Thursday, October 13, 2022

Alison Kent - At Risk

Bad boys. Good spies. Unforgettable lovers. 
One of the Smithson Group's elite force, Christian Bane is also the walking wounded, haunted by his
past. Something about being betrayed by a woman, then left to die in a Thai prison by the notorious crime syndicate Specta IT gives a guy demons. 
But Christian has his orders: Pose as Spectra boss Peter Deacon. Going deep undercover as the slick womanizer will be tough for Christian. Getting cozy with a beautiful suspect, Natash Gaudet, to get information won't be. 
But the closer he gets to Natasha,the harder it gets to deceive her.

Comment: Another poor book which has languished in the pile for years, in fact since 2009. I was curious about the idea of two people who would be at opposed sides of a situation would find common ground at some point and probably end up together, as any romance novel certainly would imply... Now that I have read it, I feel sad it wasn't as amazing as I hoped.

In this book we meet Christian Bane, he is an engineer turned spy and years ago, after he was betrayed and left in a prison in Thailand, a very powerful man helped him and rescued him. Christian now works for him in the mission to defeat Spectra IT, the entity responsible for his imprisonment. Christina is given a mission, to impersonate Peter Deacon, an important man within Spectra and the plan is to expose a man working with them,  which will include Christian being very close to that man's goddaughter Natasha. However, Christian soon realizes Natasha isn't aware of her godfather's true colors and he wants to complete his mission as much as he wants to prove Natasha is innocent... but will he do it before he is exposed for his spying?

I can't remember how I got to be aware of this book, where I saw something about it that made me interested in reading but I managed to get a paperback copy through an exchange site and I must say that the cover is a disappointment. Any reader would say what matters is the content, but truly.... this cover as romance catnip doesn't really work... Now that I have read it, I've realized this is just one of three different titles this story has gotten (marketing, perhaps?) and sadly, the cover of this edition I have seems to be the less appealing one. Anyway, the content should have overruled that but to me, it wasn't the case.

I think the idea is good, someone joining a company of sorts which wants to bring down "the bad guys", especially after they caused him a terrible fate. The pretending to be a womanizer so he could infiltrate a possible enemy's house wasn't as interesting to me, but I hoped the whole spy thing would be done well, and the conflict between being a good guy and pretending to be a bad one would provide interesting situations as well. However, the characterization seemed rather bland and I wasn't too invested in the characters.

The element I feel could have changed this into something I would like more is the writing itself. I think that, by focusing on certain details (like how quickly Christian and Natasha would hook up while he was in disguise), the story wasn't very believable for wht we are told the intention is. Christian has to pretend he is a sleazy kind of guy and while one can discuss he does that by sleeping with Natasha very quickly after they meet, we have access to his thoughts and know he isn't comfortable with that, even though he still does that. I think the author could have written this better, in a way we could sympathize with Christian more, or perhaps she could have given him a stronger characterization so we could believe this this was really a difficult task for him.

I would agree with some readers who have said there is way too much detail on the sex and the amount of times they are intimate...yes, one can argue this is what the romance is supposed to be about, that they end up liking each other despite the deceit, but I just didn't feel they were people I'd want to know or be interested in knowing, so the fact they were compatible in bed isn't an important matter in the big scheme of things.

The plot feels very confusing and I also think this is because of how things are written. There goes Christian, as if he is Peter, to spy on a bad guy and so on but he is more interested in proving Natasha is an innocent. Well, great but then why making him a supposedly bad guy? Christian could have easily been someone else, who wanted to do any kind of deal if not linked with Spectra, and it could still acceptable he would need to be there to spy/deceive the bad guy. I admit that there was a point where all these question no longer interested me and I wanted to finish, but it does make one think, if the plot fails to catch the reader's attention, then it can't be that successful, isn't it?

Christian is a good enough likable guy because he has faced trauma and torture of sorts. Of course I'd empathize with him but I feel he wasn't developed beyond the basics. Natasha is a clever woman, I did like her string will and self confidence, but there were times where she was a little annoying. She is also part of some random scenes where she's with friends at a club and I can't remember anymore why this would matter to this plot, so her characterization feels all over the place and that made it hard for me to connect with her.

I feel I couldn't have many positive things to say about this book, which is a pity for I'm certain the author planned this one and the rest of the series in a very particular way...but I don't feel curious about the other spies Christian works with or that are part of the team, nor about what his future and Natasha's will be like...This is a readable story but I'm afraid it isn't enough anymore for me to appreciate it with the elements I see as flaws.
Grade: 4/10

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