After my initial experience with the awful GET BLONDIE Bombshell book, I was understandably reluctant to pick up Code Name: Dove by Judith Leon (aka Judith Hand). The back text indicated another undercover mission, this time featuring heroine Nova Blair. The name stuck in the back of my throat, and the prologue seemed out of place. I understood it was there to establish the daring nature of our heroine, a CIA operative, but it didn't follow-through in the rest of the story. I almost stopped there, then again after the first chapter, but I pushed onward.
The result was a pleasant, engaging surprise. This wasn't a romance, per se. It was 98% action and intrigue as Nova and her partner, Joe Cardone, go undercover to stop a radical environmentalist, known as The Founder, from killing thousands of people in a quest to save the planet. Nova, it seems, needs to seduce a rising German politician, suspected as the mastermind, and in the process, she finds herself growing attached -- and confused about her role. Her background of childhood sexual and physical abuse is deftly woven throughout the narrative, featuring brief flashes of torment without overwhelming or sickening the reader. Various plot twists ensue, with several tense situations and mature themes of manipulation, deceit, and depravity... and an open-ended conclusion that left me wanting for more.
As many other reviewers have noted, there is no romance in this book, but there is sex -- the intimacy between Nova and her focus becomes necessary to the covert operation, which makes the complexity of her situation and feelings all the more attractive to me as a reader. While the affair could be distracting, even unappealing, if one has different morals, what's important is that Nova is established as a capable, complex heroine. I have good feelings that future outings with Nova and Joe will reveal an increasingly sophisticated relationship with a satisfying ending for the couple.