Playing Dirty by Helenkay Dimon

Playing Dirty by Helenkay Dimon
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (246 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

As an elite Alliance agent—the joint undercover operation of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, and the CIA—Ford Decker lives for the adrenaline. But when he befriends sexy property manager Shay Alexander in hopes of finding her cousin, a known national security threat, Ford crosses the line, getting to know her better . . . in bed.

After being burned by her last relationship, Shay wants to take things slow. Yet she can’t keep her hands off the drop-dead gorgeous hottie who’s moved into her apartment building. So when Ford’s identity as an undercover agent is exposed, his betrayal cuts deep. Shay never wants to see him again, but Ford can’t let her go, not when her life is still in danger. He will sacrifice everything to protect her, then be prepared to walk away from the only woman he’s ever loved, even if it breaks him.

Playing Dirty is jam packed with action. All sorts of action: the mind-blowing hot action, and the cool action executed with military precision. And with characters like Shay and Ford, it’s no wonder that the novel never gets boring.

Although this is another novel about a special ops team, its highly trained individuals who seem heartless at first sight, but slowly we get to know their soft, loyal hearts, Playing Dirty is nevertheless different. Yes, Ford Decker (an alias, natch) is a trained killer and he doesn’t even blink when he has to take out a target. And yes, ultimately he falls for the sweet woman next door. But in between, a lot of things happen and many of them reveal the various shades of his character that make him more human than most romantic suspense heroes.

The difference lies in the fact that large portions of the novel are told from Ford’s perspective which is unusual for a romance novel. We see him reflect on the action in Shay’s bedroom, as well as in action when on his missions that are currently all focused on capturing a runaway scientist (Shay’s cousin) and stopping him from delivering a deadly toxin to terrorists. Although the dire consequences of the toxin getting into the wrong hands are explained, the story focuses more on the people and their motives, which I really appreciated. This was also why even the action sequences were never dull although they were very detailed.

Another thing I was really happy about was Shay’s portrayal. Despite having some bad experiences with men, she’s not embittered or overly burdened with her past. She’s uncomplicated and despite Ford’s faults, she accepts him as he is, but not in a way that would make it seem like she’s settling for anything less than she deserves. She’s realistic, understanding and loving. Because of that, the betrayal feels so much worse and I really felt for her. At the same time, the author managed to justify Ford’s actions in a way that made it possible for Shay (and the readers) to forgive him.

Playing Dirty is a fast-paced mission to save the world and the unexpected love that blossoms between Ford and Shay. Worth a read. Or two.

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