Naked Truth by Amy Fetzer

nakedtruth.jpgHelenKay:  Naked Truth is a non-stop, fast-paced romantic adventure.  From the first page, Fetzer grabs the reader and drags her into the life of Alexa Galvin, an undercover CIA agent on the run and on her own.  If you like your romance quirky or light or funny, this probably isn’t the book for you.  If, instead, you look for romance mixed with suspense and delivered at a speed that leaves you breathless, this is your answer.

Naked Truth takes the reader from CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia to Colombia to China without missing a beat.  The action takes place on the ground, in the streets and around helicopters, boats and ships running guns.  But it all starts with Alexa waking up alone, naked, with a chunk of her memory missing and her relay contact dead beside her.  She’s lost thirty days of her life and failed to check in with her CIA boss.  The misstep puts her in danger both from the bad guys who think she has something they need and from the CIA where she is now considered rogue and a possible traitor.

Alexa’s boss, Lania Price, sends Killian Moore, disgraced former military, to find and eliminate Alexa.  Price sweetens the deal by suggesting Alexa is responsible for Killian’s last assignment which lead to the death of his men and his booting from the military.  Killian takes the deal and his team into Colombia prepared to take Alexa out but determined to get some answers of his own.

Fetzer matches Killian and Alexa in strength, determination and even brawn.  Alexa is not a woman in need of rescue in the general sense.  She’s tough on her own because she’s had to be.  She doesn’t depend on Killian to solve her problems or uncover the mysteries of her last thirty days.  Despite her attraction to Killian, when she feels threatened by his presence or the job he’s there to do – which could include killing her for the good of Country – Alexa protects herself.  She, at times, outmaneuvers Killian with moves not often seen in romantic suspense novels. 

Fetzer sets up Alexa as a loner with significant abilities that have served her well in the CIA.  Fetzer then gets out of the way and lets Alexa be Alexa.  Her character is tight and true, believably vulnerable at times and hard at others.  Her motivations are clear and her development over the span of the book is refreshing in that Alexa never falters into the common too-stupid-to-live heroine problem found in some romances.

While Killian is an equal to Alexa, the book belongs to her.  Naked Truth is about Alexa’s journey.  About Alexa’s damaged past and drive to clear her name.  Killian is a sexy and non-nonsense partner.  His troubled past takes a backseat to Alexa’s plight.  His motivations are clear but become a bit muddled early when his attraction overcomes his desire to clear his own name and take his revenge.  While this is a potential weakness of the book it is not significant because Alexa is fleshed out in such a way that Killian’s immediate and undeniable attraction to her is easy to see. 

Naked Truth expertly folds the budding romance into the adventure storyline.  At times, the suspense overwhelms the romance as the story switches locations and the third party players get more attention, but the romance is never lost.  The pacing, which does not have a single down moment, helps to keep the reader’s attention so that the desire for more Alexa-Killian time is satisfied even though many pages pass with action unrelated to their attraction.

Fetzer’s knowledge of the military and military operations is clear.  She uses terms and jargon consistent with the story she’s telling.  For the novice in this area, the acronyms and words can be jarring and, at times, confusing.  A further problem is Fetzer’s tendency not to identify who is speaking with dialog tags.  These factors do not detract from the overall story but can pull the reader out of the action.

Naked Truth promises romance with a mix of adventure.   It delivers.   

Wendy:  Amy J. Fetzer’s Naked Truth is a high octane adventure that moves seamlessly from the jungles of Columbia to the crowded streets of Hong Kong and beyond.  Alexa Galvin is an undercover CIA operative on assignment in South America when she awakens in a cane field, naked, next to a dead man who just happens to have her knife sticking out of his chest.  She knows that her cover has been compromised and she needs to “come in” to the CIA.  What she doesn’t know is:  what’s happened in the last month, who wiped her memory clean, or that the CIA doesn’t want her back.  Killian Moore left the military in disgrace after an operation gone bad was pinned on him.  When CIA deputy director Lania Price—and Alexa’s boss—tells Killian that Alexa is a rogue agent who needs to be “retired” and the Intel leak that lead to the deaths of  Killian’s men as well as the ruination of his career, Killian agrees to go after her. 

Left on her own, without protection or country, Alexa knows the key to getting her life and memory back is to follow her own clues, complete her original mission, and stay a step ahead of those who would like to kill her.  Including Killian Moore.  But, when he finally catches up with Alexa, Killian realizes Lania Price didn’t tell him the truth about Alexa and eventually they team up to take on a Colombian drug king, the Chinese mafia, U.S. backed assassins, cutthroat Chinese military, and a Colombian gun runner with a tanker full of Russian long range missiles.

The action in Naked Truth is nonstop and fuels this plot driven book.  As bullets fly and people die, Fetzer unfurls the story, detail by precious detail, stingily holding on to the most vital pieces for the length of the book.  Alexa’s story is intricate; the cast of characters she encounters is large, and the double time pacing doesn’t allow for so much as the bat of an eyelash.

Fetzer backs her characters into corners and forces them to fight their way out, piling on conflict after conflict.  This works well to reveal Alexa: she is repeatedly shown to be alone, betrayed, and a fighter.  Unfortunately, Killian is left unexplored; his feelings and his tenderness toward Alexa occur with little explanation.  As to be expected with so much emphasis on the external conflict, Alexa and Killian’s ability to dodge bullets is more well developed and more compelling than their love story.

The narrative is jargon heavy — for those not familiar with military or spy thriller lingo a translation is needed.  This scene, where Killian and his men discuss the advisability of bringing the team’s helicopter into enemy territory, is a perfect example:

“Outlaw, are you crazy?”

“Low and hot, sir.  ETA one minute.”

“God dammit.  MSS will shoot you out of the sky!”

Farther out, Logan popped a can of smoke.

“Outlaw to Cutter, I have a visual, coming in.”

“Finn, make a hole,” Killian ordered.

Moreover, the ease of the read is strained by POV warbles that in spots shift from sentence to sentence and dialog that is disjointedly formatted — mudding secondary action and thoughts belonging to one character, while another speaks.  As in this scene between Alexa and supposed pal and fellow operative Cal Pritchard:

“The pay, the women.  The perks.” He shrugged, then stood, motioning her to do the same.  “Over there,” he said and she just noticed the drop cloth on the floor behind the dining table.  “I’ve never eliminated anyone in my own place.”

Overall Naked Truth is an exciting, hard to put down read.  The fast pace and never ending action coupled with a heroine that is darker and more rough than the norm more than make up for the construction issues.

Wendy’s response to HelenKay:  Naked Truth does not shy away from violence against its heroine, Alexa.  Fetzer spares her leading lady, and her readers, nothing.  Alexa is repeatedly molested, hit, tortured, and drugged, to say nothing of the sleep deprivation and starvation she endures.  The blows she receives and the unwanted hands that roam over her are, perhaps, more shocking because the unified romance front is that nothing truly bad should happen to the heroine.  Did you appreciate Fetzer’s more realistic approach or flinch at the brutality?

HelenKay’s response to Wendy:  Fetzer could have taken the easy way out and given Alexa a softer road.  She didn’t and it served the story well.  For the first in a long time, we see a heroine with a dangerous and difficult job where the action takes place on screen and not off.  This isn’t one of those she-was-tortured-in-the-past stories where you are waiting for the heroine to re-live her dark past.  You actually see the darkness. Alexa is confronted with the type of situation you would expect of a woman in her position as a CIA operative on the run.  Anything less would have destroyed the believability of the story.  And, Fetzer goes one step further and has Alexa not only react to violence against her but also dole out some of her own.  When threatened she acts exactly how you think someone in her position would act, even when that means shooting the man she thinks she’s falling for.  That’s not the usual heroine act but it was true to this character.

Wendy’s final thought:  Naked Truth is a thrill ride from the first page to the last.  There isn’t chance to catch one’s breath, or look too closely at the plausibility.  Though weak mechanics mar this otherwise sexy and breathlessly fast paced read, the pages turn quickly enough to forgive the grievances.  Recommended.

HelenKay’s final thought:  Naked Truth is pure action.  The story moves and the heroine never falters.  As a romantic adventure, I highly recommend this book.  For everyone else and anyone looking for something a little grittier, this is recommended reading.

You can visit Amy Fetzer here and buy this book here or here.

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