Huh? I just read through a few of this book's reviews, and I feel like I don't know how it ended. I re-read it, and I'm still not sure who killed the...moreHuh? I just read through a few of this book's reviews, and I feel like I don't know how it ended. I re-read it, and I'm still not sure who killed the individual who is the main focus of the investigation!
Trigger warnings were needed for this book: (view spoiler)[ As a brand-new mother, I find myself sensitive to reading stories involving child abuse. The violent murder of a toddler forms a main part of this novel. If I'd known, I'd probably not have read this book, but it was such a well-paced novel that I found it hard to put down, even as I disliked what I was reading. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Diplomat Alexis Castle’s glamorous but stressful career dictates every move she makes. And in Moscow, where she’s under constant surveillance and face...moreDiplomat Alexis Castle’s glamorous but stressful career dictates every move she makes. And in Moscow, where she’s under constant surveillance and faces the very real threat of being compromised by a Russian intelligence agent, her moves are limited to a handful of carefully calculated cocktail parties. Briefcase always in hand, her poise is unbreakable--until the Russian navy makes a threatening move on fragile Ukraine, and she’s forced to negotiate a solution with her new counterpart in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, disgraced Russian submarine captain Victor Kostenko.
Kostenko, furious at losing his sub command for a trumped-up charge, refuses to engage the American on the Ukrainian crisis, but Alexis is persistent. The daughter of a legendary ambassador--and the new ex-wife of another top-level diplomat--she is driven by the need to prove that her success in her field has nothing to do with the men she’s loved. She pursues Kostenko with all required propriety, but once she catches him, their diplomatic standards of engagement are slowly shredded. For now that Kostenko has seen her, he must have her.
And what the Captain wants, the Captain gets.
He agrees to discuss the Ukrainian crisis, but only on his terms. Kostenko teases Alexis, drawing her out of the highly structured world of Russian-American diplomacy. Each increasingly unprofessional encounter reveals another layer of attraction that Alexis struggles to deny, for to give in to her unshakable need for the Captain would mean trashing her career at best, and being arrested for espionage by the Russians at worst. For Kostenko, the possible outcomes of an affair with an American diplomat are no better. The facts are undeniable: they cannot be together. Even a whisper of impropriety could be enough to ruin their lives, but soon, things go far beyond a whisper. As their torrid affair deepens, so does the crisis in Ukraine, and their trust in one another is tested beyond the limits of what their secret love can endure.
I LOVED this book. As soon as I finished, I wanted to read it again. I promise you, that’s a rare emotion for me. And for once, I wasn’t skimming sex scenes. I actually caught myself muttering as I encouraged the heroine to gaze upon the naked hero at one point. The shower scene. (Yup, you want to read it.)
Fantastic sex aside, most of the power of this novel lies in the pitch-perfect setup of conflicts between the hero and heroine. While Russia and America aren’t at war, Navarre (a career diplomat herself) nonetheless cultivates a certain Cold-War-like tension between the two diplomats that reminds me of the very best spy novels. It’s very difficult in a contemporary romance novel to create a situation in which two people truly cannot be together, but Navarre does here. To so much as have a private dinner with Kostenko would be a black mark on the heroine’s record, so when he begins nuzzling her neck and she finds herself wanting more, I bit my nails for her. Alexis couldn’t give in to Kostenko’s determined seduction--it’d ruin her life and possibly ignite a war. But she had to! She needed to break free of the strictures of her “dream” career, which was never her dream to begin with--it was her father’s and her husband’s. She’d only convinced herself that it was hers. With Kostenko, she’s free to find herself. And that’s scary. No matter what might be waiting for her on the other side, a woman doesn’t just throw away a decade of clawing herself to the top of a challenging field because of one super-hot Russian sub captain.
Except he’s more than just hot--he’s the hottest, tallest, broadest-shoulder-est man in Moscow. Heads turn and bras pop when the Captain walks into a room. It’d be ridiculous if he didn’t seem so real! But I swear, this man exists somewhere. (I’m sort of hoping the author has him in her attic, Jane Eyre-style). Navarre revels in describing him over and over again until I found myself smelling his distinctive mixture of Beckham cologne and high-end cigarettes (hey, he’s Russian, it’s realistic) before she even mentioned it. I salivated over the way his perfect pecs filled out his captain’s uniform. I ogled his flawless biceps when he tugged off his crisp white shirts. I shivered beneath his Arctic-blue gaze right along with our heroine. Alexis didn’t stand a chance against that calibre of hotness, and that’s the way it had to be. If she was going to commit a breach of protocol so severe that it could end her career, the guy had to be worth it. More importantly, I had to believe that he was worth it, or else I wouldn’t be able to sympathize with her. (He totally is, and I totally did). Because the author crafted an irresistible hero and a relatable heroine, I could nod understandingly whenever Alexis dove back under the covers with the Captain, even though she seemed to ruin her life in the process.
This is all coming from a romance writer who often leaves romances half-read and skips sex scenes, remember. But you couldn’t have paid me to stop reading this book. Partly because their affair is utterly forbidden, the sexual tension between Alexis and Kostenko is ignited in the first five pages and grows to an inferno by the book’s end. The push-pull of duty versus desire kept me turning pages long after I should have been asleep. I 100% recommend this extremely sexy and glamorous romance with a compelling thriller sub-plot, and look forward to the next release in this author’s Foreign Affairs series. (less)