Tough and Enough by Michele Albert, copyright 2007. I’m afraid that me and Ms. Albert will have to part ways. The plot and theme of the story seems to fall under the umbrella of a rekindled love story with an art heist. Sigh. I guess this is a popular theme for romantic suspense novels. It was tough enough to make it to chapter seven before calling it quits. Yeah, it was pretty bad and I was excited to read this book, too. Since I didn’t read it all, I’ll only comment and grade what I’ve read.
The plot of the story is unoriginal to me but it held promise. However authors certainly can turn something unoriginal into something unique. The story opens and we are introduced to Will Tierney, our hero of the day, as he is arriving from yet another assignment to meet his boss and CEO of Avalon, Ben Sheridan. Avalon is a organization that has secret operatives placed all over the country. Avalon enforces laws of a criminal nature especially art theft and luxury goods because local law enforcement has other things on their plate like murder and more serious crimes to keep them busy. Ben usually keeps up with his operatives through email or phone. Assignments are handed down to his best people and information about their mission is sent by courier to wherever they are stationed. Crash courses are given for anything that is lacking for their operatives. Avalon hasn’t been in business for 100 years by sheer luck alone. Avalon trains and disperses agents who are the best in the world. Will Tierney is a well seasoned operative and he is the best that Avalon has to offer for this next assignment. We get to see Will use his talent and skills to investigate and eventually thwart a bogus art transaction while he gets the girl.
Will is sent to Boston, New York disguised as a mild-mannered journalist writing for some Antiques magazine–sans glasses. His assignment is to investigate a company called Haddington Reproductions who has been commissioned by a third party to legally replicate artwork from some expensive art collection called the Eudoxia Reliquary. Rumors from Rome suggest that some Byzantine art will be hitting the black market soon and the Eudoxia collection was mentioned. Will is sent to Boston to investigate the owner and his two employees Vanessa Sharpton and Mia Dolan. The CEO of Avalon failed to inform Will of one tiny bit of information and that is that his former girlfriend may be a suspect in his current assignment. This proves to be problematic but useful for him.
That’s pretty much the plot. Now, what didn’t work for me, you ask? Let’s start with the romance. I have a personal bias against rekindled love stories – I don’t much care for them. There’s a disadvantage to reading about a couple who already have baggage. I just don’t care for the drama and the rehashing of the past. Mia Dolan is a jewelry and metal’s expert at Haddington Reproductions. She just so happens to be reminiscing about the one who got away with her friend Vanessa when we meet her. Isn’t it just a coincidence that she should see Will Tierney again? All I could do is shake my head and ask why? Why? What would have really been neat was that Will would have taken up with Vanessa but unfortunately he still has the warm fuzzies for Mia. Will and Mia’s history is pretty fucked up. Mia broke up with Will by cheating on him. I don’t really consider that a spoiler since it’s no big secret. And the author certainly didn’t help Will’s image none by writing a scene with him crying over it. I mean with snot and tears. Anyway, Will and Mia seem to reconnect despite the 12 years that yawned between them along with some hurt feelings that’s still attached. Here’s the problem: their chemistry seems rather forced. Another problem: Will is more than willing to use Mia to get what he wants. His feelings like many of the heroes in romance tend to fluctuate: I like her, no I love her, no, I will not get involved, I’ll just disappear, wait!-I love you.
As for the suspense part: weak and funny. I’m sure Ms. Albert didn’t write a comedy but you could have fooled me. Will’s detective skills were quite laughable. He asks questions that aren’t all that discreet. To me he sticks out like a sore thumb. Here’s a couple of scenes that showcases Will’s sensitive side:
If she was guilty, he’d still do the job he’d come here to do, personal feelings aside. If she was innocent, there’d be no harm. Maybe her feelings would be hurt when he suddenly disappeared, but she’d get over it.
“Karma,” Will muttered, getting into his car. “And payback’s a bitch, baby.”
Whatta guy. Here’s yet another scene:
Will watched and memorized the security code Mia entered. As soon as she went off to make a pot of coffee, he jotted the sequence down in his notepad. Too easy. Obviously it had never occurred to her that letting him watch her open the door was a breach of security. He wanted to believe it meant she was innocent but knew better than to rely on that alone.
I admit she should have been more discreet but these people are just making Will’s job all too easy. I guess that playboy image he cultivated works: it makes all the women and men around him fall for his charm and wit. Makes them tell all their deep, dark secrets and fall under his powerful powers of persuasion. Whatever. Anyway, I hope you all have better luck than I did. The story had a sound plot but it just wasn’t executed well. The writing felt disjointed. The dialogue was stilted. The chemistry between the protagonists was a joke. The suspense was pretty weak. Lastly, I didn’t much like Will Tierney. Didn’t think he made a good operative. Not even a decent guy I’d like to have coffee with either. Up to chapter seven, this book gets a D. Other works by Ms. Albert that I’ve enjoyed if your interested in reading her books, I suggest you read All Night Long, A Great Catch or Off Limits. Part of me just can’t believe Ms. Albert wrote this book and it’s been too long since she wrote a book that I enjoyed reading.