The Shaughnessey Accord
Good romantic suspense is hard to pull off in 300+ pages, let alone a mere 117. But in The Shaughnessey Accord Alison Kent presents readers with romantic suspense that delivers on both counts.
Tripp Shaughnessey is an agent with the Smithson Group, an elite organization working to take down the Spectra crime syndicate. His current assignment is to monitor a Manhattan diamond exchange believed to be trafficking in illegal African conflict gems. The Smithson agents believe that someone from the diamond exchange regularly meets his Spectra contact in a nearby sandwich shop. Tripp has been keeping a close eye on the shop, particularly its owner, Glory Brighton, who’s proving to be a big distraction.
Glory’s past is littered with criminals and disreputable types, so she knows better than to trust easily. She can’t help flirting with the mysterious Tripp whenever he comes into the shop. One day, Tripp finally makes his move, cornering her in the back storeroom, where things quickly become hot and heavy between them. But while they’re locked in the back, masked gunmen take over Glory’s shop. They want something from one of the customers inside, and they’re not going to leave until they get it. Tripp’s resourcefulness may be the only thing that can save the lives of everyone in the shop.
This is the second in Kent’s Smithson Group series, dealing with the organization’s attempts to take down Spectra. The storyline began in the full-length novel The Bane Affair, with four short novella-type stories being published separately as “episodes” in the overall saga. This one does stand on its own and shouldn’t be confusing to anyone who hasn’t read the earlier book.
The romance works better than I might have expected, especially since almost all of the story takes place on a single day. Kent wisely has the relationship set up before the story begins, which helps make the romance more believable than if they met and fell in love all over the course of the story. They have a nice chemistry and good rapport. Glory is a more developed character than Tripp. She’s likable and nicely fleshed out in ways that make her easy to identify with. Tripp is somewhat less well developed. Like all of the men in the Smithson Group, he has a tortured past involving an incident that the group leader saved him from. That incident is really all I knew about him by the end of the story. There are too few traces of his personality, and he just seems like the usual spy hero. Supposedly, he’s sarcastic, but half the spies out there seem to be quippy, so it would have been nice to see a few more dimensions in his character. He seems like a capable agent (if you can get past him taking time off during the mission to fool around in the back of a sandwich shop), and readers who enjoy spy heroes will likely enjoy this one.
The suspense plot is very well-executed. The villain is interesting, the story is tense and involving, and it moves quickly. I wasn’t sure the author was going to be able to balance a romance with this kind of hostage-situation plot, but she pulls it off with only a few rough spots. For instance, at one point Glory is threatened by the villain, who practically gropes her, going so as far as to reach under her skirt and shove his gun between her legs. That seemed like the kind of traumatic experience that would pretty much kill a person’s libido for a while, but Glory appears to bounce back without much trouble. Still, the romance and suspense elements are well-matched. I was kind of afraid that the characters would start going at it in the middle of the hostage situation. Thankfully it doesn’t happen. Instead, the author uses the forced captivity to deepen the emotional elements of their relationship, saving the sex for later.
The amount of sex was perfectly fitting for this story. The biggest surprise for me was that, when the sex did arrive, I didn’t find it quite as red-hot as I thought it would be. Writing for Brava does allow Kent to use terminology she can’t in her series romances. But while they’re certainly hot and will likely satisfy anyone looking for a steamy read, for me the individual sex scenes lacked the same kind of intensity and erotic charge of some of her other books. Personally I think I’ve read sexier stuff in some of her Blazes. I’d take most of the scenes in The Sweetest Taboo over these.
The Shaughnessey Accord was a satisfying read for me. Of course, I didn’t have to pay $7.99 for such a short book. Is it worth that price? I’d say that’s between each individual reader and her wallet. I would recommend reading The Bane Affair (which I enjoyed more than my editor at AAR did) first to see if you care for the author’s style and this storyline. Readers who liked that one will probably enjoy this one, even with the steep price.