BEHIND HER MASK IS A DEADLY SECRET…
The powerful head of the covert mercenary organization The Committee, Isobel Lambert is a sleek, sophisticated professional who comes into contact with some of the most dangerous people in the world. But beneath Isobel’s cool exterior a ghost exists, haunting her with memories of another life…a life that ended long ago.
But Isobel’s past and present are about to collide when Serafin, mercenary, assassin and the most dangerous man in the world, makes a deal with The Committee. Seventeen years ago Isobel shot him and left him for dead. Now it looks as if he’s tracked her down for revenge. But Isobel knows all too well that looks can be deceiving…and that’s what she’s counting on to keep her cover in this international masquerade of murder.
Isobel’s been the head of the Committee, a “covert mercenary organization,” for some time now and the added responsibility is slowly but surely getting to her. Hints of it have been in the novels before this one, but now it’s clear how close to breaking down she really is. And now the Committee is given the order to save the life of Josef Serafin, also known as “The Butcher.” Serafin’s worked “[j]ust about everywhere in the world where bad things happen” (14) and he’s willing to trade the information he gained by working for the major players on the baddie side for safety and a new life now.
Isobel would much rather kill Serafin than save his life but there is nothing she can do than follow the order. As she is a bit short-handed on available agents (see the novels in this series before this one), she has to go on the mission to safe Serafin herself. Of course, there are complications. The first, but not the only one, is that Serafin is actually someone Isobel knew in her past, turning the mission into a confrontation with her past when she isn’t so sure about her present, let alone her future.
The beginning chapters alternate between the present time and the past. Seventeen years ago Isobel, called Mary then, met someone named Killian while backpacking through Europe and fell in love with him. They spend some time traveling through France together, first as friends and then as lovers, until the day Isobel finds out she’s just been used by Killian as a convenient cover for his assassination job. That was the day she shot him and the day her life changed from plans to visit a school in Paris to something else entirely.
The thing I liked best about this novel is Isobel’s and Killian’s story. I love second-chance-at-love stories and with all Isobel and Killian’s been through in the time they spent apart, I was happy to see them finally together. Sadly, other things didn’t convince me equally. Leaving aside the Committee itself, I didn’t buy Killian’s background. He’s supposed to be the most dangerous man in the world, hired and sought after by all the bad guys in the world, while at the same time it seems he screws up most of his assignments. Huh?
Isobel is head of the Committee and to be in that place I expect her to be a strong woman. A woman who actually uses a gun and doesn’t throw it at the attacker, for example. Isobel is that woman. The problem is, she’s thrown into a plot with a premise that takes all initiative away from her. At best she’s able to react, but never act. At worst, she’s just able to follow the lead of Killian/Serafin. I thought that disappointing.
But it is made worse by having her behave like someone who’s new to all this agent stuff. She’s not crying or breaking into hysterics, no, but, for example, she can’t think of a reason why someone would want to drug her or incapacitate her, an agent of the Committee who’s out to get the bad guys. Huh? doesn’t cover this for me, I’m afraid. On top of that, sometimes she’s behaving like she’s a teenage girl with Killian, not a grown woman trained to keep her head in all situations. I couldn’t buy this as a sign of her emotional upheaval and breaking apart, no matter how I tried. In her position and with her experience, I would have expected her to have a better grip on herself, no matter what. As it is, it just enforced the question how she got to be head of the Committee in the first place.
Oh, and this: “…at least three hundred of Busanovich’s worst enemies escaped…” just cracked me up. “Three hundred worst enemies,” B. must be quite a badass.
To conclude, I liked the romance, but I was disappointed that the only woman in the Committee was saddled with a plot that practically forced her to the sideline. But then again, even with a different plot, I’m not sure Isobel would have lived up to what I expected, given how she behaved in general. Reminding herself to suppress the shaking of her hand to not show weakness is not a good sign to convince a reader that Isobel is up to being an agent and a strong person. In fact, it is common sense and nearly everyone knows and does this daily, I think.