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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Undercover Angel

Undercover Angel by Karen Wiesner
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: Full
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: Best Book
Review by Xeranthemum

Second in Network command, Captain Shannon McKee leads the organization with an unfeeling, iron fist, just as her father did before her. Yet, when the opportunity comes to take down the most notorious drug dealer in history, she goes after her heart’s desire—to utterly destroy the man who killed her younger brother.

But Mareno Ortega isn’t at all what Shannon expects him to be. He’s intelligent, attractive, charming, shy...and, unbelievably, a doting father to his two children. Shannon has more reason to hate this criminal than anyone else, yet she finds herself confused by his contradictions. Is he a man with no options, playing a game he desperately wants out of? Or is he an enigma, trying to seduce her in a cat-and-mouse chase she can’t win?

The only man alive who can stop this undercover angel from pursuing her suicide mission is the Navy SEAL she served with and nearly lost her heart to, Captain Ron Blair, currently Network Master Strategist. But can Ron save her...from herself?

The Incognito series has been many things; engrossing, riveting, heart thumpingly suspenseful, fast paced and exciting, not to mention intensely passionate. Get ready for the next level in Undercover Angel.

At times, I found some of the stories in this series uncomfortable to read. Why do I say that? Because I am never unaffected by the emotional twists and turns Ms. Wiesner’s characters have to struggle through to reach their HEA. Undercover Angel succeeds in wringing a caring connection out of me for the very character I had come to think of as the enemy. Sure, Shannon McKee, the top dog in the agency, works for the good guys but her inflexible stance against deep emotional relationships between agents has always rubbed me the wrong way. This book is one that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. How would Ms. Wiesner handle this delicate challenge? How could she change the rules of The Network’s platform without compromising its strength? How could she make me care for a woman that I’d come to revile? Prepare yourself for Shannon’s courageous and painful awakening to truth.

I have to share this with you. Sometimes when I read, I listen to music and once I hit chapters twelve and thirteen, my perceptions of Shannon McKee were blown away. Add to that the song that came on right at the moment I got my first real peek into Shannon’s past, her heart and her fear. The song was by the Carpenters , “Hurting Each Other”, and it really hit home. All I could think of was this was the perfect theme song for the love between Shannon and Ron Blair. I mean, there is pain along with their love –how could I not feel for them? Through it all, the thought that their connection could have survived, that there was and is something there to save and to fight for has got to be as romantic as Romeo and Juliette.

My gosh, Ms. Wiesner has me feeling sorry for Shannon. This character, a woman I’ve hated with great zeal because of how she treats her operatives and the rules she’s enforced, ends up being all too human. A woman who has such tortured depths that she’s drowned in them to the point she’s forgotten how to be a woman, indeed she thinks that part of her might be a fatality to her goals.

This is a tragic love story. Not so much about the man/woman thing, though there is that, but Shannon is a woman who’s forgotten how to love herself. And she’s scared. So very scared and dang it all, I found my self rooting for Shannon with tears in my eyes. She’s lost but can’t face it. Not yet. Ron is her savior, her touchstone and the key to the emotional treasure locked, bolted and barricaded inside her.

But how can a love that only had just started growing years before possibly survive the arctic winter Shannon had put it in? The reasons, the drive, the cold passion that drives her would have driven anyone else to their knees. Ms. Wiesner has written a powerful story of a warrior, a patriot and a human being with strong convictions. Shannon needs to rediscover how to deal with the emotional inferno that waits within her before it destroys all that she’s worked for. To do that, she needs to open herself to her past and the person from it-- Ron.

When Ron flashes back to the memories of their past, the dialogue has to be some of the most romantic and poignant than any Ms. Wiesner has written during this entire series. The heartfelt revelations and passion in a place so filled with evil intent and hopelessness truly is a stroke of writing genius. I dare anyone to remain unmoved after reading it.

The catalyst comes when Shannon goes on a field assignment in the outside world and she comes face to face with all that she’s done and all that she’s forgotten. The pace picks up and with tight and effective writing, you are emotionally dragged along with Shannon as revelations bombard her, one after the other. It all makes sense. Ms. Wiesner’s talent for using strong descriptive language painted clear images of a character’s turmoil and struggles; of yearnings and hope. Once again, Ms. Wiesner cleverly writes within the rules of this world yet manages to spin it on its axis, taking me on a new journey. There is nothing staid or comfortable in the Incognito series – it constantly has me on edge. In Undercover Angel I was riding a seesaw of “will she or won’t she” all the while keeping my fingers crossed that Shannon will.

Ms. Wiesner also has kept the quality of grit intact in this latest adventure. The world of The Network is dangerous, fraught with peril and betrayals, determination and violence. The villain is a surprise on a couple of levels and I truly never had a clue who it was.

If you’ve been following the Incognito series, then this is a must read. I would advise readers to check out the previous books in the series because doing so will insure the same powerful impact on them as Undercover Angel had for me. There is no question, this book is Shannon McKee’s story and it is worth the telling.