Genre fiction lover: Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
This book was fun as fuck!
My first inclination in reviewing this book is just to fill this review up with quotes from the book. I think I highlighted about 60% of the book because it was so damned quotable. Every page has something I wanted to quote out.
The book begins as the heroine, Island (yes her name is Island which I loved) comes home to find a strange (yet very handsome) man in her living room going through her tax returns... oh yeah, and he is meticulously re-organizing them as he is looking them over. He is March. An Assassin. An Assassin with OCD. It turns out Island supposedly has in her possession a huge uncut diamond worth a billion dollars that was stolen from a very powerful person. And that powerful person wants that diamond back, like, right now!
Only Island has no idea what the hell he is talking about. She's an IT tech who lives with her roommate and loves to read trashy romance novels. She's a 25 year old virgin for chrissake. She doesn't do stuff like hide billion dollar diamonds.
Turns out March isn't the only assassin on Island's trail. The new guy shows up and is much, much worse. After a series of events that culminates in her abduction by March, Island realizes she must throw her lot in with March who, despite his neat freak tendencies and his ability to kill people with a cold smile, is strangely protective toward Island.
The two set off on a dazzling international tour that includes stops in Paris and Tokyo on the trail of this elusive diamond. In the meantime Island finds out some interesting stuff about her past, her late mother (who probably wasn't really a diplomat), and grows closer to the sexy, enigmatic Mr. March.
What I liked the most: Island. She was a hoot. Really funny and a little awkward. She had an unconventional upbringing traveling the world with her globe-trotting mother, very little formal schooling but incredibly smart and bit of a polyglot. The book has portions of dialogue in French, Afrikaans, and Japanese. But for all that, she is still a bit sheltered. There is a great scene when they are tracking down some information that takes them to a Parisian strip club:
Oddly enough, I seemed to enjoy the Rose Paradise more than March and Ilan did. Both appeared to be nervous, almost shy, when we were in men's heaven -- a divine garden of pleasure filled with enchanting rivers of booze and where titties grew on trees. Go figure.
I quickly mastered the complex administrative rules of this den of iniquity and turned to March for some financial support while Ilan questioned a barmaid
"I need money for Rose tickets. Sasha here will agree to dance for us in exchange for one Rose ticket." I announced, beckoning over a blonde stripper in a black see through nightie.
March looked at me and Sasha, aghast
"Island, I am not entirely certain --"
"You don't like strippers?"
What I liked second most: March. He is a cold eyed killer with some background angst that gets peeled back during the course of the book. But he has some wonderful quirks. He drives like a little old lady -- within the speed limit, observing all road rules meticulously (this drives Island nuts). He also has how own personal code and he becomes fiercely protective of Island even while he sometimes still menaces her. But she likes to tweak him on his OCD -- his reaction when she purposely moves one of his maps out of alignment in his car was great. He has interesting taste in favorite animals and his own roommate is...not a person. Such an interesting, charismatic character.
What I liked third most: Each chapter is headed by an excerpt from one of Island's favorite romance novels. They have titles like Two Earls for the Virgin, The Billionaire's Beautiful Waitress, Galactic Passions, and The Shifter's Mail Order Bride. Island's romance book titles are a sweet poke at some of the more eye-roll worthy romance tropes, but the author takes Island's love of the books seriously. You never get the sense that she's bagging romance at all. And Island is always very self aware:
"Have you read Accidentally Married to the Billionaire Sheikh?"
March cringed "No, I haven't read...that."
"You should. It's a compelling read and an insightful look into the dynamics of relationships that start with abduction and forced marriage." I narrowed my eyes at him hoping he would get the point "In the beginning, Swanella --"
"Wait, the heroine's name is Swanella?"
"I think it's an homage to Twilight; let me finish. So Swanella is super mad that Sheikh Hedwardh kidnapped her, told her family she was dead and staged her burial to force her to marry him."
His brow furrowed "Why did he do such a thing?"
"Because she's the only girl beautiful enough for him, so he flew to America to ravish her."
He seemed lost "But how did he know her? How did he know she was beautiful?"
"She's this world famous supermodel, and she also founded her own non-profit that saves abused children."
He gazed at a spoonful of chocolate cake thoughtfully "So Swanella is young, successful, kind, and beautiful and she's looking at a few years of marital rape. Where does you and I going on a date fit into all of this?"
"You're a villain who kidnapped me, and you want me to call my best friend and pretend I am okay. So you owe me. And what I want is this; I want the kind of date girls like me never get. The whole dreamy boyfriend experience! Dinner, champagne , candlelight...Also you'll pretend like you care, like you did in the car. I want stars; stars and fricking satellites!"
He nodded slowly "I see. What makes you think I'm qualified for this?"
I shrugged. "You're a good liar."
Of course the two of them start to dance toward a real romance. March and Island do start to feel something for each other. But this isn't really a romance novel. This is an action adventure caper that never forgets that its two incredibly appealing leads are running all over the world in search of a diamond, following cryptic clues and dodging other hitmen. And even though the tone of the book is very light and often very funny, it also remembers that people get shot and killed and Island is witnessing real death and revelations about herself that cause her to reel a bit. So the book manages to tread the line very well knowing when to let the lighter stuff take place and where to allow the darker stuff to resonate.
And finally this book has some great supporting characters and has some nice diversity in both location and in characters. March's first love, Kalahari is a black woman who is now married to one of his compatriots, Ilan (who is Jewish). Kalahari is a hoot who takes Island under her wing and who still has a great relationship with March. I also loved the scenes set in Tokyo both with the sense of place the author gives as well as the people March and Island meet, including Masaharu, the young Japanese guy who was Island's first violent crush and whose life didn't turn out as well as he'd wanted it to.
Like I said, this book was fun as hell and I am so glad we'll be getting further adventures of Island and March.