Huntington (Jade, 2013, etc.) pits two CIA agents against an international smuggling cartel in this romantic thriller.
Charlotte, N.C.–based realtor Darcy Devereaux interrupts a date with her fiance, Pete, to show a frustrating (but handsome) customer, Matt McCord, the Warren Estate for the fourth time. To Darcy’s surprise, Matt agrees to buy the property and personally hires her to oversee its renovation. She has four months to finish while he’s in Europe. Unbeknownst to her, Matt is a CIA agent, and he heads for Athens, Greece, where he and his partner, Leeza, take on a mission to help Greek authorities search for stolen artifacts. Professor Stephanos Papandrou, the director of antiquities at the Athens National Museum, has been murdered, and several porcelain miniatures were taken from his home, including a statuette called the Morning Glory Woman. Matt and Leeza, posing as archaeologists, investigate and soon learn of an international crime organization named ARES. Back in Charlotte, Darcy finds Pete growing cold, distant and downright nasty, particularly when she questions him about his friendship with the voluptuous Marilee. However, she’s soon preoccupied with a springhouse she finds on the Warren Estate, in which she finds a hidden cache of sculptures—never guessing that they relate both to Matt’s case and Pete’s altered demeanor. Later, Matt and Leeza encounter Gustav Longhren, an eccentric smuggler who owns the island of Scaurikk, which nobody leaves alive. Huntington exuberantly fuses these elements into a subtle, shimmering mystery, often offering readers dazzling opulence: “There were flowering vines and bushes in a profusion of colors...the entire effect was welcoming, a soothing elegance.” The characters, meanwhile, are mostly well-drawn, red-blooded men and women who hold their torrid longings in check; for example, Darcy, despite her engagement, frequently fantasizes about Matt, with his “eyes the color of the sky” and “perfectly sculpted” chin. (However, one minor character refers to homosexuality as “deviant,” which may offend some readers.) The villains are entertainingly bombastic, as well; in a flashback, Longhren says, “No jail will hold me, and no matter how long it takes, I’ll make you sorry you ever met me!”
An often engaging romantic thriller.