Series: Cold Justice: Crossfire, #4
Published by Toni Anderson Inc. on 28th January 2021
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When the daughter of the US Ambassador to Argentina is kidnapped in broad daylight on Christmas Eve, the FBI sends one of its best negotiators to investigate.
Supervisory Special Agent Max Hawthorne arrives at an embassy thrown into chaos as US and local law enforcement hustle to track the young woman. Is this a simple kidnap for ransom, or part of a political agenda? Could it be something more sinister?
Lucy Aston has something to hide. Preferring to stay in the shadows, the lowly, fashion-challenged office assistant resents being assigned to help Max. But Max can’t resist a puzzle…he’s starting to suspect Lucy Aston is not what she seems.
When rumors emerge of a suspected Russian spy operating out of the embassy, Lucy’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble. As she and Max race to rescue the ambassador’s daughter, Lucy has to do whatever it takes to keep her cover from being blown—even if that means betraying the man she’s falling for.
Intricately and expertly-crafted, ‘Cold, Cruel Kiss’ is pretty much a masterful storytelling attempt by Toni Anderson, who dips into the spooks-world of conspiracies, underhanded, traitorous dealings and politics that all come to a head when an ambassador’s daughter is kidnapped in broad daylight.
Little by little, Anderson reveals the puppetry going on behind the scenes in Argentina…and yes, it’s an engaging but messy as hell state of play that’s bound to make your head spin. Even though it’s classified as romantic suspense, there’s more of the latter than the former here, as SSA Max Hawthorne finds himself deep in the kidnap case and getting some unwitting assistance by a woman so clearly in disguise for reasons he can’t fathom.
But Lucy Aston herself is hiding something that’s potentially one that end both their careers. How Lucy acted and behaved however, was what made me hesitant about my own rating of this story. I definitely felt for her and the predicament she found herself in, but I was also waiting for her to do the right thing about her situation since there was so much more at stake—which she didn’t. Instead, she sat back, filled with mostly regret and a defeatist attitude of ‘he’ll hate me and it’s best to get what I can for now especially when the truth comes out later’, all of which crossed the line into woe-is-me TSTL.
I simply couldn’t get on with Lucy thinking so admiringly of Max in terms of integrity and honesty while constantly positioning herself as someone who didn’t deserve him, as it made that seem like an excuse not to hold herself to that same standard when she’d already ‘fallen’. Then trying to redeem herself by going rogue later threw her into the stupid, deep end of a pool in which she could barely tread water…trouble of her own making, anyone? Her lack of honesty grated, more so when Max seemed like the upfront on the whole time.
In other words, even though casual deception is part and parcel of the spy-game, having it as one of the stumbling blocks—particularly when a protagonist is deep in it—in a romantic relationship tends to sour it for me (just a personal pet peeve shining brightly through here).
‘Cold Cruel Kiss’ however, is a standout on its own. As much as I didn’t exactly warm to Lucy/Max and their eventual resolution, Anderson’s kidnapped teenagers found a fan in me as they kept their smarts and wits throughout their ordeal; that they fought as hell for each other despite their fear made them the stars of the story for me. Maybe because it’s Anderson’s portrayal of how tenacious and unbelievably brave these girls are that I found myself loving the last few chapters of the book.