Double Deception - Merline Lovelace
I'm having a hard time rating this one. I kind of want to give it five stars for my enjoyment of it – I read nearly the entire second half of the book in one sitting! – but it doesn't quite reach that level. This is another Harlequin Romantic Suspense that is completely hamstrung by that ridiculously low, arbitrary word limit for this type of story. I'm not sure why they have that limit and why this was published under that line instead of Lovelace writing the book full out and getting it published under another line, or somewhere else. Which would have been feasible, I think, because this book was the least focused on the "romance" aspect of RS that I've ever read from them (though there was quite a bit on their attraction, of course).It's obvious Lovelace did a lot of research for this story and it's told very well. But what it needs is more. I usually say that I want more, but this story requires more. Of everything. She was covering a lot of bases, and while I think she could have removed a lot of the background of the side OMEGA characters there isn't much to get rid of and tell a full story. So we needed more about the characters, especially Rebel (Victoria Talbot) and Blade (Clint Black). I accepted their declarations in the end because the story mentions they have worked together for years and they had a decent back and forth but it also felt crammed in. Like, this is a Harlequin RS, this has to happen! So reading more of a foundation between them would have been much better (or letting it go entirely).There needed to be more to the deception storyline. It was done well, but it could have played out longer and ratcheted up a lot more suspicion, wariness, and delicious tension. There also needed to be more to the climax. The way it went down wasn't bad, but it was an obvious shortcut to stay within the word limit. It could have been drawn out and super compelling. I did like the sort of misdirection of what they uncovered in the end and that it wasn't perfect (per se).I guess to stop belaboring the point, I'll just leave it at there should have been more of everything. This could have easily been a full 300-something to 400-page book.Two little side notes: When being chased by maniacs with guns, maybe get to safety before taking the time to make out. Or at least make a phone call. I'm still perplexed as to why that never happened. And I didn't understand the use of the code names. Since, even though this is a black ops type organization they still use their real names and no sort of cover identity! Even when on missions! Apparently Victoria didn't use one as an agent in her previous life either. That seems...counterintuitive. So it really doesn't make sense why OMEGA came up with code names for their agents other than to be cute. This book is definitely worth the read. I enjoyed it a great deal. I just wish the story had the room to reach its full potential.