Okay...I'll be the first to admit that I bought this book spur of the moment, because I liked the blurb and excerpt I saw on a Yahoogroup. So, let that be a lesson...always have your blurbs and excerpts up to snuff. It IS possible to get even a fastidious reader like me to purchase something on the first time I see it with a good enough hook.
BRILLIANT DISGUISE is a Resplendance Publishing book from JL Wilson. I've since found out that Wilson (if it's the same author) has a backlist that I'd be interested in trying out.
Interested? I must have liked the book. Yes, I did, to be honest.
The basic set-up is that computer programmer/hacker Shannon has returned home to a small town (after being widowed in Silicon Valley). Her dead husband was a real jerk: a womanizer, a wife-beater, and apparently a traitor who was selling government secrets to unknown parties and was ultimately murdered by them. Now, they want his files unlocked and delivered to them...or someone she cares about in the sleepy little town is going to die.
Enter Nick, an undercover FBI agent after those same secrets and ordered to get close to the widow. He's not sure if Shannon is a traitor like her husband or an innocent caught in the middle of the mess John left behind. His libido and his mind argue that she's innocent, but she's not an easy woman to get next to, especially with well-meaning townsfolk running interference and her father's old CIA contacts and her hacker friends proving her the better investigator.
I adore Wilson's characters, though I was a bit muddied on the kids' ages. To take a school trip that's in the next big city (not unlike my kids being driven into Boston for a school trip) would spark 3rd grade or older for me, but Beth's choices and verbiage made her read younger to me...maybe first or second grade.
I love the teasing and sarcasm Shannon falls into. I LOVE the interfering but well-meaning friends and family, especially the glimpse we get of one of her older sisters and the jaunt through the stores and churches in town. I even love the good-natured personal ribbing and professional ribbing that the characters engage in; as an ex-Navy wife, that all sounds so familiar to me.
In the same way, Nick is protective and slightly-overbearing...alpha but constantly in awe of his lady love. He's a tactician, which makes dealing with him amusing and frustrating, at the same time.
At the same time, I found some things in the characterization and plot line to be inconsistent. I find it hard to believe that the FBI, for instance, would not only condone the agent falling in love with a suspect/witness but leave him as the sole protector for said person.
Likewise, I find it hard to believe that a highly-trained woman, who proves herself capable of defending herself both bare-handed and with a knife is capable of attacking men with guns but shies and cowers from every fist or slap. Even having taken a beating in her life (once that we know of), it needs more reasoning or it falls flat.
The storyline is wonderfully convoluted. As inventive as Shannon is, the villains are just a little more so, making her well-laid plans not as well-executed as she might hope, which leads the reader on a wild ride.
I will admit I saw the end coming, but that's nothing against Wilson. I tend to eliminate possibilities and come up with solutions others don't. In some way, it might mean that we think alike, since it wasn't an obvious solution.