Seeking Mr. Wrong
Tamara Morgan’s enjoyable crime caper series featuring (now former) jewel thief Penelope Blue and her gorgeous hunk of an FBI agent husband, Grant Emerson, concludes with Seeking Mr. Wrong, which picks up just a few months after the previous book (Saving Mr. Perfect) ended. A notorious criminal and an FBI agent make strange bedfellows, and the pairing has made for a couple of breezy, fun stories in which both Pen and Grant, while clearly nuts about one another, are still navigating the sometimes tricky waters of their unusual marriage.
At the end of book two, things got pretty serious when Grant was shot and almost killed; several months on, he’s pushing to return to field work while Pen is adamant he needs a bit longer to recover. He proves just as sneaky as his wife in his attempts to get himself signed medically fit and back to work – but just as it seems his latest bit of chicanery is about to bring down the Wrath of Pen upon his head, they are both summoned to an emergency meeting. Pen now works as a consultant for the FBI – set a thief to catch a thief, that sort of thing (think Neal Caffrey in White Collar) – and with Grant about to be assigned to a dangerous undercover sting operation and Pen the only person he truly trusts to have his back, the pair of them are going to be playing in what is potentially the deadliest poker game on the planet.
For some time, the FBI has been trying to discover the identity of an ingenious criminal known as Johnny Francis. But he’s an enigma. Nobody knows anything about him beyond the jobs he’s pulled, and nobody even knows what he looks like – but the Bureau has had a tip-off that he’s going to attend the high-stakes poker tournament being organised by smuggler Peter Sanchez aboard his luxury yacht off the coast of Cuba. Grant is going undercover as one of the players, and his bosses believe Pen and her associates will have a much better chance of asking questions and moving around among a boat-load of criminals than a group of agents.
Pen isn’t happy with Grant for taking on the job; but she knows there’ll be no talking him out of it, so she does the next best thing, and determines to protect him from Sanchez at all costs. Grant will be walking a tightrope – one false move and Sanchez will feed him to the sharks – so she calls in her crew – Riker, Jordan and Oz – as well as her father and her stepmother, Tara, to help her to keep Grant safe. The fact that the prize for winning the tournament is the famous Luxor Tiara, the centrepiece of which is a two-hundred-carat diamond worth about twenty million dollars – and they all want to get their hands on it – is most definitely an added inducement for their co-operation.
Seeking Mr. Wrong is an entertaining and funny read that skilfully combines a generally light-hearted ambiance with some more reflective and perilous moments, and the pages just zip by. I continue to adore Pen’s sharp, witty, and distinctive voice, and to enjoy the various relationships Ms. Morgan has developed throughout the series. The thief and the G-Man is an intriguing pairing, and I like the way it’s progressed; in the first book, Grant needed to be something of a puzzle, to both Pen and the reader, until the reveal that he’s just as devious and single-minded as Pen is, and since then, they’ve gone through times of mistrust to a position of strength because now they’ve got each other pegged. That doesn’t mean Pen doesn’t get frustrated with Grant, who still tries to protect her by keeping things from her, but it’s clear these two are in it for the long-haul… unless, of course, the sharks come into play 😛
Pen’s relationship with Riker is the other major one in the story, and I like the way she has begun to realise that, after an association begun when they were much younger, their paths are diverging and that she needs to let him make his own mistakes. I’d love to see more of Riker and I hope that perhaps Ms. Morgan may give him his own book or series; he’s gorgeous enough and grumpy enough to make for great hero material! The brief glimpses we get of Pen and Warren Blue and of Pen and Tara are also very nicely done; Pen’s relationship with Tara underwent a sea-change in the last book, and it’s nice to see their rather reluctant truce continuing.
Seeking Mr. Wrong is an ensemble piece really, with some new characters introduced into the mix who all bring something a bit different to the story. The downside of the undercover storyline is that Grant and Pen aren’t supposed to know each other and therefore don’t spend much time together, although the author makes the most of the moments they come together with some sexy flirting and teasing – but it doesn’t happen very often.
Even so, the story is well-plotted and executed and I enjoyed spending time with Pen and her extended family again. There’s a suitably high-stakes climax when she has to step up to save the day, and even though the identity of the mysterious Johnny Francis is pretty obvious from quite early on, that didn’t detract from my enjoyment. If you’re in the mood for something upbeat and funny – but with a bit of depth to it – the Penelope Blue series should be on your radar.