Monday, February 13, 2012

Review of Stephanie Julian's Sex, Lies, and Surveillance

Title: Sex, Lies, and Surveillance
Author: Stephanie Julian
Publisher: Carina Press
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: January 16, 2012
Rating: 3 out of 5

This is the second book of Ms. Julian’s that I’ve read, and it’s a fun, short read, full of sizzling chemistry with an intriguing premise. Unfortunately, it bogs down a little in the middle, and what promised to be an action packed romantic suspense turned out to be stronger on the romance than the suspense. That said, I like the premise of the novel, and the secondary characters are perfect for a continuation of the series.

Janey DeMarco is the youngest child of two legendary CIA agents who run a PI firm. When the DeMarco name surfaces in an NSA investigation into weapons dealers, the NSA sends an undercover agent to check out the family’s connections. Malcom “Mal” Laughlin’s partner was shot during the investigation into weapons trafficking, so he jumps at the chance to check out the DeMarcos. But he wasn’t counting on falling for Janey, and she certainly didn’t expect to find the geeky former Marine quite so hot!

What I liked most about this book was the chemistry between Mal and Janey. I love that Mal is quite the hunk and yet also comes across as a bit of a nerd. You can see Mal’s struggle with his conscience over starting a relationship with Janey since he’s undercover, but it’s also really sweet how he tries to justify what he learns with what he’s observed about Janey and her family.

Janey’s relationship with her family and Mal’s “relationship” with his deceased father are also big selling points. Janey only remains with the family firm because she’s worried about her father’s health, but her interaction with her brothers and parents make it clear that there’s little to worry about. Mal’s interior monologues with his snarky “Dad” are a hoot, since his Dad remains the voice of his conscience.

Both Janey and Mal were likeable characters, but at times I didn’t understand their motivations. Janey’s constantly concerned about her father’s health and gives his health as her reason for working in a job she confesses is not challenging her, which comes across as a bit whiny after a while, especially after all the other members of the family reassure her on numerous occasions that her father will be fine. Mal was an appealing hero (alpha AND nerdy - nice!), but for an experienced NSA agent, he sure does jump to conclusions quickly!

Unfortunately it was also really difficult to get into the plot. At several points I put the book down and then had to make myself come back to it so I could write the review. The focus of the book is much more on the romance, which has the action falling a bit flat. Very little happens in the middle of the book to advance Mal’s investigation, and the stalker subplot with the Hollywood director didn’t really add much, and I found it really annoying whenever Bennett showed up.

That said, this was a quick read, and for those of you who prefer your romantic suspense to be light on the violence, this book would definitely fit the bill. I like how Ms. Julian portrays the attraction between her heroes and heroines, so I’ll probably give the second book in the series a chance, but I’m hoping it will be a bit more action-packed.

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