Double-Cross may be a romance at heart, but it more than holds its own in the action genre as well.
Samantha St. John is a higly trained CIA operative who finds herself accused of treason when a video shows up that appears to contain footage of herself participating in terrorist acts. To make matters worse, while on the run she learns that one of her friends from the Academy that trained her has been murdered. Pretty soon, she finds herself chasing knowlege that may help bring the killer to justice while trying to clear her own name, and the two plotlines converge into an exciting and ultimately satisfying read.
One of Double-cross's greatest strengths is its fast pace and flawless action. Fletcher paints smooth and plausible scenes, and leaves just enough clues to make the whole book an exciting read without giving everything away. Her combat scenes are well choreographed and easy to read, and the way she handles intrigue and discovery is with a deft but effective hand.
The other great strength Double Cross has is its romantic angle - namely, a flirtation with hero and fellow CIA agent Riley McLane. So often, scenes in romances are forced or contrived, but not in Double-Cross. Here both Hero and Heroine are focused mainly on their respective missions (which are sometimes at odds, but not always), and it is in working together and learning to trust that their relationship grows. Readers looking for tons of steamy sex scenes had best look elsewhere, but for those of us who just want to see a smart savvy herione succeed *and* find a spark of love on the way, this book makes it happen with style. Aside from a few slightly contrived sensual scenes, the working chemistry between Sam and Riley is right on the money. They're a sexy and well-matched duo, and their arc grows from the story in an entirely natural way.
Despite the fact that this book is one in a series, I found it to be completely sufficient as a standalone. It was the first Athena Force book I've read, so I can't speak for possible 'spoiling' previous novels, but I never felt information was being unfairly held back or skipped over. The resolution is ultimately a satisfying one by all accounts, and while it did leave me hungry for more Athena Force, there was no bitter aftertaste of "I have to buy the next book to find out?"
My one complaint - and the thing that keeps this book from a 5-star rating - would be the author's treatment of Sam's sexual experience. In one particularly jarring moment we're supposed to believe that our confident, sexy, CIA agent is more inexperienced/naive than your average high schooler, and two sensual scenes in particular are a little forced. But overall, the treatment of the main couple made this an excellent read.
Great action, a touch of genuine and well-developed romance, and a plot that kept me turning pages. 4 stars to Double Cross, and a big thumbs-up. I'll be watching for more of Merideth Fletcher in the future.