Monday, September 3, 2012

Short Story Review: Honor Among Thieves by Amy Gaertner

Honor Among Thieves by Amy Gaertner is a romance about a professional thief who falls in love with a reporter while working undercover.

It's a pretty straightforward adventure romance. It's not high art, but it's a decently paced, enjoyable romance that features an actual plot, a believably bisexual main character and a couple of short sex scenes to earn itself a place in the hearts of those who like a bit of sensual erotica in their undercover adventure.

Danielle is a very professional thief working undercover in an art collection, with her partner in constant contact. Liz is a pushy and idealistic reporter who's investigating the provenance of the collection that Danielle is planning to steal. Danielle falls in love pretty much on sight, but has to push Liz away; Liz hangs around to cover the exhibition and slowly works her way under Danielle's defenses, finds out that she's a thief, runs away, and then ... well, predictably they end up together, but it's the dramatic climax so I won't share how. The main tension of the book was between Danielle's desire to connect with Liz, and her knowledge that she has to abandon her fake identity and leave no traces of herself behind, and she must certainly not make any emotional ties.

I really liked that there was a lot of real story; sure, it was suspension of disbelief type story, but most spy-thief-undercover operative stories are. We get enough detail to know what's going on, but not enough to trip over any contradictions or push our acceptance too far. Mostly. I still wonder how Liz figured out so quickly that Danielle was a thief, and not just... cheating on someone with her, for example, or terrified of being outed at work.

The plot feels fairly rushed in places; this is a short story covering a bit too much time to work comfortably, and the team of stand-by crooks brought in at the end (out of nowhere) would have made for some lively interaction if they'd been part of the story from the start. The narrow focus on Danielle and whoever she's paying attention to did drag in places; you wanted to know what other people were thinking, or skip past the boring 'Danielle dances around Liz' parts. Though, speaking of dancing, there was a nice scene where she rescued Liz from male attention for a dance. This was a turning point in her steady loss of professionalism - which was well done, you didn't doubt that she was a professional, but you mostly believed that she would go ahead and expose herself anyway. That was the part that convinced me she was head over heels for Liz (which was lucky, as Liz didn't really convince me; Danielle spent too much time thinking in terms of her job and too little in terms of Liz).

As for the romance... well, frankly, Danielle was truly horrible to Liz at the start. If this had been flipped on its head, it would have looked like one of those 'generic nice girl falls for dark and brooding mean and mysterious woman, and gradually lures her out of her shell' stock plots. But they do get enough time together for Liz to start figuring out that Danielle isn't as aloof as she claims, and start wiggling her way in; and as we later see, Liz has a reckless taste for danger and an unerring sense for causing the most mayhem possible. I predict professional disaster in their future.

There are two sex scenes; enough to qualify it as 'erotic' romance, but little enough that most of the story is actually story, not sex.

Danielle and her backup Jay (or handler? Not sure if he had an official designation other than 'partner)  are close working colleagues and friends with benefits. They're both bisexual; Danielle clearly so as she's attracted to Liz from the start but casually jumps in bed with Jay early on, and Jay as an informed ability (Danielle mentions some of his other flings when he jumps down her throat about Liz). You get the impression that they rarely socialise with other people under their real identities and depend on each other a lot.

The sex between Danielle and Jay and Danielle and Liz is written very differently (although there may be some personal bias colouring my impressions). Sex with Jay is clinical and casual and cursory and a little crude, they know all the steps and it's not a big deal. Sex with Liz is long descriptions of joy and passion and discovering each other, and passionate kisses later. I don't know if this reflects a men/women difference or a true love/casual bedmate difference, as we don't have any points of comparison.

So in summary?
It's not particularly memorable, but it is enjoyable, has been properly edited, and should appeal to those who enjoy spy adventures and modern settings. If you're looking for a story that covers the friends with benefits angle, this one does fairly well, although it does cut off with the assumption that 'everything will work out'.

Honor Among Thieves is only available from Storm Moon Press as an ebook.

You may also be interested in:

No comments:

Post a Comment