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Friday, July 11, 2014

ARC Review: Operation Sheba by Misty Evans

I really like Misty Evans and the thrills and intrigue of spy books, so putting the two together in the Super Agent series is like book catnip. OPERATION SHEBA is the re-release of Ms. Evans’s debut novel with new editing and some bonus material, and it’s interesting to see the growth and maturity of her storytelling voice (much more polished in her later work) in the face of a newbie author’s growing pains. Though the story is a bit slow to get started, laying the operational background for the rest of the series, once it picks up it’s full of intrigue and high-stakes action layered atop a finely crafted political plot and a chillingly manipulative villain. The bulk of the romantic development—though central to the characters’ motivation—occurs prior to the start of the novel, so the balance is definitely shifted toward the suspense.

The story opens with CIA-analyst-turned-explosives-field-expert Julia Torrison and former-SEAL-turned-CIA-operator Conrad (Con) Flynn on an undercover mission in Germany to flush out and eliminate an arms dealer. The mission ends in a fiery explosion with Con in the middle of it and Julia is yanked back to Langley and given a new identity and job as an analyst in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Centre to protect her from enemies made in the field. But all is not as it seems and Con’s ‘death’—which Julia blames herself for, since she prepped the explosives—is part his elaborate plan to protect her and go deep undercover to hunt down a mole within the CIA that threatens to bring the Agency down. All the evidence points to Julia’s new lover and boss, and so Con must break cover after seventeen months to recruit his former lover and partner to help him investigate her current lover and bring down the traitor. Misdirection, subterfuge, disparate agendas, spy-on-spy spying, and attempts to frame and/or kill the good guys ensue and make for an intense, high-stakes game of cat and mouse that is well written and superbly paced. The CIA mole is chillingly Machiavellian with multiple backup plans to ensure a favourable outcome for a plan over a decade in the making but feels completely realistic, keeping the reader engaged and turning pages to see if (and how) the mole will get his/her comeuppance.

Whilst the action and suspense portions of the book were well done, the weakest link in the story for me was the romance. The love triangle is an extremely tough sell for me—a matter of personal preference—but props to Ms. Evans for making the reasons believable and the emotion genuine. When your partner and lover of five years is (supposedly) blown up in an explosion of your own making and a solid, all-around great bloke helps you piece your life back together, falling for him is inevitable. The sudden reappearance of the supposedly dead love of your life—who’s been keeping an eye on your for the past 17 months—is bound to bring back old feelings and cause significant confusion, and Ms. Evans does a good job portraying that. But since both of Julia’s romantic relationships developed before the start of the book, little page time is devoted to them, which made it hard for me to become emotionally invested in either relationship or feel like there was much relationship development. Part of that probably comes from my feelings about Julia: whilst I liked her well enough as a character (highly intelligent, kickass, with a tough past and a great reason to have chosen her career path—what’s not to like?), her behaviour in the context of the love triangle drove me mad. The flip-flopping and ‘whom should I choose?’ nature of triangles likely draws many readers to the trope, but it generally gives me reader whiplash, and this was definitely the case with Julia’s. I also found the two male vertices of the triangle to be almost laughably cliché: the edging-on-loose-cannon badass love of her life vs. the rock-solid good guy you bring home to meet your parents, complete with an all-out brawl to settle their claim on Julia.

Overall, OPERATION SHEBA was an enjoyable romantic suspense read that will delight readers who enjoy their thrills and espionage with a touch romance and creates a well-crafted world full of intriguing characters whose stories—the other books in the Super Agent series—will likely be equally satisfying reads.

**ARC provided by Author**

Purchase: | Amazon |


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