great, Jack takes a while but he’s great too when he gets there, but the rest of the gang feel curiously one-dimensional. Maybe they’d be better fleshed out when they get their own books. The plot is also not too interesting. After the initial prison break and what not, I assume that the story would ramp up the whole Mission: Impossible vibe of the first few chapters, but the story never really takes off. It feels too mundane, too… normal, when it should have been more dramatic and explosive.
Oh well. Still, I get to meet Eva and Jack, and that’s not a bad thing at all.