So initially I was hyped for this story. A nice action packed story with a splash of paranormal and sprinkled with a side plot of romance. Honestly what’s not to love. On a technical level at the beginning of the novel transitions were awkward. We’d be at one scene and then some sentence like ‘now they were…” and I’d be like when did they start moving, weren’t they just… how did… and so on. As the novel went on the transitions got much smoother so this turned into a fleeting issue but it stood out because it was at the beginning of the book.
There was also the repetitive factor, there are only so many times the author can tell me about how gay life is in a certain country before I start to think they think I’m not going to retain this information so they must tell me in a million ways. I kind of gave up before midway in the book reading them especially when they crept in during the beginning when the leads weren’t even in the country. Why are we still talking about that past country when the story should be ploughing forward? Also, because of the transition stuff, I still have no idea how long it took the main character, Marco, to find Cassius once he landed in Morocco. Once he found him it seemed, based on conversation, he’d been there a while as he’d seen some sights but before then I got the impression it had been only a day and I was like this is way too fast in a large country with only one supernatural skill that doesn’t lend itself to finding people who can literally blend in to the extent of being totally ignored.
I did like the Cassius being an empath so loved the knowing how Marco felt at all times angle and the dynamic this gave the story. It’s probably the main reason this gets three stars. I loved it that much. I could’ve definitely used more of that. The daughter was okay but I’m with Cassius and the strangers sharing social media. Her just adding her father’s coworker, not his boyfriend but coworker, that she just met, he definitely should’ve nixed that. Marco could’ve died on the next mission would he really want them to get that close in 24 hours and have to explain something like that without revealing what his actual job was. As a father and a secret agent and the fact he didn’t even know much beyond what his abilities could tell about Marco, it seemed odd neither he nor Marco saw this as a real problem.
The action was good, another reason I enjoyed this book. The weapons they took on the mission made me smile way too much. Loved that. It was the overall subplot of the relationship that made it lose it’s umph really.
Spoilers are coming:
For example, while following a lead Marco gets jealous about Cassius getting sexually involved with someone with the information they need. Seriously they were not in a relationship, Cassius made it very clear he didn’t want one and intel is right in front of you. A threesome should’ve happened. I rolled my eyes a bit and got slightly annoyed. I got even more annoyed that Cassius had performance issues cause he was thinking about Marco. Like do the do and move on. If you can shoot someone dead and get on with it surely you can make it through a sexual encounter without screwing things up. Every time something like this involving Marco’s jealousy popped up I started to become team Cassius. If he likes you back he does, if not, no love lost there was no connection to be getting jealous about.
Also with Marco, I’ve read more than my share of Heroes getting all bent out of shape about killing people in war. Yes, there will be some scarring and damage that can never be undone. Either decide you’re not okay with it, or suck it up and deal with it. There isn’t any middle ground with something this serious also he seemed a bit to judgey about people drinking or doing anything that he didn’t do. When Cassius says sometimes you will have to do things to blend in for the mission to work his only response was he’d find a workaround. Like he’d really jeopardise a mission over having one beer with a potential target? It was frustrating and a big part of his character.
As far as Cassius is concerned, I liked him more. His only flaw really was not coming right out and saying he had feelings for Marco and wasn’t willing to deal with them. If Marco couldn’t deal with that that wasn’t Cassius’ problem. Live and learn he would have to accept that sometimes things don’t work out the way you want in life. Besides the man knew all, not some, but all of his emotions towards him and actively chose not to act. Best decision, not hardly, but at the very least like I said already Marco could’ve given him space to deal with that without all the jealousy for something he didn’t have. All in all I liked Cassius.
Plot-wise, beyond my transition issue, was one missed opportunity. Before the scene with the daughter or the weapons expert, I can’t remember which, they were heading to dinner. A perfect time to develop this tension of attraction. It didn’t happen. Why bother to set it up if it was all about picking up the weapons. Cassius should’ve just said where they were headed without all the charade to get there in the sex shop and the dinner thing could’ve just been dropped. Its only purpose was for yet another time for Marco to think of them as a possible couple which I was only on board for if the dinner happened. It didn’t so it got added to the Marco stockpile. The introduction of a new character in the last act slowed the pace down. Almost as if one action scene wasn’t enough and the author just had to throw something else in the just took us away from the main attraction. I skimmed all those bits to get to the part with Marco and Ahmed.
Also if Ahmed had some training as the book suggests, even in the heat of passion storming in screaming on terrorists was the easiest way to get him, Marco and Muhammad killed. Instead of it heightening the action it made me think he was just stupid and Marco definitely should’ve knocked him out and attempted this mission alone. Lastly, the bathhouse scene would’ve hit the right notes if Cassius wasn’t so, I dunno choosey and uninterested. He knows what his type is and should’ve gone to a place where he’d find that. It didn’t develop his character in any way more than what I already knew. And the simultaneous club scene with Marco amounted to me finding him a bit more judgy instead of morally sound. There were more little things that got eye-rolls instead of on my feet action anticipation but these ones stood out the most.
All in all, as far as action and a bit of espionage go, this book hit all the right notes. I did enjoy reading it even if I mostly skimmed the end bits. The empath angle was the best thing about this story. Cassius was okay, an agent who understood what the life entailed and dealt with it. Marco, well he mostly annoyed me, from how he judged people about their vices whether it be drinking, smoking, or something else, to his unwillingness to accept the job required more than being a translator and just the way he handled his feelings for Cassius. I probably would’ve passed on a good chunk of issues had I liked him as it was he brought the book down for me.
I’d still recommend this book. The action side of things, the plot suspense and everything that entailed I enjoyed and didn’t skim much. The adventure held the story. It was the characters, mostly Marco, and some odd plot choices that brought me to far out of the story to go from this was okay to this was the best read I’ve had in a long time. If you’re okay with the type of romance that is heavy on the one man-man trope with more than a splash of the angst and jealousy of unrequited love that comes with this genre, this is more than for you. I may have been a bit put out by it but it fits well in this genre, on that point alone this book could push to maybe a four possible even 4.2 but beyond that this book felt like it had the makings of awesome but didn’t hit for me.