Working for British Secret Service has always required the utmost dedication and a certain amount of risk taking. Martin and Casey have been partners for years and the fact that they always get results allows them a certain level of freedom to get creative in order to solve their cases. Now, the pair are charging into the fray once again to bring down the criminal who had the gall to steal the crown jewels of England.
In hot pursuit of his perp, Casey manages to launch himself out a third story window. He prepares for the worst (life altered by permanent disability) and hopes for the best (a quick end to his suffering). Desperate to save Casey’s life, Martin swoops in to save the day…and blow the lid clean off one of the biggest secrets in the world. The ramifications of Martin’s actions are immediate and dire: both are sentences to death. Perhaps even more cruel is that the life-or-death situation has pushed the two men to admit that their feelings for one another run deeper than professional respect. They are in completely in love.
Casey and Martin spend what they expect to be their final hours together exploring their emotional and physical connection. They expect the worse when the go before a secret court for judgement—only to be granted a “reprieve” in the form of a bonding ceremony that would effectively keep Martin and Casey from revealing the secret to outsiders. The caveat: no other couples in living memory have survived the ceremony. Plus, there are some old cases that rear their ugly heads to wreak havoc on the balance of world powers. Suddenly, Casey and Martin are fighting to solve a series of mysteriously interconnected crimes that once again threaten their love, their friends and family, and the civilized world.
First off, let me say that if the summary sounds a bit overwhelming, be well forewarned that the book is much in the same vein. The biggest issue with the book overall is how Dee pulls out cliche after cliche. You name it, it’s in here: professional partners who love each other but can’t confess it to one another (in TWO sets of characters); willful misunderstandings to cause emotional strife; laws in this universe only apply to characters who are NOT the MCs; the guy who has always know about “the secret” can’t explain anything about the secret; the MCs get to change the culture around “the secret” because they’re such a shining example of true love.
Just like the ideas felt like a chain of cliches, the writing was unimaginative and dull. I was frustrated that there were obvious and egregious mistakes in the prose. One glaring example: When Martin is first introduced, he has blue eyes; Casey is described as having brown. The next time Lee mentioned Martin’s eye color, they were described as blue. This is a main character and I think basics like physical appearance (if it must be in the story) are so basic, so fundamental, getting it wrong is a huge turn off for me.
Another big problem area for me was how unrealistically the professional lives of Martin, Casey, and all the other characters are portrayed. There seems to have been zero research into how the British Secret Service might operate, so there is no credibility there. Martin and Casey seem to have free, unlimited, and unquestioned access to anything they want: time off work, government safe houses, medical attention, legal council (bonus: Martin’s own brother serves as their lawyer—as if ethics means nothing in the world of law). It was just annoying to realize Lee was going to power through the plot at the expense of everything. I can suspend my disbelief, but I don’t appreciate authors roundly ignoring all world building for the sake of more drama.
The action of the story overall can be separated into two major chunks: the Martin/Casey get-together chunk and the Martin/Casey save-the-world chunk. For me, this level of writing is best in small doses. Personally, I would have been grudgingly satisfied with this if the story had stopped at the Martin/Casey get-together arc and saved the rest of it for a sequel. Even before the two MCs got their romance straightened out, I was eagerly eyeing the progress bar in my e-reader app to see how close I was to the end of this story. The only improvement I got was that Lee ropes in a few more characters in the latter half, but I was annoyed that their story arc starts off exactly like Casey and Martins: two colleagues who harbor unrequited love for one another.
Personally, I just didn’t enjoy reading this much. There is just too much going on and it’s all over the top. I am deliberately not discussing this big “secret,” but it factors into just about everything regarding the characters and their actions. To be clear, Martin knows exactly what this secret is. Once the big reveal is over and everyone who matters knows the secret, however, Lee does absolutely nothing to really build it into the world she’s created. It feels incredibly lazy to have such an overt, attention consuming element in the story, but every time a question about this element comes up, no one knows the answer. Even Harry Potter had house elves to explain how Hogwarts feasts were cooked and thestrals to explain the “horseless” carriages. This book? Nothing. It just is.
If you have a high tolerance for exasperatingly cliche story lines, overly melodramatic characters, trite love scenes, and problems that get resolved in a page or two, this book may be of interest to you. Otherwise, I’d skip it.