How well readers respond to Undercover Bride will depend on how well they can take the idea of a hero, who for 99.9% of the book seems to be the leader of a hate-preaching militia group. Yes, this is a romance and of course Caleb Carpenter is more than he seems, but still this aspect of him will probably turn a lot of readers off.
The back story for the series involves agents of the super-secret angency SPEAR trying to discover who is attempting to frame Jonah, SPEAR’s leader, for treason. They seem to think the unknown person may be a man known as Simon who has been traced to a militia group known as The Brotherhood of Blood. Jonah sets SPEAR agent Rachel Gruenwald whose speciality is infiltrating militia groups, to get into the Brotherhood and find out all she can about its powerful leader Caleb Carpenter and his ties to Simon.
Rachel is the daughter of a man who had been a racist and a proponent of hatred. He had been killed in an assasination attempt on a foreign dignitary. Rachel has repudiated her father’s ideas and because of this she and her mother are estranged. An excellent agent and very nearly a legend in the department, she is known by the nickname Angel.
When Rachel joins the Brotherhood of Blood, she learns that Caleb is looking for a proper wife to marry and have children for the cause. Rachel poses as one of the candidates for the postion so she can spend time with him and have more opportunities to snoop in the Brotherhood compound. As Rachel gets to know Caleb, she finds herself torn.
Caleb is an unsettling mixture of charm and venom. He is a cultured, interesting and kind man when he is with Rachel, but when he gets up to speak before the Brotherhood, racist vile pours from him. Rachel spends much time in a quandry over this man – can the handsome, kind and loving Caleb actually believe in the vile ideas he proposes?
The beginning of the book where we meet Rachel and learn about her is the best part. Rachel is quite a wonderful heroine. She is intelligent, and keen as a blade. I felt empathy for her lonely life, and could see how she could fall under the charm of a man like Caleb. Yet despite her attraction, she always keeps the mission in the forefront and never does anything stupid.
Caleb remains a shadowy figure. I don’t think it is a spoiler to say he is not really the racist leader of a militia, but we readers don’t find out his true identity until almost the last page. For practically the entire book, we see him through Rachel’s eyes, with all his charm and sinisterness. For Rachel, an incident she oversees where Caleb treats an Hispanic woman with dignity leads her to know that there is goodness in him, but for me he remained much too remote and unknowable.
Undercover Bride suffered from a pacing problem. The first section of the book involving Rachael is very interesting, but the book suffers from a sagging middle. Unfortunately, this is also the section when Rachael becomes acquainted with Caleb and spends time with him – not good in a romance. And, the last section, when the Brotherhood compound is raided by the good guys is over in a flash. Because this is a mini-series with an action/adventure background, I was hoping for more derring-do.
I think this premise would be very interesting in a full length novel, but in the case of Undercover Bride, a too-remote hero and problems with pacing made this a not quite satisfactory read. The next book in the series is Night of No Return which features an archaeologist heroine. Now that sounds interesting – stay tuned.