A CIA operative must fight magic and her own feelings in Frieden’s (Dialysis: A Memoir, 2014) tale of romance and suspense.
CIA agent Carla deVille has tried hard to leave her past, and her family’s dabbling in the supernatural, behind. However, when Carla is captured by a group called the Illuminati and almost used as an offering to a dark force, she must return to her roots in Santa Barbara and go undercover as a civilian in order to investigate the mysterious group. Her journey home is complicated by the reappearance of an old flame (and old rival) Mark Lyons. Despite Mark’s wealth, he is working for the same private eye firm that Carla is using as her cover, putting them in persistent contact and putting Carla’s emotions in constant turmoil. Yet he also seems to be involved with a shadowy firm that has connections to the Illuminati. Carla’s case becomes even more worrisome when her sister Gwen, who is being initiated into a coven their mother once led, is kidnapped and ritualistic markings are left in her store. In her search to find her sister, Carla must also reconnect with her mother, who has been confined to a mental hospital since Carla’s seventeenth birthday. More coven members are abducted and more ties between Mark’s family and the Illuminati are revealed, yet Carla’s associates and Mark himself claim to be on her side. Carla struggles to find out who she can trust, and to work with the more fantastic elements of her case. The case Carla pursues is an intriguing one, carefully straddling the edge between fantasy and reality so that even the reader isn’t sure who to believe. However, the characters are frequently unbelievable themselves. The character of Carla is a heavily clichéd stereotype of a tough-but-beautiful female CIA agent being brought down to a fallible level by her sexual desires. Despite trying to avoid emotion and instincts in favor of logic and martial arts training, all it takes is a few moments pressed up against a handsome man or a whiff of his cologne to leave her lost in a hormonal daze, momentarily unable to fight as her body and mind are subdued by her urges.
Repetitive and predictable mind/body battles weigh down what is otherwise a quick and entertaining spy romp.