Code Name: Dove
For anyone who’s been eagerly awaiting the new Silhouette Bombshell line, Code Name: Dove is the book to get. A great spy adventure with a complex heroine, it gets the line off to a strong start. Hopefully it’s just the first sign of good things to come.
To most of the world, Nova Blair is a world famous photographer. But she has another identity behind the public persona, as a CIA agent of some renown within the Agency. As the story opens, environmental terrorists strike an oil pipeline in Alaska, murdering several workers in the process. The terrorists are believed to be foreign nationals, placing the case under the CIA’s jurisdiction, so Nova is called in.
The Agency believes the saboteurs were acting under the orders of an ecoterrorist known as The Founder. The Founder has carried out attacks in the United States, Britain, France and Germany, and threatens more if the nations don’t immediately take action to stop their polluting ways. The Agency now suspects that a German politician named Jean Paul Konig may either be The Founder or part of his group. A recently murdered CIA agent passed on intel that suggested Konig’s ecology-minded party might be involved in the terrorist attacks. Nova’s mission is to travel to Germany, using her photojournalist credentials as her cover, and get close to Konig – by whatever means necessary.
Nova is adept at many things, but she draws the line at outright seduction. As a victim of abuse at the hands of her stepfather when she was a teenager, she has too many emotional scars to use her body that way. But the closer she gets to Konig, the more she is drawn to him in a way she didn’t expect. When he takes the bait and falls for her, she doesn’t resist and becomes his lover. It serves a practical purpose, winning her an entrée into his world and bringing her closer to the truth behind The Founder. But Nova soon discovers that she has feelings for him as well. She just doesn’t know whether the man she’s falling for is innocent or the terrorist she is duty-bound to expose.
In many ways, this is exactly what I’d hoped the Bombshell line would deliver. It’s a fast-paced read with plenty of exciting scenes, most of which involve the heroine in action. It has a complex and original premise that blends real world plausibility with some more outlandish elements. The result is an entertaining story that’s clearly fiction but believable enough on its own terms for the reader to buy into. The villains are creepy, and in at least one case, seriously disturbed, giving the tale an effectively threatening edge.
Of course, the biggest selling point of the line is the heroine, and she lives up to her billing. Because the Bombshell line isn’t a romance line but instead is based upon the premise of strong women involved in action and adventure, Nova isn’t just a standard romance heroine playacting at toughness (my initial fear for this line). She really is a kick-ass woman, as promised. She’s strong, smart, resourceful and she gets to save the day in the end all by herself.
I appreciated that she got to do things the usual romance heroine wouldn’t get to. For instance, you don’t see romance heroines seducing a married suspect for the express purpose of using him for her investigation without some assurance the author will let her off the ethical hook (i.e. he’s not really married; he’s actually good; they live happily every after). It’s the kind of thing male spies have gotten away with forever in fiction (how many women does James Bond sleep with per movie/book?). It’s about time the double standard was done away with. That doesn’t mean there are all that many sex scenes. There are only a few, and they’re each relatively brief. But it’s nice to see a heroine able to get away with behavior that, in a regular romance, would be considering scandalous.
It was also nice that while Nova does have trauma in her past, it isn’t used to soften her or as a source of melodramatic angst to show how emotional (i.e. feminine) she really is beneath the tough surface. Instead, her past experience is a source of strength, showing what she has overcome. If her stepfather couldn’t defeat her, she’s sure not going to let the villain. Now that’s a strong heroine. Because this is not a romance novel, don’t expect the relationship to follow that kind of path. That makes the story nicely unpredictable. I was never quite sure whether Konig was going to turn out to be evil or not, and the uncertainty added to the story’s thrills. I was that much more excited to see how it would turn out.
That said, one of the story’s flaws is that Nova’s characterization is a little murky at times. Her initial attraction to Konig really isn’t that believable. The author keeps telling us that Nova is inexplicably attracted to him without showing why she is. I really didn’t feel the attraction, which made it difficult to understand why she goes ahead and sleeps with him despite the past trauma that previously made her think she couldn’t.
There are a few other rough spots. Certain elements of the plot could have been more developed and there are times it feels like the author comes close to losing track of her story. But those are really just minor points. On the whole, this is exactly the kind of fast, action-packed ride the Bombshell line promised: creative, engaging and thrilling. So far I’ve read two of the Bombshells and struggled to get into the others. This is the stand-out among them. I hope the upcoming books in the series are just as good, if not even better.