doubledeception There’s always a TBR pile or several to be had at my house, so I decided to sign on for the 2012 TBR Challenge. This month’s theme is category romance, which made things easy for me. I’m a bit of a category romance hoarder, so I have a box of them in my guest room. To choose this month’s book, I just reached into the box and randomly picked – Double Deception (Harlequin Romantic Suspense, #1667) by Merline Lovelace. It’s an August 2011 title, so it hasn’t been aging in the TBR box as long as some.

When I started the book, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I’ve read a number of Lovelace’s books and my experiences have been all over the map. She’s written some wonderful historicals set in unusual times and places as well as romantic suspense set all over the globe. However, she’s also had a few books that didn’t really work for me. In the end, Double Deception was probably one that I’d grade at C+. It’s a bit better than the average, but still rather uneven.

First, the good parts. If you like exotic settings, you’ll really enjoy the backstory on this one. Though set in modern times, the story has something of a Cold War thriller feel, with Russian and American secret agents working at cross-purposes. In this case, our hero and heroine are on the trail of the legendary Amber Room, which disappeared in World War II. And of course, they are not the only ones interested in the missing treasure.

Clint Black(yes, that’s really his name) is an agent with OMEGA. Victoria Talbot also serves OMEGA, but there is a definite tension between the two. When assigned to work together, Clint isn’t sure he can trust Victoria. The two are assigned to follow a possible lead on the Amber Room, and Victoria’s mysterious past and ability to function in Russia make Clint a little suspicious. He wonders if Victoria could be a double agent.

The tension between Clint and Victoria, the treasure hunt and the intriguing setting of the story make the suspense portion of this book flow quite nicely. It’s a complex tale for a 218 page book, but Lovelace makes this part of things work quite well.

However, once romance begins working its way into the story, things get a little more uneven. First of all, did the hero really have to be named Clint Black? Every time I saw his full name, I thought I was going to have “Something That We Do” running through my head forever. Nothing like having a way overplayed song from high school/college days stuck in your head to really add to that reading experience.

In addition, the pacing of the romance felt somewhat off, especially in contrast with the suspense plotting, which really was quite strong. Clint and Victoria start off at odds, Clint can’t trust Victoria because he thinks she might be in cahoots with the Russians – so far, so good. However, Clint goes back and forth on his trust issue for so long that his ultimate falling in love with Victoria seems a bit rushed. In addition, he mistrusts Victoria for so long that I found it a little odd that she would still accept him. If I were her, the constant dance of attraction and suspicion would require a bit more by way of apology.

Double Deception definitely has a strong suspense plot. If you’re willing to accept a romance that isn’t equally strong, you may enjoy this one. It’s not the strongest way to kick off the TBR Challenge, but given some of the doozies I’ve read over the years, I could have done much, much worse.

– Lynn Spencer

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I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.