Book: Never Say Spy by Diane Henders

Reviewer: Bethany

Age/Genre: Romantic Spy Thriller

Preferred Reading Environment: In a secret hiding spot!

Reading Accoutrements: Wearing all black, probably toting a martini – shaken, not stirred 😉

Content Notes: Kidnapping, Torture, Mental/Physical/Emotional Abuse, Rape/Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment, Death

I came across Never Say Spy by Diane Henders in the Kindle bookstore and I couldn’t resist buying it. You all know I’m a huge fan of romances and I love to sink myself into a good series where I can escape for days, but that’s not why I wanted to buy this book. Nope. I bought Never Say Spy because I wanted to lose myself in a different kind of fantasy: Good Girl Gone Spy 😉

The main character, Ayden Kelly, is a forty-six year old bookkeeper who is moving from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Silverside (a small town about two hours from her former home city). While walking through downtown Silverside, she slips and falls and hits her head, ending up in the hospital. A couple of days later, she goes to Calgary to meet a potential buyer for house there and run a few errands.

When a man climbs out of the trunk through the back seat of her car and points a gun at her, Ayden reacts, swerving and slamming on the breaks, jumping out of the car and running for cover. Which is how she meets John Kane, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detective – and finds out that he thinks she’s a spy. Suddenly, Ayden is sucked into a world of espionage and intrigue.

HOW COOL IS THAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Sorry, I’ll calm down, I promise.

Ayden has a variety of traits and skills that give her a lot of potential as a spy. She’s damaged by past relationships, so she doesn’t trust people very much.  She has friends, but none who are super close to her. Her difficulty trusting people also means that she has developed a talent for reading people. Her father was a farmer who taught her how to shoot (before Canada got all strict with their gun laws); she learned self-defense after she left her abusive ex-husband; she has stayed in shape by playing basketball in a city league; and she can curse like a sailor because her uncle was…well, a sailor in the Canadian Navy. Not to mention she was a computer coder for a while (which makes her pretty good at understanding technology), an architectural drafter (which means she’s good at estimating distances and scoping out floor plans), and now she’s a bookkeeper (so she has a great eye for detail). Basically, she’s who I want to be when I grow up – a total badass with a lot of useful skills who works for herself.

I mentioned that Ayden was damaged by past relationships and that has hindered her ability to trust. In all honesty, Ayden has had a lot of things go wrong in her personal life and it’s hard to keep them all straight. I suppose that when I’m forty-six, I’ll have a bunch of life experiences, both negative and positive, but as I read this book I just felt like all of the bad she went through was kind of…like a convenient plot device instead of honest storytelling. She doesn’t have any surviving relatives, her first husband was abusive, and her second husband died while they were having sex – which would leave anybody scarred. Not to mention the stories of sexual harassment and a near-death car accident where she was pinned and watched an impaled motorcyclist almost die before help could arrive. Maybe it’s because I just read First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones, and the main character, Charley, was almost kidnapped, slapped by her wicked stepmother, almost run over, stalked and almost raped, and generally nearly dies on several occasions leading up to the events of the story. Maybe I’m just sensitive to an over-abundance of bad, issue-causing things happening to the main characters in the books I read, either because it feels exploitive or because it feels like the authors are checking a box…but it still bugs me. (P.S. Jeriann and I reviewed First Grave on the Right and will be posting it on Friday. Check it out!)

I do wish that some of the supporting characters were as fully developed as Ayden, although the story is written entirely from her perspective. The other characters in the book tend to be a little two-dimensional: a cop who will follow orders for the greater good, no matter what; a tech guy who has no self-defense abilities and is squeamish around blood; etc. I will say that Henders did a good job of introducing Ayden’s backstory in a believable way, letting the facts trickle in naturally while allowing enough time for the backstory to settle before it became useful to the current plot.

Speaking of the current plot, that is a really cool story. I don’t want to spoil anything for you because there are some fun reveal moments, so I’ll let you read it for yourself. Let’s just say that it reminded me of Chuck (and no, she does not have a database of all of the answers in her head). Ayden’s a badass and with every page, I wanted to be her a little bit more (although I’d rather not have her life experiences). I’ve already read the next two books in the series and I can tell you that it only gets better. If you’re looking for a new series and you like fluffy spy thriller romances, try Never Say Spy.

Have you ever read a book and wished you were the main character? Tell us in the comments!

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