Hidden Fire

Under Fire

I Spy A Naughty Game
by Jo Davis
(Heat, $15, NC-17) ISBN 978-0-451-23116-1
I Spy A Naughty Game is the second book in Jo Davis's SHADO series. SHADO is described in the novel as a secret, violent spy organization that contracts its services out to the government, to do their dirty work. It's dangerous, dirty work and the team is very close-knit.

Agent Blaze Kelly is a spy, and he's definitely an alpha male. He's aggressive, tough and sexy. He's also nursing a broken heart after his co-worker Emma Foster left him. Why did Emma leave Blaze? Because she couldn't handle the thought of his sexual kink - Blaze is a BDSM master, and when he and Emma got close enough, he showed her a little of his dark side, and wanted her to be submissive to him. Emma's a tough as nails, independent woman who works for SHADO, and she was stunned by Blaze's secret.

Now, months later, Blaze and Emma occasionally see each other at work but are both trying (and failing) to forget each other. Blaze gets really hurt on a mission and Emma feels suddenly desperate to be by his side as he recovers so that he won't die without knowing that she still cares for him. As usual, carefree Blaze gets lucky and heals up nicely, and now he knows that Emma still has feelings for him.

Meanwhile, ex-agent Robert Dietz has corrupted SHADO, betrayed his comrades and stolen a serious weapon of mass destruction that he plans to sell to a US enemy. SHADO's desperate to stop him before this happens, and Emma and Blaze are asked to pose as husband and wife in the BDSM scene, where Dietz and his backers hang out. Emma's shocked that she has to face her fears of Blaze's lifestyle and her own uncertain feelings, but she takes on the challenge. Blaze is thrilled to have a chance to teach Emma, and dispel her misconceptions. Unfortunately, while they are busy playing, the bad guys are making progress and threatening American security, and it's a dangerous game.

I Spy A Naughty Game has an interesting premise. I liked the idea of Blaze and Emma being forced together to address their failed relationship and hurt feelings, and looked forward to seeing how that would play out. I would also like to say that I'm a big fan of Jo Davis's Station Five series, so I really expected that I would like this book - but I didn't.

First of all, the lack of intimacy in the whole story is startling. There's a lot of carnality, but no love. Despite the clumsy mention of emotion between the main characters, there's no emotional backup to that claim. Emma and Blaze have a serious attraction, and they work together, but that's about it. That alone makes the story fail.

Secondly, the sex in the book is plentiful, without rhyme or reason, and it is very graphic. I was startled in the opening chapters with the flashy, brutally descriptive, gratuitous sex scene. It was shocking, and I feel like I should warn fellow readers that they will need a strong stomach to get through certain parts of the book if they expect passion to be accompanied by gentleness and emotion. A warning to readers of Jo Davis's firefighter novels - the sexuality in this story goes far beyond what you expect, we're talking about men with men, women with women, bondage and submission - sometimes very degrading, base sex.

I'm not too sure why Davis felt the need to get so explicit in this novel, perhaps she wanted to "educate" the reader in the manner that Blaze attempts to educate Emma in the underground world of BDSM. I certainly know things now, after reading this novel, that I didn't know before. The plot, while it started strong, fell victim to the rampant sexual escapades of the characters and led nowhere.

I'm sorry, Jo, but this book was a real disappointment that has really left me wondering. I can't recommend it.

--Amy Wroblewsky

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