(Cover picture courtesy of Elle Rush’s blog.)
A Beyond Fairytales Adaptation of Grimm’s The Owl
Five years ago, Maya Jain kissed her best friend only to have him run out of her dorm room and leave the state. When he shows up in Washington, D.C., a wanted fugitive sought after by every branch of the US government, she can’t bring herself to ignore his plight. As their physical relationship picks up where it left off, she decides it’s time to make him see her as more than the bespectacled, bookish girl he once called “Owl.”
After being accused of espionage and treason, Zack Strong needs a forensic accountant to help clear his name. Not knowing who he can trust, this white-hat hacker has no choice but to ask his former best friend and math tutor for help. Together they unravel a cyber conspiracy at the Barn, an NSA facility tasked to intercept electronic communications. But as they traverse the nation’s capital to avoid capture, Maya insists on letting their simmering sexual tension take its natural course. Even though he’s never been able to shake the memory of their one kiss, he refuses to let her give up her life for a man with no future.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]
Operation Owl was a solid ‘meh’ for me personally. Yes, I went into this expecting for there to be lots of romance (which was fine) but I also expected a little bit more action. I’ll explain.
Essentially, the big conspiracy plot that’s the reason why Zack is running plays second fiddle to the interpersonal conflict between him and Maya. That’s just fine by me in theory, except that in practice, the actual huge conspiracy probably made up less than 25% of the book whereas the rest was about their friendship. With a conspiracy that big, I would have preferred a little more action because it’s pretty important. So even though Operation Owl does have an interesting plot on the blurb, it’s actually very much the ‘romantic comedy’ it’s labelled as. (Though lacking on the comedy part.)
Despite my misgivings about the plot, I did enjoy the characters. Maya and Zack have had a complicated relationship, to say the least. We learn about the events of five years ago that led to Maya kissing Zack and how that in turn led to them not seeing each other in person for all that time. When they finally meet again, having Zack being chased by the government’s hired mercenaries doesn’t exactly make for the best circumstances. Still, they make it work and their bond re-forms. I liked seeing from each of their viewpoints how they learned to let go of the past and just focus on the present. This is definitely one of the better romances I’ve read.
Tara Quan’s writing style is actually very good. It’s well-suited to the contemporary feel of her novel and while it is pared-down, I was never confused about the setting or which character was speaking (as sometimes happens when authors try to cut too much description). She does an excellent job with the sexual tension of both characters and by a certain point in the book you’re just ready to scream at them to go and have sex already. Which is sort of the purpose of that unresolved sexual tension, I suppose.
So character-wise and writing-wise, I really have no complaints. I would have liked for there to have been more focus on the conspiracy, but that’s just me. At least the conflict was resolved nicely (but not necessarily neatly) at the very end and it would almost be believable were I not such a cynic about politics. Again, that’s just me; it’s actually quite a satisfying ending from a reader’s standpoint.
I give this book 3.5/5 stars.