Title: The Long Con
Author: Lori Toland
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: Novel

Rating: 3.75

Lori Toland is offering a giveaway copy of The Long Con to one lucky commenter! Check out the end of this post for more details.

Nathaniel Bradley is an agent for Britain’s Serious Organized Crime agency (SOCA), bringing down crime rings and stopping drug shipments.  He is very close to his grandfather and his wife Margaret, as they are his only remaining family following the deaths of his parents.  So when Bradley gets a call that his grandparents have been robbed, he rushes right over.  It turns out the thieves have stolen a rare treasure, one of the famous missing Faberge eggs which has been passed down through Margaret’s family.  Knowing how important the egg is to her, Bradley follows its trial, eventually tracking the egg to the U.S.  Although he is being monitored by his SOCA boss, Bradley is investigating privately and outside of official channels.

Six months later, Bradley has found the egg in the posession of a group of con artists who are attempting to sell it to Tony Terranova, son of a mafia boss.  While the criminals think the egg is a fake, Bradley is pretty sure this is actually the real thing, but he needs to get close to it to tell.  When attempting to approach one of the con artists, they mistake him for a gay prostitute, then invite him to join in their con as a lure for Tony who is also gay.  Bradley successfully meets up with Tony at a party and sparks fly between them, leading to sex in the bathroom and a promise of more to come.  Bradley is also able to connect the con artists with Tony and ease their way into the sale.

Over the course of the next couple of days we follow as the art thieves continue to work Tony, trying to convince him the egg is real and make the multimillion dollar con.  Most of the book’s attention focuses on Tony and Bradley developing relationship, however.  The two men fall quickly into an intense sexual relationship, and soon find feelings developing between them.  Bradley finds himself falling in love with Tony and is pained by the awareness that there can be no future between a criminal and an agent.  Tony seems like such a good guy with so many more layers than Bradley expects. But he also knows he must ultimately betray him by stealing back the egg to return in it to Margaret.  As he falls deeper in love with Tony, Bradley wonders if his heart will ever recover when this job is over.

I found the set up for this story quite interesting and really liked the law enforcer versus the criminal aspect.  I was especially interested by the history and lore surrounding the Faberge egg and felt that gave this story a bit of an unusual twist.  I enjoyed following along with the story, waiting to see how things would unfold between Bradley and Tony and how all the pieces would come together.

As much as I liked the basis of the story, for me it suffered for realism.  There were just a lot of things that didn’t seem to make sense.  For example, Tony is a fairly closeted gay mafia son, yet he is bold enough to have sex with a total stranger in a public bathroom at a big party just minutes after meeting him?  And he has no security with him? Then invites Bradley to his home, giving him his home address, again just a short time after meeting him?  And these con artists bring in Bradley as a totally unknown member of their team the day before their big score?  There also seemed to be a lot of loose ends involving the missing egg.  This is a priceless historic artifact, it seemed surprising that his grandparents just had it sitting in their home.  Then it is stolen, but no one hears about the theft.  I was also unclear why Bradley is investigating independently as it seems like this would be in his purview with SOCA, or at least that he could get in on someone else’s investigation. But it doesn’t appear any other British agency is even investigating the theft.  And then he tracks the egg to the U.S., but it is never explained how it got from the original thieves to these con artists, nor why they are assuming it is a fake.

Now I will say that many of the questions that troubled me are resolved by the end of the book, satisfactorily addressing a lot of things that bothered me throughout the story.  And I totally understand why they are left until the end as to not give away the resolution to the investigation.  So I felt a lot better about some of these issues by the time I finished the story and it came together much better than I expected.  But there were still quite a number of places that just didn’t feel realistic to me (or at least weren’t explained well enough) and they just threw me out of the story a bit too much.

My other issue with the story was the speed and intensity with which Bradley and Tony go from strangers to in love with one another.  Essentially the book takes place over about a 2-3 day period.  From the first night Bradley goes to Tony’s apartment after the party, he basically moves in so the men spend all their time together.  So definitely an intense experience with lots of sex and lots of time alone together, but I still had a hard time accepting feelings of love after 24 hours.  Their feelings are so fast and overwhelming in such a short time I just had trouble believing it, especially as we don’t see them doing much to get to know one another beyond having sex.  Lust I can buy, but love just seemed to happen way too quickly with too little foundation.  Also, although Bradley admits Tony makes him feel and act in ways he knows aren’t professional, it still seems hard to imagine this trained agent so easily being distracted from his investigation and putting so much focus into this romance with a criminal.

As the story unfolds, we find a lot more is going on than either we as readers, or Bradley realizes. He frequently gets the sense that things don’t add up (as do we), and it isn’t until the climax of the story that all the pieces are revealed.  This made for a much more interesting story, but also keeps us out of Tony’s head and we see only Bradley’s limited POV.  I wish we got a bit more sense of Tony throughout the story, as he is such an interesting character.  We know there is more to him than at first glance, and Bradley sees the layers to him from the start, but the setup makes it hard for us as readers to really get to know him, and as a result, to connect with him.  Bradley is the POV character, so we are better able to understand what is motivating him and how he is feeling about the investigation and Tony.  So he is definitely fleshed out more as a character, although I did get a bit tired of his constant comments about his own good looks.

Overall I thought this was a good story with an interesting premise.  I wish it had come together more for me because I think the set up was quite a good one.  But I do admit I struggled with it a bit, wishing for something that felt just a bit more real, both in the romance and the investigation.  Things definitely improved for me as we learn more about what is really going on, but not quite enough for this to be a total hit for me.

And now as promised, one lucky commenter has a chance to win a copy of The Long Con!  Please leave a comment at the end of this post.  The contest ends Thursday, April 19 at 11:59 pm EST.

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