Mr. and Mr. Smith
Mr. and Mr. Smith is the first in an edgy spy series by HelenKay Dimon who, although she has an impressive backlist of about thirty novels and novellas, is new to me. I also have a not-so-secret love of the occasional alpha-male, spy / militaristic romance stories. Providing the plot is good, and I can relate to the characters – without too much eye-rolling – I do enjoy them.
Fisher Braun is a covert paramilitary operative working for the CIA. He tells his lover, Zach Allen, who lives with him in a very nice London apartment, that he is an engineer. However, Zach is not the computer geek he claims to be either; in reality, he’s deep undercover for the CIA. One day Fisher comes home – to investigate a silent alarm at his house – and finds it has been broken into, its contents torched and Zach missing.
As his branch of the CIA covert organisation doesn’t know about this house, or the fact he is gay and has a partner, Fisher has a lot to explain to his best friend Nathan, his unit and his bosses. He also has to save Zach. There is a nice little touch when Fisher announces to Nathan …I’m gay…Happy? that gave me high hopes for the novel.
‘…Not especially… As if I care. As if I didn’t know.’ ‘What?…’ Fisher froze. Even the frustration inside him stopped spinning. ‘Why didn’t you say something?’ ‘It seemed strange for me to tell you that you’re gay.’
I liked this offhand approach, because it read true for these characters. I enjoyed the plot, but when I read the book, I didn’t know it was to be the first in a series. This does explain a few of the niggles I had regarding overloaded exposition, as the author is obviously introducing a lot of new characters who I assume will each take starring roles in later books.
This is a very intense novel and feels a little too claustrophobic. There is a lot of ‘terse’ dialogue in darkness, and the middle section takes place in the team’s secure safe house, which by its nature is small and confined. The secondary characters were not fleshed out enough to stop me occasionally thinking – ‘now who is he?’ – except for Fisher’s partner and best friend Nathan. It isn’t a very long novel and it does leave the reader a little less than satisfied, but I find this often applies to first books in a series.
A niggle – as an English reader and reviewer I am always pleased to find books set in the UK. Even UK authors will often set stories in the States obviously, because the market is much larger. However, Ms. Dimon decides to set an American CIA operation in the UK, and all the ‘good guys’ are American, and the natives and Europeans are – as often found in the Hollywood movie industry – the ‘bad guys’ and ‘muscle’. Let’s hope the ratio can be addressed in later books. I did enjoy this novel in parts, but I’m not sure I shall be reading the next instalment.
I'm an English romantic, and an author who simply adores reading and writing books. I believe that all love has equal status, and all humans need and deserve romance. So, I am thrilled to be able to review LGBTQ+ novels for AAR and introduce more readers to some gorgeous LGBTQ+ romances and fascinating stories.