A deadly operative must get close to a shy cryptologist to help stop a deadly global conspiracy in this tense romantic suspense novel by Rushdan (Every Last Breath, 2019)
Gideon Stone is an agent of Gray Box, a secret agency that operates outside the purview of the government. When the leaders of Gray Box discover a mole in their midst after an important suspect dies in their custody, a team of highly skilled spies must investigate their colleagues. Gideon volunteers to get close to analyst Willow Harper. There are startling connections indicating that Willow had something to do with the organization’s betrayal, but Gideon firmly believes the smart woman he’s admired from afar has been framed. Willow keeps to herself at Gray Box headquarters, and Gideon’s sudden attention throws her. Having autism spectrum disorder, Willow is wary of letting anyone get close out of fear that she’ll say or do the wrong thing or that, once people find out the nature of her disorder, she’ll be viewed with pity. The way Willow is often discounted by those close to her—sisters, her ailing father, past lovers—further exacerbates her insecurities. The danger that jeopardizes the couple keeps the plot from turning into a bore, as the romance is too bogged down by unnecessary baggage in the form of Gideon’s late ex-wife, who died under mysterious circumstances, and Willow’s rude, contemptuous sister. Though Gideon clearly has fond feelings for Willow, his continuous insistence that she’s entirely too good for him grows tiresome. His insensitive behavior seems rather hurtful given his knowledge of how Willow has been treated by friends and family. Ultimately, Willow deserves better, and her romantic arc feels far from satisfying. At the very least, the revelation of Gray Box’s traitor will keep readers going.
A misstep in the Final Hour series, which had an otherwise promising start.