My favourite Carsen Taite books are usually the ones with lawyers and courtroom scenes but this one comes close.
Royal Scott is an FBI agent specializing in undercover operations. At the beginning of the story, she gets pulled from a job and immediately sent to another one, spying on the Mancuso family, and, more precisely, on the don’s consigliere, Siobhan Collins. As she finds herself falling for her mark, Royal can’t shake the feeling that nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems.
In the acknowledgements, Carsen Taite mentions getting help from lesfic’s mafia expert Ali Vali. While I’m not a huge fan of Vali’s Cain Casey’s series, it has nothing to do with her talent (for me to enjoy books with morally grey characters, I need to love said characters absolutely and Casey never did it for me). I don’t know whether Taite and Vali had long work sessions on this or if it was just a couple of tips over the phone but the result is awesome. What I usually care most about in a book is the characters but what I’ll probably remember about this book is the atmosphere, this impression of a dark shadow, the sense of foreboding.
Which doesn’t mean I didn’t like the characters. Both Royal and Siobhan are captivating and complex. Siobhan is uncertain of her place in the family, Royal isn’t so sure she loves her job anymore. They’re both willful and reluctant to admit they deserve better, a situation made even more complicated by Royal’s undercover mission since she can’t be entirely truthful about who she is. Siobhan and Royal have wonderful chemistry from the first time they meet. Carsen Taite writes the irresistibility very well, the powerlessness of the head over what heart and body desire.
Among the secondary characters, my favourite is Royal’s brother Ryan and Siobhan’s bodyguard Neal. I was also very pleasantly surprised to see one of Ali Vali’s characters (Muriel Casey) get a cameo.
The tension keeps growing in a thrilling way but it’s resolved in a twist that feels a tad anticlimactic. For the author to give the readers a happy ending, there was only one way the story could go, and I didn’t mind that the ending was unsurprising because it made complete sense, but I would have liked the getting there to be more elaborate.
Carsen Taite is always a sure bet, her stories always entertaining. This one is no exception.