HelenKay: For years romance readers have complained about the too-stupid-to-live (TSTL) heroine. This is the woman who acts in ways that defy common sense and reality. The nonsensical decisions they make come both in the face of true adversity and in reaction to mundane problems. Many times this TSTL woman is too insecure to make a life decision without the approval of her mother or father or grandparent or priest or neighbor or 4th grade teacher or someone in an equal position of power. Despite this, somehow and without explanation, she can take on a McGyver-like quality and diffuse a Tomahawk Missile with her barrette using only the knowledge she gained while growing up on a Kansas farm.
In spite of, or maybe in reaction to, these TSTL heroines comes the kick-ass heroine. These ladies don’t need family permission to take a job or a caucus of friends to pick which man to date. Many can shoot, run, kill, diffuse and fight. Unfortunately, many of these ladies also defy common sense and reality, mostly because of their ability to morph from “normal” to superhuman with little explanation. In those cases, the contexts of their kick-ass natures are wrong. But there are others. Silhouette Bombshell promises from the outset a “strong, savvy, sexy heroine who always saves the day.” A reader goes in expecting a kick-ass heroine with specialized skills and an attitude to match. The worry isn’t that the reader will encounter a TSTL heroine. A kick-ass heroine is guaranteed. The worry then is that the kick-ass heroine won’t convince or stay true to who she is and her surroundings. Wendy Rosnau overcomes all of these worries and delivers on the Bombshell promise with the compelling romantic thriller The Spy With The Silver Lining.
Casmir Balasi is a spy for the Euro-Quest organization. Her cover is as “The Actress” and her power comes from her beauty and seduction abilities. Her last assignment was to infiltrate the criminal web of ruthless Russian mobster Yuri Petrov. She played her role so well that Yuri let down his guard, fell in love and proposed. Trusting Casmir landed Yuri in prison. Now he’s escaped and looking for revenge.
To stop Yuri and gather the information he has on other Quest targets, the leader of Quest joins forces with another spy organization, Onyxx. Onyxx sends in agent Pierce Fourtier to act as Casmir’s bodyguard and protect her at his property, Le Mystere on the Louisiana coast. Pierce and Camir have an unpleasant past, a sexual attraction and an instant dislike for one another. They also have to fight off Yuri and survive the surprise plans Quest and Onyxx has for both of them.
Silhouette Bombshell promises many things. A satisfying romance isn’t included on that list, but The Spy With The Silver Lining offers a very convincing one. Pierce is a rough alpha male with a soft accent and Bayou history. As a hero his emotional shield and dark bad boy personality would command most of the attention in the usual romance novel. But The Spy With The Silver Lining isn’t the usual romance. It’s not the usual anything – and that is part of what makes it such an enjoyable read. The Spy With The Silver Lining is a fast-moving spy thriller in the mold of television’s Alias but with a plot and heroine all its own.
Casmir doesn’t fit neatly into any type, even that of the kick-ass heroine. Her job is to use sex to get the information her agency needs from her male targets. She’s comfortable in her sexual role and very good at it. Until Yuri came into her life, sex was just another part of the job. A skill that went along with whatever role she played at that moment. With Yuri, for the first time someone loved her for her. The realization and her betrayal of him leave her with remorse and a sense of insecurity. When Pierce walks into her life, Casmir is reeling from her relationship with Yuri and facing a new betrayal by Quest. The result is a rich character with an uncomfortable and unusual history.
Part of what makes this all work is that Rosnau wisely avoids many of the pitfalls that could send this kick-ass heroine into unbelievable territory. The plot takes the couple to various locations, but the run-for-your-life feel is less about saving the world than it is about saving each other. The personal level of the conflict keeps a heroine who may otherwise be hard for some readers to relate to in light of her past very human. Rosnau also refrains from saddling Pierce with a “how dare you not be a virgin” hang-up about Casmir’s work as a seductress. This choice is in keeping with the gritty world Casmir and Pierce inhabit. The result of Rosnau’s refusal to take the easier and more traveled romance novel road is a glimpse into the inner workings of the spy world that feels true.
One of the strengths here, among many, is the fact that, like real people, no character is all good or all bad. Each person is complex in the sense of being caught between conflicting motivations, wants and needs. Yuri’s bloody past isn’t a secret, but he isn’t the typical evil villain either. His emotions run much deeper. Likewise, the leaders of Onyxx and Quest, Casmir’s mother and the other secondary characters are well-rounded and weighed down with imperfections. Some operatives are introduced either as potential future book characters or as glimpses of book characters past. This leads to a few “what am I missing moments” but those are few and do not diminish the otherwise strong and vibrant writing here. For those stuck in the “I like romantic suspense but don’t read category romance” cycle, The Spy With The Silver Lining is a prime example of why you should re-think that reading strategy.
Final Thoughts: A convincing thriller, sexy romance and fresh take on the kick-ass heroine.
You can visit Wendy Rosnau here and buy this book here and here.