Title: Houseboat on the Nile, Not My Spook!, Forever (Spy vs. Spook #1-3)
Length: 126,649 words, 106,283 words, & 128,971 words (respectively)
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty (Overall)
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex (Overall)
Keywords/Tags: Series, Spy vs. Spook, Spies/Agents, Enemies to Lovers, Previously Online Fic
Rating: Pretty Good
Houseboat on the Nile
Mark Vincent is WBIS—Washington Bureau of Intelligence and Security. Quinton Mann is staunchly CIA. Mark thinks the CIA is full of dilettantes who leave him and the rest of the WBIS to clean up their messes. Quinn thinks most WBIS agents are sociopathic loose cannons. So they don’t exactly get along.
Of course, just because they don’t like each other doesn’t mean they can’t play mind games on each other. Or sleep together. But when an explosion at Mark’s apartment sends Quinn to the morgue to ID a body, he has to reevaluate his position on denial.
Not My Spook!
Highly ranked CIA officer Quinton Mann finds himself in a relationship with Mark Vincent—for exactly five days. At that point, Mark uses the excuse of going to Massachusetts for his mother’s funeral to end it. But Quinn’s a spook, and you can’t fake a faker. Mark fears he’s getting in too deep with Quinn, hence the disappearing act. Then Quinn does something unexpected, something nobody has ever done before: he comes after Mark. Maybe being in a relationship with Quinn isn’t such a bad idea. In the meantime, something strange is going on in the intelligence community worldwide. When Quinn disappears while investigating a rogue antiterrorist organization, Mark makes up his mind. Quinn might be a spook, but he’s Mark’s spook, damn it—and once he gets Quinn home, he intends to keep him. He just has to find him first.
Lately, life is both sweet and sour for intelligence operatives Mark Vincent and Quinton Mann. The sweet is they’re settling into a relationship; Mark has found a condo in Alexandria with the help of Quinn’s mother, Portia; and Mark and Quinn are looking forward to spending the holidays in the Caribbean. As for the sour, something shadier than usual is going on at Langley. Useless missions and sleepless nights are leaving Quinn exhausted, and then Portia’s life is threatened. When Quinn discovers the accident was no accident and the egomaniacal Senator Wexler is involved, he’s out for blood. To this point, Mark has stayed out of Quinn’s CIA business. But hurting Quinn and those he loves isn’t on the table, so at Mark’s instigation, they set out together to deal with Wexler. The only catch: it’s the first time Quinn will see Mark at his deadly best, and Mark isn’t sure how his lover will react.
For weeks, I’ve had a plan to read the first of this series, Houseboat on the Nile with my awesome friend and reading buddy Laddie, and then just that week, I got so sick. That was last week, by the way. I didn’t know if I’d be in the mood to read these at all. I had a fever and a hard time concentrating. But then, it worked out perfectly. I spend several days reading this whole series, back to back. I couldn’t put them down, really. I had to know what happened to Quinn and Mark.
I did have some trouble getting into them. My cold medicine soaked brain was not up to deciphering complicated plots and a whole shitload of characters and their names. That’s how I thought this was going to be, and indeed the first 30k to 40k of the first book was just like that. But, then it all seemed to click for me, and I really got into them. I was almost glad I had the excuse of being sick and didn’t have to do anything more than lay around and read this series to my heart’s content. And the good thing, is that combined, they’re about 360k words — a very good chunk that you can spend time getting into!
The basis of the story is the rivalry between the various government agencies in DC. Set in 2002, the story switches point of view between several characters, but mostly between two men — Mark Vincent and Quinton Mann. Mark is a WBIS senior agent and most think him a loose cannon. Actually, they’re all afraid of him. His bureau is known for their unusual tactics, and Mark Vincent is the best of the best. Quinn is a CIA director and just as well known for his family and all around class as his success in his career. He’s just one in a long line of government operatives, including his mother Portia, who was a code breaker for NSA during the Cold War. They’re both extraordinary men, and by nature of the organizations they work for, hate each other.
When Mann finds out that Vincent has been doing a little snooping into his past, he sets out to up the ante, but the result is that they both find they have an extreme sexual attraction to one another. Is it real? Or is it a game to one up the other? Neither can quite figure it out, but they know they can’t stop.
At it’s heart, this is a really wonderful story. Mostly, that comes from these two characters their their chemistry, which is incredibly hot. The games they play on each other are hilarious, and I loved seeing them slowly come together and realize that they have actual feelings for each other. Watching them maneuver the minefield if their intelligence careers while trying to carry on a clandestine relationship was the best part of this story. I would read their books forever and wished that they went on and on and on.
But, I also can’t deny that these books are riddled with problems. Knowing ahead of time that these were previously one book of original online fiction, helped me to realize where the problem was, or else I might have been really confused. Now, I haven’t read that original book which was called Mann of My Dreams, but it seems to me from reading these released by Dreamspinner that they most likely weren’t changed very much. And that is a problem — they still read like online fiction. And while they’re good, they could have been great, with a really smart and exacting editor to bring them new life. The biggest problem with the published books is the repetition, which I have heard others complain about as well. And it isn’t just the style of the writing, which takes both characters point of view and shows the same events, over and over. While tiring at some points (because this series would have been at least half the length, otherwise), that didn’t bother me too much. I embraced the style and ran with it. But, there is a lot of other repetition within that should have been cut — whole paragraphs reminding us what happened a few chapters ago and whole scenes that are repeated to remind us, but 5 to 6 times over the whole series. It is one thing to remind us in the beginning of a sequel the few key points that happened in the first book, not everyone reads the books back to back like I did, I understand that. But, that is something from the online fiction that should have been cut. We aren’t reading this an online serial, so we don’t need to be reminded of things that happened, which online, we might have read several months or even years ago.
It was fundamental problems like that that really bothered me. Not just mistakes, but glaring problems. I ended up feeling that I might as well have just read them online for free if they had all that. So while I absolutely loved the story and adored the characters, I found the writing fundamentally flawed, which really affected my enjoyment of the story. I had hoped that some of these things might get better with each subsequent book — after all, I read these types of comments on each book page at Goodreads and thought they might influence how the later books were edited, but not. I didn’t see any difference, which made me a little sad.
I wholeheartedly recommend this series, but, I will warn you to brace yourself to be at least a little annoyed. If I were rating these books based solely on how much I loved the plot and characters, it would easily get a Loved It! rating, but since I’m not, especially since I felt there should have been more changes since this was an online book that the author then published, I had to lower the rating for all three books to just Pretty Good.
Have any of you read these books? What did you think?