High-brow or downright pretentious, good PNR or sparkly vampires, I don't care about the premise so long as it entertains me.
I'd call this a guilty pleasure, but I won't. Mostly because I've been reading this genre for waaaaaay longer than I have YA or romance or UF. I like action, I like drama, I love romantic tension, and if you throw in a good sense of humor and character development, I'm a very happy reviewer.
Also, Carolyn Crane is easily one of my favorite authors. Her Disillusionist series is one I keep putting off, not because it's bad, but because I want to prolong the experience (talk about backwards logic) and her Associates novels.... whoo, hand over the fan, it got really hot in here!
"Off the Edge" is the second book in the Associates series, but it's not a sequel to "Against the Darkness", so you can start off in the middle and you won't miss anything. The story follows Macmillan, an associate to a super-duper secret non-government spy agency, sent to Bangkok to foil the sale of a weapon of mass destruction, and Laney, a singer on the run from an abusive ex who works in the hotel where the auction will be held. As part of his inquest of the weapon salesman's identity, Macmillan seduces Laney, and then ends up in deep shit when it turns out she's more deeply involved in the whole business than either of them suspected.
Right off the bat, you can see one of the major appeals of this story. Bangkok! Spies! Seduction! Also, Macmillan's special powers, beyond the average Secret Agent shtick, is linguistics, which just adds so many levels of awesome to it, I can't even! (As a sort of language affecionado, this tickles me in many, many ways.)
But "Off the Edge" is more than its shiny (and in this case, scaly) face. Those of you who have read some of my UF reviews, (particularly Once Burned) will know one of my major peeves with these stories is the kind of gender imbalance that rolls in every time a supposedly sassy, confident lady is forced to sit out the action because Action Man swaggers into the scene. (While Action Man, reluctantly, admits that she brings out the goodness and sensitivity in him.)
"Off the Edge" has some of that - Laney is no Wonder Woman and Macmillan admits that he doesn't want to get attracted to her - but rather than make this the main conflict of the series, Crane builds up on it, has the characters move past those superficial problems, and then wade in deep into worse conflicts! More to the point, rather than Macmillan grumble about "Them emotional women and their feelings making me human" and then accept it with maximum reluctance, (Raphael, I'm looking at you, you fucker!) he actually treats Laney with respect and acknowledges the validity of what she's going through. Not everyone can be stoic all the time, and that's perfectly okay.
I feel bad that I say this, but not many books go out of their ways to show that.
Overall, I loved this, and I can't wait for more Associates novels. Go, Carolyn!
Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publishers via NetGalley for the purposes of this review.