Leta Breckenridge is forced to drop out of college to care for her dementia-ridden mother. After learning a severely delinquent account may force her mother into a less desirable facility, Leta steps out of her comfort zone and lands a high-paying job at an Austin public relations firm. But her dream job turns into a nightmare when she learns the firm is a front for a political opposition machine–and that the research she’s been collecting will be used against her new love interest, Nathan Emerson.
Nathan is a rising political star being pressured to run a bid to unseat the current governor of Texas. He’s already in a relationship with a woman much better suited to be a politician’s wife, but he’s never met anyone like Leta. Could this feisty, challenging woman hold the key to his heart?
“Welcome.” Bernard looked out from behind those wire-framed glasses, his tone not exactly matching his message. He propped his elbow in one hand and rubbed his chin with the other while he waited for their full attention.
“You have all been promoted to a very special assignment – working on what we call Operation Brainchild. Everything that is said, all that is learned and discovered in this room, stays in this room. No deviation. Understood?”
Leta timidly followed the others and nodded.
“Our work will be critical to Governor Holiday’s campaign and successful run for another term. It is in this hub that we’ll be uncovering and dissecting the mother lode of information. Highly confidential material that could make or break this upcoming election.”
With an almost giddy anticipation, he explained that as members of the special apparatus for tracking and research, Leta and the others would be watching hours of broadcasted speeches by Governor Holiday’s opponent and reading blogs and online news articles, sifting for any critical piece of data that might catch Senator Emerson flip-flopping on an earlier position, misquoting facts, or generally making snafus that could be spun in the media. They were told to especially watch for anything that would tip a change in strategy in Emerson’s camp, even if slight.
“Don’t discount anything. Trust your gut. If you think something might be important, it usually is.” He slowly removed his glasses and wiped the lens with a cloth he retrieved from his back pocket. With his frames back in place, he looked over the room. “We’ll be working shifts 24-7 and will meet briefly four times a day to download to the rest of the team what we’ve learned. You’ll be provided a written report via a daily email, incorporating data from the night team. Everything on this special server is encrypted and nothing can be printed or downloaded. Any questions?”
No one raised a hand. The guy next to her looked bored and tapped his pencil against his leg.
Leta wanted to grab that pencil and break it. This was not what she’d planned, and definitely not what she’d signed up for.
Perhaps the broken heel on her first day had been some kind of cosmic warning that what originally looked like a great job was not going to turn out well after all.
While she could justify the research she’d compiled – anyone willing to make the effort could look in the public record and assemble the same – the work she was now expected to do somehow crossed her line of comfort.
In the little time she’d spent with Nate Emerson, she’d learned he was a man of convictions, bright, and determined to help people like her mother. Even her research backed up that notion. How could she now actively work to oppose him in this election? Especially now that he’d shared how he felt about her and she’d admitted she felt the same?
This was a nightmare.
This novel had its good points and its not-so-good points. I’ve always had a keen interest in politics and law, so the premise of this novel appealed to me. I’ve never really thought much about the fact that there are people out there whose job is to research, monitor, and analyse everything a political opponent has ever done or said, but like Leta, that kind of job would be right up my alley.
But imagine landing a job you can really sink your teeth into, with a six-figure salary that will ensure your mother receives the care she needs, only to find out that you’re essentially supporting a smear campaign against a man you not only admire, but are falling in love with. It might not be thriller material, but Leta’s crisis of conscience, its fallout, and the political intrigue behind it made for a fairly satisfying plot.
The romance, on the other hand, was less satisfying. Nathan Emerson is painted as an all-round good guy, yet he’s in a relationship with his long-time girlfriend, Tiffany Shea, while actively developing his attraction to Leta. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that. He may not have cheated on Tiffany in a physical sense, but the fact that he and Leta continued to seek each other out, fully aware that they were hoping for more than friendship in the future, felt like emotional unfaithfulness.
The romance actually felt pretty flat all round, partly due to the fact that neither Nathan nor Leta were particularly dynamic characters. I didn’t really see anything that would justify the book’s description of Leta as ‘feisty’ or ‘challenging’, and Nathan seemed a bit wishy-washy and laid-back for a politician. The other reason it felt flat was the author’s tendency to tell the reader how the characters felt through their thoughts rather than showing it through their interactions. It had its good moments, but there were also some awkward ones that didn’t work for whatever reason or seemed out of character.
The dichotomy between Senator Emerson and the current governor, Wyndall Holiday, was also perhaps a little too ‘good guy/bad guy’, but overall this was an okay book if you’re looking for an easy read to fill in a few hours, particularly if you like a bit of campaign intrigue.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Revell Books in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 5 July 2016
Publisher: Revell Books
Author’s website: http://kelliecoatesgilbert.com/