2000 Kisses

Christmas Knight

Going Overboard

My Spy

The Perfect Gift

Code Name: Nanny
by Cristina Skye
(Dell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-23760-2
When I saw the title, Code Name: Nanny, and the chic cover illustration, I thought I was about to read a Bridget Jones’ Diary clone. Nope. What I got instead was a good, old-fashioned romantic thriller, with a host of attractive characters and a plot complicated enough to keep me guessing.

Cara O’Connor is San Francisco’s youngest female assistant district attorney, and she has just successfully prosecuted a racketeer, Richard Costello. Costello is “a poster boy for equal-opportunity sadism” who has “bribed, intimidated, or murdered all who stood in his way.” Cara is terrified that he will harm her two vulnerable daughters - Audra, 15, and Sophy, 9. – and has arranged protection for them with the FBI. Consequently, Audra and Sophy have a new nanny, Summer Mulcahey.

Interestingly enough, Cara’s fiancé, Tate Winslow, has also taken steps to guard Cara and her children. The junior senator from California has asked a friend of his family, Gabe Morgan, to masquerade as a landscaper and provide protection for Cara and her family while surreptitiously installing security devices around Cara’s Carmel home. Gabe is a SEAL who sustained serious injuries when his parachute failed to open completely, and this assignment looks like the perfect job to undertake while he completes his rehabilitation.

Summer Mulcahey’s parents both died before she was sixteen, and since then her goals has been to take care of her twin sister, Jessica, and – unlike her mother – to make sure she is self-sufficient and never has to depend on a man for emotional or financial security. Now, she has no romantic relationship, no friends outside of work, no hobby, just her job…“24/7,” she says…which she does very, very competently.

Audra and Sophy…especially 15-year-old Audra…are not happy to have a new nanny. They set out on a campaign of harassment with the goal of making Summer’s life so miserable that she quits. First, they tell Gabe that the new nanny won’t arrive until evening, so of course he can use the guesthouse shower since his is on the fritz. Summer arrives at the guesthouse, ready to unpack, and finds Gabe in her shower, all soaped up, giving her an eyeful of “a world-class naked body.” She is not pleased, even though she can’t help noticing the muscles, and the scars.

Audra isn’t finished. Next, she tries to make Summer miss Sophy’s ballet class by locking Gabe and Summer up in a very small garden shed. Their efforts to get out bring them into close physical contact and, with the contact, a heightened awareness of each other. By the time Summer has been on the job two hours, her temperature, and Gabe’s, is already starting to rise…and it’s going to have plenty of opportunity to heat up even more, as they have to team up to thwart the increasing threats to Cara.

Sometimes romantic thrillers come unbalanced, and either the romance or the thriller takes over. Not in this case: Gabe’s and Summer’s romance develops convincingly, while Cara’s and Tate’s hazard-strewn path to the altar gave additional weight to the romantic side of the story. On the thriller end, Ms. Skye injected more suspense into her plot than I expect in a romantic thriller. I had a rough couple of chapters there, where I found myself fighting the urge to peek at the end and make sure everything came out all right. Pretty good plotting in a genre where “happily ever after” is almost guaranteed.

Besides a fast-moving plot, Code Name: Nanny is stuffed with attractive, well-drawn characters, from the two girls to Gabe’s associate, Izzy Teague, an electronics expert to end all electronics experts…which brings up one of my favorite rants. Authors know readers love to ‘meet’ characters from previous books. Often they are less than subtle about how they introduce continuing characters, so much so that a new reader can feel like the only stranger in a neighborhood pub. Ms. Skye avoids that trap so deftly that it wasn’t until I read her “Author’s Note” that I realized that Izzy had been in four previous books. That’s a win/win way to handle the situation: experienced readers are happy to see the oh-so-interesting Mr. Teague again, while I get to make his acquaintance without a lot of back story.

Speaking of Mr. Teague, toward the end of Code Name: Nanny, Izzy observes Gabe and Summer together: “The funny thing was, Summer Mulcahey wasn’t striking. As far as Izzy could see, pretty was a stretch….” How about that? A heroine who isn’t drop-dead gorgeous – how unusual! How refreshing! How realistic. I like realistic. In fact, I liked Code Name: Nanny so much, I’ve started looking for Christina Skye’s backlist. That’s about the strongest recommendation I can give any book.

--Nancy J. Silberstein

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