Katherine Lovegrove, a distant heir to the English throne – think higher than two dozen steps – and daughter of judge Michael Lovegrove receives threats from an organized crime family because the latter is about to sentence the daughter of the head of the family to a lot of time in prison.
Eve Webb is a former protection agent, resigning from her job because of a double bombing – one immediate, one shortly after in order to catch first responders to the scene -and because she not only thinks she could have done more (how??) but because of the way information is compartmentalized and she thinks the intelligence services should be sharing information about things like threats of bombings so they can all work together to address threats. I don’t have much optimism about this, no matter how this book ends. She’s living in Tokyo, teaching English here and there and basically barely making ends meet. Her former boss now runs his own show, and goes to Tokyo to get her back to protect Katherine. There’s quite a bit of money involved, so Eve says yes and they return to London. Eve knows nothing about the job, the specific threat(s), or the protectee. You can see where this is going when we find out Eve is a staunch anti-monarchist.
And of course it does: Eve threatens her boss that she’ll quit on the spot because she is opposed to protecting a royal, no matter how distant, but he pleads with her to meet with someone: the judge. After hearing him out, Eve reluctantly agrees to do the job.
Katherine, trying to have her own life, objects, of course, and then goes on to have a childlike hissy fit about Eve staying in her apartment with her. The very next day – when her father hands down the sentence – a brick is thrown through her office window. Obviously, she won’t be able to work there in person, as it puts everyone else at risk, so off they go to a very large manor (or very small castle, depending on your viewpoint): her childhood home. Where she promptly locks herself in her room. Like a child, instead of a grown woman almost 40 years old.
Eve’s unhappy as well, and gets more people from her boss to help guard the castle, which, from a protection standpoint, is not a bad place to be: clear lines of sight, thick walls, and easy coverage of access points. It’s a dream!
Except Katherine doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t want Eve and her crew on the site, and generally is petulant. She convinces Eve to allow her to attend a charity ball that she’s been organizing for a year, and where she gets people to open their wallets wide, and Eve agrees after determining not that that’s an easy place to protect Katherine but that it means so damn much to her. This would be a signal that you’re allowing your judgement to be impaired because you’re falling in love with he protectee even though there’s no real chemistry going on.
And on that note, one other item: close protection duties mean close and almost always in contact. Alas, here, Eve and Katherine are not particularly close nor in constant contact with one another, so it’s a bit mystifying how these two start falling for one another when they’re also on different sides of things, attitude and royalty-wise, and Katherine has had a stick up her hind end about the lack of need of Eve’s services in the first place.
In any case, they’re on the way back to the castle afterwards, and someone takes a shot at the car, injuring the driver and causing Eve to jump into action, telling Katherine to get down, and taking over driving duties to get them to safety. Katherine is then at the castle, and Eve is off to a briefing with her boss. One again: not close, not in contact.
There are also no questions/discussions given over to the reader about the potshot at the car. Routes are varied, and they never take the same route twice, so how did anyone know? The obvious answer, of course: there’s a mole. Either this does not occur to Eve or her boss, or the reader is left out until later. The former would be rather silly for experienced protection service people, and the latter is, I think, unfair.
Eve, deciding she’s too close to Katherine, feely-wise, decides to hand over protection to someone else, and scoots. Katherine is promptly kidnapped, courtesy of someone ramming the car – again, how does anyone know the route?
Eve and her boss finally realize there’s a mole, and there’s a showdown in Ops, with Eve taking a guy to the floor and punching staples into his back until he gives up the location.
This leads to a bunch of services working together to retrieve Katherine, and Eve is there, leading Katherine out of the warehouse where she’d been stashed (and beaten), and where the head of the organized crime family has pulled a Stupid Thing, by being there on premises so the law can catch him, because daughter for daughter something something, even though his daughter is both not beaten and is also not dead.
So Eve and Katherine are reunited, and are now totally In Love, despite barely seeing one another through the whole book, and also apparently having worked out that whole royal-anti-monarchist thing in record time. The get the HEA, naturally.
As much as I hate the instalove trope, I recognize that it’s a handy way to cut out many chapters of a book and get to the chase, so to speak. But you have to decide what the book is: is it a romance, with occasional flashes of mystery and danger? Or is it primarily a mystery/action/thriller, with occasional romance and/or sexytimes (note: there are no sexytimes in this book)? It’s also fine if it it is both in equal measures, of course. I don’t think this worked on any of the three. There isn’t enough action except at the end for me to believe Katherine is any real danger that couldn’t be averted. There is no chemistry and no romance. The only balance between the two is a distinct lack of either. I’d have read twice the number of pages to get either or both.
It sounds like I’m just pounding on this, but I’m not – I’m just demanding because I want good stories and I want them to make sense. YMMV on every point I’ve made before now, but I imagine the last one is true for everyone.
Two and a half stars out of five, sadly rounded down to two.
Thanks to Bold Stroke Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.