Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Review: Stealing Mr. Right by Tamara Morgan

4 stars
Release Date: 7/3/16
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My opinion is my own.

Tamara Morgan's website describes Stealing Mr. Right as "Ocean's Eleven meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith", and that's pretty spot-on. The synopsis says:
I'm a wanted jewel thief. He's FBI.What's that saying? Keep your friends close...and your husband closer.   Being married to a federal agent certainly has its perks.
1. I just love the way that man looks in a suit.
2. This way I always know what the enemy is up to.
Spending my days lifting jewels and my nights tracking the Bureau should have been a genius plan. But the closer I get to Grant Emerson, the more dangerous this feels. With two million dollars' worth of diamonds on the line, I can't afford to fall for my own husband.  
It turns out that the only thing worse than having a mortal enemy is being married to one. Because in our game of theft and seduction, only one of us will come out on top. Good thing a cat burglar always lands on her feet.
One thing the blurb doesn't make clear - and that really reminded me of Mr. and Mrs. Smith - is that the narrator, Penelope Blue, and her husband Grant both entered their relationship knowing the other's identity but unaware of their motives. It's an elaborate game of bluff and double bluff, where they both maintain the fiction that Penelope is a dance teacher, and that the close bonds she has with her fellow thieves are more than friendship.

I loved Penelope as a character. Her humour and flexible morals reminded me of Stephanie Plum or Isabel Spellman, heroines from other romantic comedy series that deal with the criminal world. But Penelope differs in that she falls firmly on the wrong side of the law. She's a wonderful antiheroine, she's undoubtedly strong, but her upbringing and ambiguous relationship with Grant also mean that she is emotionally vulnerable. 

Somehow, despite the moral ambiguity surrounding his relationship with Penelope, Grant comes across as a stand-up guy and swoonworthy hero. He's the kind of hero that's my catnip: honourable, but just dishonourable enough. 

His courtship with Penelope - courtship is an old-fashioned word, but it somehow seems appropriate, given the way Grant restrains himself and declares his intentions - is told through flashbacks that are interspersed with what is happening in their present-day marriage. Because of this, Stealing Mr. Right simultaneously feels like a romance novel, where the hero and heroine are feeling each other out, and long-running romantic comedy series with established love interests, like the ones I mentioned earlier. 

From the next book in the series, currently available for pre-order on Amazon, I gather that there will be two more books about Grant and Penelope. It would have been nice to know this going in - or even to have some confirmation that this is indeed the case - but Stealing Mr. Right still functions well as a standalone and has a HFN. 

If I had to name the one thing that I loved best about Stealing Mr. Right, it would be the all-round depth of emotion Morgan manages to convey, the kind that makes your chest feel tight. Partly, this is because the relationships she has crafted between the characters are so messily real and evoke so much emotion. I've read four or five of Morgan's books now, and, as I said in my review of The Derby Girl, this seems to be a consistent strength of hers, as is the acerbic wit she gives her heroines. These similarities mean that, while Stealing Mr. Right might seem to be a change of direction, it will still appeal to fans of her comedic contemporary romances, while also drawing in news readers of romantic suspense, chick-lit and serialised romantic comedies.

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