On The Edge
by Shannon Stacey, contemporary (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-59998-445-8

Shannon Stacey has me gripped by the... well, I don't have the necessary masculine body part to be gripped in this case, but I'm sure you get what I'm trying to say here. Anyway, On The Edge has me from the opening scene when our undercover hero Tony Casavetti, with Charlotte Rhames at the other end of his communication device, contemplates trying to save this young woman being held as hostage by child-trafficker Chavez and weighing the cost of this woman's life against the lives of Chavez's potential victims in the future. A young hostage's life as collateral damage is acceptable in this situation... right?

Of course, things don't have to turn out that way, thank goodness. Our hero ends up blasting the bad guy to bits with a fond "No, fuck you." He then whispers to Charlotte that he clearly won't have survived without her help and she tells him dryly that she's not going anywhere.

With a prologue like that, I can't stop reading now, can I?

It turns out that Tony works for the Devlin Group, a group of folks who get things done with no questions asked as long as you have the dough. When the big boss Sean Devlin calls all agents of the Group to a meeting in the New York HQ, he meets Charlotte, the executive administrator, for the first time. He expects the very efficient woman to be a little more homely and even maternal since Charlotte can calm down even the most unruly agents, but it turns out that Charlotte is as sexy as he finds her voice to be. And she has killer legs too. Poor Tony is really in deep trouble this time. Of course, then the bombs - real ones, that is - go off and it turns out that someone, maybe even one of them, is trying to get rid of them when they are all grouped together for the meeting.

On The Edge is wonderful in how Charlotte is exactly what she is - a professional - and in this story, she does her job well, even reverting to an old identity without going "Eeek! But I have to lie? That's so disgusting! And I hate my past! The hero is too good for me! Eeek!" and making me want to shoot her myself. I love that Charlotte can do this and more. She has a sense of humor, holds her own when it comes to flirting, and generally, she kicks people's behinds.

But alas, On The Edge ends up having its hero as its biggest liability. Tony's heroes must be the heroes of Nora Roberts, I tell you, those heroes who love their women so much that they do all kinds of things to make sure that the wife is barricaded inside the house for their safety. It is painful to follow Charlotte as she tries to rein Tony in while carrying out her undercover job. Tony doesn't get it. All the time he's letting his jealousy and overprotective nature go out of control to the point that he'd have got the two of them killed with his condescending and suffocating brand of "love". They are on an assignment, sheesh. How does this guy survive his first mission without getting blown to bits again?

Naturally the undercover gig blows up and the author makes Charlotte a damsel-in-distress. Charlotte getting into big trouble is actually a rather puzzling development since I'm surprised Charlotte and the others never consider the possibility that the bad guy already knows who the agents of the Devlin Group are, especially when they are aware that they have a traitor in their midst. Ms Stacey should have figured out a way to avoid that plot hole there, oops. At any rate, I won't have an issue of Charlotte getting into trouble if this doesn't also validate Tony in the process, which is the last thing I want to see happen in this story. I'd like to see Tony respect Charlotte and not underestimate her further instead of Tony being proven right.

Nonetheless, my annoyance with Tony may force me to downgrade my final score for this book a little, but that means this book slips a little in my estimation from a very good and enjoyable read to a mere very enjoyable read. Which, come to think of it, is more than good enough for me to look forward to the next Devlin Group book. I have a hunch that if you adore Michele Albert's action-paced ba-ba-boom "Action men are so hawt!" books, you may have fun with this one too.

Rating: 87

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