Author ~ Dirk Greyson
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 4th May 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
As former NSA, Dayton (Day) Ingram has national security chops and now works as a technical analyst for Scorpion. He longs for fieldwork, and scuttling an attack gives him his chance. He’s smart, multilingual, and a technological wizard. But his opportunity comes with a hitch—a partner, Knighton (Knight), who is a real mystery. Despite countless hours of research, Day can find nothing on the agent, including his first name!
Former Marine Knight crawled into a bottle after losing his family. After drying out, he’s offered one last chance: along with Day, stop a terrorist threat from the Yucatan. To get there without drawing suspicion, Day and Knight board a gay cruise, where the deeply closeted Day and equally closeted Knight must pose as a couple. Tensions run high as Knight communicates very little and Day bristles at Knight’s heavy-handed need for control.
But after drinking too much, Day and Knight wake up in bed. Together. As they near their destination, they must learn to trust and rely on each other to infiltrate the terrorist camp and neutralize the plot aimed at the US’s technological infrastructure, if they hope to have a life after the mission. One that might include each other.
Secret agents in a race against time to prevent the end of the world as we know it! Oh heck yes. That type of scenario is catnip to me and this book promises so much.
First of all there’s the pairing. Dayton, a bright twenty-something with huge technological smarts and maybe the teensiest chip on his shoulder about his lack of experience in the field, and Knighton, a grizzled veteran with a ‘past’ and high scores in covert ass kicking. May/Late August but looking like December! Both are in the closet with no intention of emerging so putting them in the position of posing as lovers on a gay cruise is a terrific way of testing their resolve.
From the claustrophic confines of the cruise ship to the verdant dangers of the Yucatan peninsula the two men test each other, pushing their boundaries. Knighton is concerned that Dayton isn’t up to the physical and emotional challenge of field work. Dayton knows that Knighton may well be on his last job, a final test before being put out to pasture if he can’t hack it, and that adds to his determination to bring in a win. Over the course of the book they discover each other’s secrets – Knighton isn’t the only one with a ‘past’ – and develop a caring concern beyond friendship. There are some clever set pieces, some interesting use of secondary characters and a denouement that sets them up for a sequel. All the ingredients are there for a red hot chili of a book but …
I think it’s me. It probably is me. As I said, all the ingredients are there but I never really felt engaged. I’d be reading and this little voice would murmur inconvenient things like “Isn’t depositing well-armed operatives in dangerous bits of Central America undetected a fairly standard procedure?” and “If they belong to a covert ops group so powerful that even the CIA and NSA pass on jobs to them surely they’d have a more effective way of getting where they need to go than a cruise ship?” The cruise does give the protagonists time to explore their mutual attraction, and use the WiFi to receive the next bits of the puzzle, but this meant I didn’t feel much sense of urgency. The threat – and it was a considerable and very unique threat that I enjoyed very much so kudos to the author for that – never seemed real while they were sunning themselves, flirting, getting upset over each other’s flirting and pretending that getting sweaty together had been a momentary lapse that meant nothing at all. It amused me that the getting sweaty may have been part of their boss’s overall plan. Dayton was picked for the assignment partly on account of his looks – film star pretty with a gym bunny body - so did the boss feel that close proximity to Day might get Knight out of his slump? But using the cruise ship was Day’s idea after he had been assigned and that it was a gay cruise was sheer coincidence because it was the only one available in the time frame. Likewise, out of the whole of the Yucatan peninsula it’s amazing luck that the bad guys set up shop just a few minutes drive from the family home of one of Knight’s trusted contacts but in that case wouldn’t it have been a good idea to get the contact to go on a bit of a recce so they would know the layout and how many bad guys?
Other coincidences abound, some of which are spoilery so I won’t go into detail, and I feel they weaken the secret agent side of the plot. Common sense tells me that real secret agents probably flounder around a lot making the best of poor intelligence and winging it when their information lets them down, but in fiction sometimes one needs to see a bit more planning to make the success more plausible. However, I think most romance readers will find the tense and angsty romantic story arc very satisfying and there is the possibility of a follow up story to take care of unfinished business. As a debut novel by a new author this was a jolly good effort, so despite my quibbles about some elements of this story, I’d read that follow up and will keep my eyes open for it.