She's a promising recruit. He's a senior agent. Their growing attraction breaks agency rules.
A "zero" in the parlance of the counterterrorism agency that recruited her, Anika Washington is training hard to succeed at her first mission and avoid becoming a "dead zero." Or, even worse for her, to avoid being kicked out of the agency. Anika wants—no, needs—a place to belong. Growing up in an orphanage has left its scar that she was never good enough to be chosen. She will do whatever it takes to make the agency choose her, keep her.
Complicating matters is Gianni Brambilla, the gorgeous and enigmatic senior agent who has taken a special interest in Anika. His attention risks breaking agency rules against emotional entanglements. If only Anika could stop thinking about him....
When a fellow recruit makes a fatal mistake during a mission, Anika is called up prematurely to complete the assignment. It's "go time" for her and Gianni in an undercover operation at a black-tie gala. Armed with high-tech spy gadgets and quick thinking, the two of them will need to rely on each other to ensure mission success, or else.
This book has previously been published under the title Ready or Dead by Crimson Romance.
Interesting spy thriller with a hint of romance
** spoiler alert **
To Anika, being recruited for a federal counterterrorism unit from the orphanage she grew up in gave her a place to belong. Afraid of being left behind and having no one and nowhere to go, she struggles to prove herself during the brutal training the "zeroes" are subjected to. She will be chosen to stay, she just needs to. But her attraction to and seemingly growing romance with a higher-ranking agent named Gianni may prove to be her downfall.
When she's called to take over a mission from a now-deceased "zero," she struggles to come to terms with the brutality and finality of making mistakes outside of training. And learning that her success has direct consequences on the man she likes, it takes everything in her training to keep her cool and finish the mission.
Written in the third-person POV of Anika, the struggles and trials of training in the counterterrorism agency are described in quite a bit of detail. And we really get to know Anika on a deeper level and understand why she reacts to certain training runs the way she does.
The development of the characters and even a bit of the romance between Anika and Gianni was really well-done and they felt sort of like real people in the way their motivations and actions/thoughts come across. I liked some of the side characters, though I do wish we got to see a bit more interaction with everyone. I know it's meant to keep the plot moving and keep the writing tight and succinct, but I wish I could have seen Anika and Gianni interacting with friends/coworkers in lower stress environments to really see how they think or exist.
I also really enjoyed the action aspect of the book and the mission read high-stress and serious. The pacing was good and I didn't feel like it progressed too quickly or slowly, which made the cliffhanger at the end more plausible and enjoyable. I did think the book was too short, but it's the first introduction into a new world and it might have slowed the pacing of everything too much if the book was longer or there were more plot elements thrown into the mix. I was hooked from the start and didn't want to put it down once I started.
I'm definitely planning to read the next book of the series because I need to know what happens next.
I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.