Author ~ Helena Maeve
Publisher ~ Pride Publishing
Published ~ 2 February 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary Erotic M/M Romance, Thriller/Suspense
On the brink of retirement, a spy will risk all.
The writing’s on the wall. Will Rowe has no illusions about retaining his post as the head of the largest Section field office in South America. Private contractors, some more lawful than others, already see to most of their interests. It’s only a matter of time before Will himself is made redundant. He’d like to think he’s made peace with the inevitable, but when a figure from his past offers one last chance to make a difference, Will can’t resist.
Caught between his duty to the agency and his commitment to protect his operatives, Will must persuade the man who nearly wrecked his career to give up the one and only constant in his world—revenge.
Ignacio was a low-grade runner for the infamous Macias cartel the last time he and Will spoke. Now he is the head of the family and a direct beneficiary of MI6 cost-cutting measures. Will knows that approaching such a man without his superiors’ knowledge or approval is a perilous undertaking, but he doesn’t expect his body and heart to become forfeit. As events spiral out of his control, Will finds himself at the mercy of an old lover intent on awakening desires he long thought suppressed.
You have to love spies, don’t you? All that flash and glamour, the gadgets, the old boy network in London, the predatory men and gorgeous women sunning themselves on tropical beaches. Then there’s the other genre of spy stories, equally compelling, where shabbily suited men in shabby offices do their best to stay one step ahead of the opposition on a limited budget, taking a break from regretfully discarding assets by nipping to the corner shop to buy a pasty and a cup of vile coffee.
Helena Maeve’s Shadow Play series falls firmly into latter range of stories. Her spies are bureaucrats as well as covert operatives, suffering all the pressures of small businesses – books to balance, staff to motivate, cuts to make while providing the same service, under the scrutiny of an unsympathetic head office to appease - while suffering all the tensions of covert operatives, not least being the risk of a painful and protracted death if identified.
In this story, set in Sao Paulo, Will is facing redundancy as it seems more and more likely that his office will be closed. Redundancy is enough to daunt the bravest of men but he is uncertain that men in his profession are allowed to quietly slip away to a bungalow in the sticks and grow dahlias. They know too much – literally where the bodies are buried. Redundancy could mean a quiet efficient execution. But for the moment he has other things to concern him – like the unexpected presence in his office of one of the most dangerous men he knows.
A visit from Karim –disavowed, loose cannon, lethal – kicks off an adventure for Will that brings him back into contact with a man he had done his best to forget:
The last time he had seen Ignacio, he’d been fond of snakeskin boots and gold chains. He’d looked like an adolescent wet dream sprawled naked in Will’s bed, sheets tangled around his tapered waist.
… what was it he’d told Will the last time they met? “If I ever see you again, you’re dead?”
Ignacio, now head of a money laundering scheme with fingers in a lot of unsavoury pies, is part of a vicious feud with MI6. Will’s mission from Karim, should he choose to accept it, is to put an end to the series of tit for tat assassinations. At least then he’ll know he’s done one worthwhile thing before being put out to pasture [or sent to the knackers, one can never know which it will be].
The author paints an unlovely but very entertaining picture of Will’s seedy lack lustre world. Will drinks, and isn’t an attractive drunk. He’s a slob, he’s a mess, but he cares about his staff and wants to keep them and his other operatives safe. He also has a lovely thread of self-deprecating humour as he willingly goes into a situation that could be disastrous for everyone.
The language in which it is couched adds greatly to the story for me. A woman is described as “a Winona Ryder of the favelas, with a knack for matchmaking” – Will takes pride that “sophistication in wet work was something their generation still prized”. This beautiful, tightly constructed shorthand enables a huge amount of action to be packed into quite a short story. The action moments are tense, the passionate encounters are both sublime and gritty. Tension mounts as the tipping point is approached. There’s a possibility of happiness for Will and Ignacio but will their masters allow it?
Although part of a series with appearances by or mentions of characters from other books, I feel this story works well as a standalone. It’s certainly a series that I’ll be following up.
Meet Helena Maeve
Helena Maeve has always been a globe trotter with a fondness for adventure, but only recently has she started putting to paper the many stories she's collected in her excursions. When she isn't writing erotic romance novels, she can usually be found in an airport or on a plane, furiously penning in her trusty little notebook.