Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-265-7
Romantic Suspense, 2002
Selena Montgomery’s world of high-flying global intrigue and espionage is very impressive and the jargons and sophisticated gadgetry give her romantic spy thrillers an authentic feel, but the romance part is still the pits. Okay, maybe the comparison to Suzanne Brockmann is a bit misleading: Ms Brockmann writes of bloated displays of American testosterone saving the world with outright displays of force and ammunition, while Ms Montgomery prefers her agents to go covert, sneak undercover, observe, sabotage, and deny everything when caught.
Like the previous two books by this author, however, the hero and the heroine are quarreling over petty issues or declaring their love in unnecessarily overwrought ways.
Let’s just say I don’t want these agents saving the world. A nuclear holocaust may happen while they are busy squabbling for the hundredth time over the look he gave her that she misinterpreted.
Athena “AJ” Grayson is a computer whiz who has developed an AI system she has the misfortune to name “Poppet”. Her Poppet catches the eye of our friendly spy agency ISA (International Security Agency). She is enlisted as a temporary agent to use her AI thingies to make sure that a peace treaty in the Middle-East/Africa region goes well. To do so, she is made to go undercover as an audit consultant to the palace of King Damon Toca of Jafir.
Thing is, Damon and AJ met before at a wedding of a friend, and they almost did the naughty until they just somehow have to pull away. The first thing she does upon arriving is to rip him a new one for, uh, I think her reasoning is that during that night, he had just learned that he was a king and he was using her for a last minute jolly thing, and she was also very annoyed that he found her sexually unattractive (or so she assumed). These two actually contradict each other, if you ask me – I mean, why be mad that he refused to sleep with you when you are also mad that he wanted to sleep with you for the wrong reason, right? But there they go. It’s all downhill from there as they just have to misread every action and speech the other person does and bicker, bicker, bicker.
Then they finally decide not to bicker, but this only lead to them making some silly, overwrought gestures and speeches. AJ has a lousy past, but her actions come off like bloated exaggerated reactions to her past. Damon’s motivations also seem blown out of proportion compared to the circumstances leading to them.
Actually, everything seems overwrought. When they bicker, they take petty, minor things and blow them up to World War 3 proportions. When they agonize, they agonize and agonize and agonize until they all but fall into a catatonia. And don’t get me started about these two squabbling about their personal issues in the midst of their trying to stop terrorists who don’t like Israel much from messing things up.
Until Ms Montgomery lets her agents act like adults who have clear lines drawn between petty issues and larger issues, her books won’t come off well even if her terminology and jargon can be impressive. Good agents never let their emotions override their rational thoughts. But the agents in Power of Persuasion are like Homer Simpson given free rein at the nuclear plant where he works. When AJ puts Poppet in silent mode while they are in duty just so that she can bicker with Damon in peace over petty personal issues, I actually cringe inside. These people want to save the world? I think I’d rather bet on the apocalypse.