The Seduction of Goody Two-Shoes is Kathleen Creighton's latest book and is concrete evidence that this woman is talented at writing stories that are intense, distinct and alive with well-written characters. Overlook the title, one that describes this story as well as a kid looking at the Grand Canyon and pronouncing it big.
Rose Ellen Lanagan is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who's fed up with seeing endangered rare animals smuggled illegally into the country, often DOA. Seeing a table full of dead birds, packed so tightly that they'd died on the trip, makes her so angry that she agrees to be trained for an undercover mission to Central America, a mission whose purpose is to capture the exploitative SOBs who are catching and illegally transporting the birds.
The "best laid plans of mice and men" syndrome is evident here. Ellie's partner becomes so ill that he won't be able to pose as her husband and be with her when they make contact with the bad guys. That doesn't deter Ellie, though. She's trained too hard and the mission is far to important to her to call it quits. She'll just have to wing it.
Quinn McCall is an expatriate living in ‘Margaritaville', selling his paintings to tourists fresh off the cruise ships. His attention is drawn to a tourist he deems as cute and pert. He's wondering if she'll turn up her nose at his bird paintings and move sensibly on. To say that his paintings are garish is an understatement. But she stops, stares and utters, "Good grief." You gotta love a woman like that.
A lively discussions ensues as Ellie critiques his paintings, telling that he's got the perspective of the birds all wrong. To McCall, this is akin to critiquing a painting on velvet. When Ellie's purse is snatched, McCall performs the first of many rescues for this woman who entices him. But she's taboo. She's wearing a wedding ring.
Ellie is in a quandary, too. With her partner and faux husband ill and unable to make their meeting with the bad guys. Ellie knows they won't deal with her alone, and she also knows that too much is at stake to give up just because of his ruptured appendix. So she enlists McCall to help, not quite knowing if he's friend or foe.
Little does she know that McCall is experiencing the same misgivings. Plus he's castigating himself for being interested in a married woman. Uh-oh.
As an animal lover, I have no trouble empathizing with Ellie's ‘full speed ahead' approach to ferreting out the bad guys. Knowing that her partner is out of the equation, she truly feels that she has no other choice, but to proceed without him. Having McCall replace her partner in the equation makes it easier, but I always felt that she'd do whatever it takes to make her operation a success. True, there are times when she doesn't err on the side of caution, but nobody can say that her heart isn't in the right place.
McCall is the more enigmatic character. It's not until the end that we learn his secrets, thus understanding his reticence to be involved with Ellie's quest. The scenes where we meet his animal menagerie are charming and add dimension to this already interesting man.
These characters are so interesting and the story so well-plotted that I was torn. Did I want more characterizations and less plot or vice-versa? This is a nice balance, but I would have preferred more Ellie and McCall and less being chased through the jungle. And if that's my only quibble about this story, then perhaps I need more fiber in my diet.
Actually, the only true problem I have is with this so-called title. Here's an intelligent, compassionate book about forgiveness, coping with fear and anxiety and stretching physical and emotional bounds, and someone has the audacity, the temerity to name it The Seduction of Goody Two-Shoes.
That makes as much sense as renaming Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs and calling it Let's Have Friends for Dinner. The fairy godmother in charge of Book Titles was dozing when this title came up for approval.
Thank goodness the fairy godmother in charge of Everything Else was wide