23 December 2008

REVIEW: GINA ROBINSON - SPY CANDY

Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: Zebra (November 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1420104721
ISBN-13: 978-1420104721


Summary:
LIVE AND LET SPY
From her sensible shoes to her dating choices, bank officer Jenna Jarvis has always played it safe. But her fantasy life is a whole other story. And now Jenna's got a golden opportunity to play a real-life secret agent, courtesy of her generous best friend and a fantasy spy camp set smack dab in the red-hot center of the Arizona desert...

The stay starts off with a bang—literally—as a car explodes to greet Jenna and her fellow covert trainees, each of whom have a spydentity based on an iconic undercover agent. But it's the real-life operatives who capture Jenna's attention, particularly super-buff ex-CIA agent-cum-instructor Torq Toricelli. Confidence boosted by playing a bold-as-brass hot babe, Jenna might just have a fighting chance with Torq—if she can make it through camp in one piece...

A few near-misses have made it frighteningly clear that someone is taking this fantasy way too seriously. Jenna's mission: find out who's gunning for her fellow spies—and live to die another day...

Review:
Perhaps it is a bit of misfortune for Gina Robinson to get me as a reader of her story, Spy Candy. I stumbled upon her debut novel and on impulse ordered it along with the rest of my books. I was teased upon reading the summary: woman (Jenna) is going to a fantasy spy camp where she meets hunk-a-liscious ex CIA agent annex instructor Torq Toricelli. In real life Jenna is an ordinary bank officer who gets to play the vamp every man notices and starts howling at the moon for. I was in the mood for light hearted and fun filled adventure and thought I was set for it with Spy Candy.

Okay, it is light hearted and it definitely had some fun filled moments but there were a few things so off for me it rapidly diminished my reading pleasure.
Reason 1 - Though this has nothing to do with the author or her novel it is a reflection of my interest. From page one the referrals to Bond movies missed its effect on me, I can place the “shaken, not stirred” comments but who the heck is Money Penny, Octopussy or 006. Referral to certain actions of characters or events in the Bond movies also was lost to me as a reader. It created a distance between me and the characters of this novel simply because of the fact I never seen a Bond/007 movie.

Reason 2 - The story heavily leaned on the spy business and the author was very descriptive about a multitude of aspects. It made me feel like I was volunteering for a spying 101 and though it made the Spy Camp aspect more realistic the only thing I truly wanted was to get more of the vibe between Torq and Jenna. With the plot that comes and goes it quickly became hard for me to keep on reading and invested enough to care about the outcome of this story. I even had to refrain myself from starting to skim the pages, impatient as I got to just be finished with this story! Perhaps it was due to the high octane of “Bond vibe” that it just completely missed the bull’s-eye with me.

Reason 3 was something that took a while for me to figure out but I suddenly realized that I was reading a story with a first person narrative. Now I can say it is due to the smooth writing style of the author but it is more likely that I was so distracted that it took me a while (100 pages or so) to notice it. With a first person’s point of view it is always a gamble. Do you like this person, does his/her emotions pull at your own strings and can you relate to him/her? Well to make an understatement: It felt like I came from Mars when Jenna came from Venus. Her love for Bond is so alien to me it literary alienated me from the story.
While this review emphasizes on the Bond gap it created between me and the story I feel that the plot was okay but not generating any sense of urgency to find out how it will all end. Robinson was definitely going for playful fun! The cast of camp characters was diverse with nerds, buff and tough wannabe heroes, and true to the core gentlemen. Along with the camp combat instructors who were all ex army, ex Special Forces, ex CIA and stuntmen to top it off.

The two who got the most attention were Torq and Fry, Torq as the mysterious, hot male whom radiates danger but also knows how to flirt. And Fry as the Texas drawling Casanova, whom mostly had a laid-back attitude of sensuality. Jenna seriously tries to be a sensuous Bond-girl and her side-kick in her camp adventure is Emma. They both wield their alternate persona’s into the hot guy zone of Torq and Fry to find out about the final test to solve a kidnapping. In the meantime someone is taking the spy camp thing a little too seriously and starts creating havoc with some dangerous accidents.

The characters were all nice but besides Jenna and perhaps Emma no one particularly leaped of the pages. While Jenna and Torq had their moments where a spark was actually created it didn’t reach more than vanilla sensuality. And while some scenario’s breached a smile on my face - mainly when Jenna attempted to be the cool and sensual Bond girl - it could not elevate the pleasure of reading. In the end what really made my mood plummet is the lack of conclusion in the romance department. The romance was already paper-thin and though it had a spark and even chemistry between the main couple there was no true scorching desire and the ending retained no real closure or real sense of a future for them as a couple. Heck, he didn’t even reveal his true name and there was no declaration of feelings. In the final pages she went down on him with her Bond fantasy in mind!

While I feel I’ve penned down a review that leans toward the negative I will say that if you enjoy a fun filled suspense romp with a rich “007 energy” this might be an entertaining read. Or if you are an absolute Bond-lover whom is in search for a light humorous read I would say: “Give it a try!” It just couldn’t rock my boat with so many things off for me and in the end it just missed its mark!

Quote Torq:
“But the real world of spying and special ops is no Bond fantasyland. You’ll have no special gizmos, no rocket-launching bagpipes, piano-wire garrote watches, laser-firing cameras, or machine-gun-firing BMW’s to get you out of the scrapes.”


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