The Badge and the Baby

The Bane Affair by Alison Kent
(Brava Kensington, $14.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-7582-0668-2
Although I’ve read a short story by Alison Kent, I hadn’t read one of her full-length books until I picked up The Bane Affair. The backcover summary sounded appealing, and I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed. This romantic suspense is one you don’t want to miss.

Christian Bane is an agent with the Smithson Group. His mission requires him to go undercover as criminal agent Peter Deacon to discover what happened to a missing scientist. Hank Smithson, the leader of the covert group, believes that the scientist has been kidnapped and forced to work for Spectra IT, a crime syndicate. When Hank says, “They’re holding another innocent man hostage. I need you to go in and get him out,” Christian agrees to the plan.

The first person Christian meets as Peter is Natasha Gaudet, Wickham’s goddaughter and assistant. Knowing that Deacon is a notorious womanizer, Christian makes a play for her both to maintain his cover and to find out her role in Spectra. But Christian’s attraction to Natasha is genuine. Soon they begin a steamy affair, and Christian must determine Natasha’s loyalties at the same time that he continues his investigation.

I'm a sucker for a well-portrayed wounded hero, and Christian is that and more. Although he's attracted to Natasha, he struggles to keep his emotions uninvolved. The last time he fell in love with a woman, he was on assignment and the woman betrayed him. Christian is determined not to make the same mistake twice. At first his relationship with Natasha is more physical than the emotional, and this is clearly depicted in the first part of the story.

In spite of Christian’s desire to remain unemotionally aloof, his feelings for Natasha soon deepen. It’s easy to see why; Natasha is equally compelling. Though she has confused lust and love in the past and wonders whether she is making the same mistake here, she’s willing to go after what — or who — she wants. Thank heavens, this is no standard woman-in-danger story; Natasha is smart, courageous, compassionate, and the perfect woman for Christian. One of their love scenes from later in the novel is one of the most compelling and memorable I’ve read all year.

Kent also brings the secondary characters to life: Hank and Wickham in particular. The Bane Affair also introduces several other Smithson Group operatives. Unlike some secondary characters in books who scream, “Look at me; I’m being introduced so you’ll read the next novel,” Kent’s characters contributed to the plot of this story.

My only quibble with The Bane Affair was that it ended a little too abruptly. I wanted to see a few of the potential loose ends tied up, and I wanted a little more with Christian and Natasha. But that didn't keep the book from being very enjoyable, nor will it keep me from buying the next one in the series, The Shaughnessey Accord. I’m anticipating another great read.

--Alyssa Hurzeler

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