Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars
Narrator: John Solo
Length: 20 hours, 21 minutes
Enemy Within in the third book in the Executive Office trilogy and this story follows directly upon the previous ones. Since these are high suspense stories, this review will have some spoilers for events in previous books. You can check out my first review for the series, Enemies of the State, to find out more about this great series!
After barely escaping the bombing at CIA headquarters with his life, President Jack Spiers is now on a secret mission to help resolve the escalating international conflict with former General Madigan. He has also reunited with his lover, Ethan Reichenbach, and the pair are working with deposed Russian president, Sergey Puchkov, and his allies. Acting on information from Sasha gathered during his ill-fated flight over the Arctic, they now know that Madigan is planning the end of days and it is going to be a race against time to stop him. With the world believing Jack is dead, he may be uniquely positioned to catch Madigan by surprise. Now, Jack, Ethan, and the others must make a dangerous trek across the frozen wilderness of eastern Russia in an attempt to reach U.S. military assets that can help them get to Madigan.
In the meantime, Adam Cooper and his strike team, along with Adam’s lover Faisal, are attempting to enter the Arctic through the U.S. and provide support as well. Adam has been pulling away from Faisal again, now that the rest of his team has arrived, as he is still unsure what the future can bring for a U.S. Marine and a Saudi prince. But Faisal believes in their love and that they can make it work. As for Sergey, he mourns Sasha and what might have been between them. They shared one kiss, and Sergey is starting to realize he had real feelings for Sasha, but with the plane down, he may have missed his opportunity.
As the forces converge on the Arctic, the situation is more dire than anyone can imagine. Madigan seems to always be one step ahead of him, and every time they seem to find solid ground, things get shaken up once again. Back at home, there are still those loyal to Madigan throughout the military and the government, including in the White House. With so much against them, Jack and Ethan must make their final stand in the frigid north and do all they can to stop Madigan before he destroys the world.
Enemy Within is the thrilling climax to Tal Bauer’s incredible Executive Office trilogy. These books keep building upon one another and Bauer does an amazing job bringing so many pieces together into one intense, suspenseful, and amazing story. Bauer writes romantic suspense like few others and I find myself so incredible immersed any time I read of his books. He is able to create incredibly detailed, involved storytelling that just draws you in, without being overwhelming. When I read one of Bauer’s books, I feel like I am sinking into a new world and the setting just comes to life. Between the frozen ice and deadly conditions, life aboard an attack submarine, and the remote Russian wilderness, I felt like I was right there with these characters. It is amazing how immersive these stories are and how Bauer manages so many plot threads and puzzle pieces, bring them all together perfectly. This story completes the journey we started with Enemies of the State and it has been such an exciting ride. I listened to this one breathlessly as Jack, Ethan, and the others fight to near death to save the world, and the story is thrilling and comes to a wonderful resolution.
The action here actually stops a little earlier than I expected and gives us a chance to follow each of our three couples in the aftermath of the chaos. I was kind of surprised, but it actually works nicely because as much as these books are intense thrillers, their heart is really the journey for Jack and Ethan, as well as Adam and Faisal, and Sergey and Sasha. While Jack and Ethan are the real focus of this series, the other two couples have been developing their relationships right alongside them, and I was happy to see some closure for them as well (though Sergey and Sasha are back in Bauer’s Executive Power series). I just love Jack and Ethan and their connection has been such a lovely thread carrying through these books. Their dedication to one another and the way they support and love each other is just so warm and wonderful and I just adore them together.
I listened to this story once again in audio with narrator John Solo. I think Solo does a nice job with most of the narration, particularly the high suspense areas. Solo tends to have a dramatic style that fits well with the more intense scenes and high action of this series. He has become the voices for Jack and Ethan to me, and I have settled into the narration over the course of the books. The biggest issue for me is that Solo still isn’t strong on the accents, and in a book where there are so many Russian characters, it is particularly noticeable. The Russians sound very similar and have almost universally the same speech patterns. They talk with very slow, menacing voices, as if they are angry or threatening. This is the case even for allies and within friendly conversations. Everyone sounds like stereotypical villains, and the long, drawn out speech patterns just feel incongruous to most of the conversations. I found it frequently distracting and it takes away from the story when Jack’s best friend sounds like he is supposed to be evil. I am not sure if this was an acting choice by Solo, or just down to limited range to handle the accents, but it is something I struggled with throughout the series. That said, I enjoyed listening to these books in audio and think Solo captures the intensity well. If you enjoy audiobooks, I think you would do well picking this series up in audio format.
Overall, I just adored this book and the series. I feel like Bauer has taken me on this amazing journey, with incredible characters and unbelievable thrills. While this book wraps up the main trilogy, there is more to come in this larger world and I am really excited. If you are a fan of romantic suspense, this series can’t be missed. Definitely check it out.