Top-Secret Bride by Nina Bruhns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was my 1st book by Nina Bruhns, and it was a very good one. As a romantic suspense, it had the right balance between romance and suspense, with some fast paced thrilling scenes as a bonus, just the way I like it.
While working undercover at a jewelry boutique in Paris, SIS (British Secret Intelligence Service aka MI6) agent Marina Bond - no James Bond jokes, please - overhears a phone conversation about some kind of threat against the Lazlo Group, one of the most elite private investigation agencies in the world. Corbett Lazlo, the head of the Lazlo Group, is a friend of her father and saved her life once, so she feels obligated to return the "favor" and warn him about what she's heard. So she sets up a secret meeting with him in a seedy hotel in the Monmartre district so she can give him the heads-up. But it isn't Lazlo who shows up at her hotel room door...
DeWitt von Kreus is one of Lazlo's agents and was sent to the meeting in his boss' place because the man himself couldn't make it. But Marina has been in the spy business for too long to trust Witt blindly and, out of the blue, invokes the so-called "Denmark protocol", an old-school safety measure that requires Witt to strip naked to prove he's not wired. Obviously, Witt invokes the protocol in return. Uh-oh. Marina isn't shy and has nothing to hide, and neither does Witt. So strip naked they do... and the attraction between them is explosive and unmistakable.
Marina takes a deep breath - after all, she's a professional - and manages to control her libido long enough to give Witt the info she's gathered, all the while intending to leave as soon as possible before she gives in to temptation and jumps his bones. But he has other plans, and when she tries to leave the hotel room, they end up having wild, hot sex against the door. Wow, that was fast! ;) Witt wants to see her again but Marina doesn't do casual sex - what happened in the hotel room was just a fluke - and knows he isn't up to a long-term relationship, so she's ready to dismiss him the moment they step out of the hotel and get back to their separate jobs.
But then someone starts shooting at them, and Witt decides to stick to Marina like glue until they find out what's happening. Who's the shooter after, Witt or Marina? Is the attack related to the threats against the Lazlo Group? Or has it something to do with the undercover operation Marina's working at the moment? While they work together to try and solve these mysteries, the initial attraction between Witt and Marina grows and they soon find themselves falling in love.
This was a very entertaining and edgy read, full of action from beginning to end. Bullets started flying in the 1st Chapter and only stopped in the last. Witt was one very sexy hero, marriage-shy due to a traumatic event that happened when he was only a teenager growing up in South Africa, and he had more than a professional interest in bringing down the Angolan broker who worked for several African terrorist groups, trafficking illegal conflict diamonds in exchange for firearms. Marina didn't have a "tortured" past but she loved her job and, based on her parents' experience, she didn't think it would be possible to have a lasting relationship with anyone and keep her job at the same time. Witt and Marina had some rough spots along the way - he really had to work on his protective instinct and accept the fact that she was a competent agent and could take care of herself - but they were good to and with each other.
As mentioned before, this book had an "instant coupling" scenario. It takes a good writer to make me buy that, and I'm happy to say Ms. Bruhns made it work for me. She built the sexual tension in those 1st pages in a very believable way, so when Witt and Marina acted on their attraction so fast and furious, it was hot instead of icky. Plus, Ms. Bruhns didn't have Witt and Marina thinking they were in love with each other immediately after "the deed", so kudos to her.
The ending was a bit frustrating because not all the mysteries were solved. I should have expected that considering this book is part of a miniseries, but I only found that out after I finished it and was left hanging in the air. Anyway, I'm not holding it against the book, since that's how it was supposed to be. All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book.
Note: Top-Secret Bride is the 3rd installment in the multi-author miniseries Mission: Impassioned. I didn't know that beforehand, or I would have tried to find and read the previous books before reading this one. Anyway, I didn't feel lost in the story, so it's fair to say you don't have to read this series in order - except for the last one, I'm guessing. As a rule, I'm not a big fan of multi-author series because the stories can be a bit uneven and I don't necessarily like the writing style of all the authors engaged in the series, but I'll have to find and read the last book, Lazlo's Last Stand by Kathleen Creighton, if I want to know who the master villain of the overall story arc is. Oh well, I might as well try and find all the other books in the series since I enjoyed this one so much...
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