Zoe is torn between her newfound relationship with a dashing man named Aaron, and her sexual escapades with a mysterious man she refers to as the “phantom”. Little does she know these two men are actually one and the same.
What’s it About?
A desperate woman. A disillusioned spy. A doomed mission.
Zoe Bradford will do anything to find her brother Ben, a missing missionary in Latin America. Even if it means sleeping with an anonymous stranger in order to finance a rescue mission.
Covert operative Aaron Manning doesn’t believe a “normal” life is possible for him. But the bizarre arrangement he creates with Zoe makes him more determined to step out of the shadows permanently in order to achieve his dream.
Zoe wants to believe in Aaron’s promise to save Ben, but she finds it impossible to fully trust him. When she blunders into the carefully orchestrated op, her interference nearly kills them all.
Aaron must fake his own death to start a new life, but Zoe still needs answers. And when her phantom lover makes contact again, a pregnant Zoe knows the only way to move forward is to learn his true identity.
When she discovers the man she’s in love with and the phantom who duped her are one and the same, will she be willing to forgive them both?
First things first, let’s start things off with the synopsis. I remember reading this overview right before cracking open my kindle to kick off the book and thinking, my goodness that’s a lot of detail jam packed in there. So I just soldiered on with the read, not thinking much about the synopsis once I got started. However, looking back on it now I must say it’s almost too much detail in that it gives away a few crucial plot points! Some of the specifics it mentioned were in fact some of the bigger surprise moments of the read for me, so in hindsight I’m kind of happy I forgot about all of the things the synopsis revealed ahead of time. Does this mean you should skip the synopsis? Nah, not necessarily. But maybe just give it a quick glance before you dive into the world of our characters 🙂
A Love Triangle for Two
There are a lot of plot points going on throughout this book to keep you engaged. From Zoe’s missing brother to Aaron’s dangerous job, old enemies and lost loved ones. And yet, the most fascinating aspect of the whole story for me would have to be the psychological component behind this love triangle which emerges between Zoe, her mystery phantom, and Aaron. Our novel begins with Zoe in desperate need of money. She needs to build up some savings to hopefully pay a ransom and retrieve her missing missionary brother. Salvation apparently arrives in the form of an envelope filled with cash, and instructions for Zoe to travel to a discreet location. If she offers her body to the man at this locale, keeping the lights off throughout, and remaining silent, she’ll get even more money. What starts off as the most unusual of meet cutes quickly develops into a relationship of passion between Zoe and her “phantom”.
And then Zoe meets Aaron, a seemingly nice guy in a bookstore who wants to get to know her. Unlike her primarily physical and transactional relationship with the phantom, her time with Aaron is spent getting to know each other, and has an emotional foundation. Not to mention the ability to actually converse with one another. However, it’s truly captivating to see Zoe struggle to take things further with Aaron, and her loyalties seemingly lie with the phantom who came into her life first. We see that beyond their sexual relationship, the phantom provided Zoe with a sense of autonomy and independence which had been lacking in her life for so long. She learns to live again, be desired again, and the phantom is continually providing her with the financial means necessary to take matters into her own hands by rescuing her brother. The fact that Aaron and the phantom are actually the same person lends even more depth and fascination behind this supposed love triangle, and constantly makes you question what Zoe will do when she uncovers the truth behind their identities.
A Rescue Mission Gone Wrong
While Zoe’s inner musings regarding her relationships with Aaron and the phantom proved to be most captivating, the drama surrounding the rescue of her brother from mining criminals presented a bit of a quandary. I could both understand Zoe’s approach to this rescue mission, yet also couldn’t help but feel that she was being rather nonsensical at times. When Zoe discovers that Aaron is a covert spy, she implores him to do whatever is necessary to save her missing brother. She’s even willing to give Aaron all the money she’s saved from her sexual exploits with the phantom. When Aaron initially rejects her request for help, we see the first fracture of their relationship. After more pleading, Aaron eventually acquiesces, but says he won’t collect the money until after he returns from his attempt to retrieve her brother. Seems like a fairly sympathetic offer, yes? Yeaaaah, not so much. Zoe becomes enraged at the fact Aaron won’t take her money, not to mention that he refuses to allow her to tag along on his journey through the jungle.
How can she trust that he’ll actually go? How does she know he won’t come back after a week’s vacation, and say he either couldn’t find her brother, or that he was dead? Mkay, totally logical concerns. Although the fact he didn’t immediately jump at the chance to take her money means he probably didn’t have any intention to just walk off with it. However, my biggest confusion came once Zoe decided to just traipse off on her own to locate her brother, and ultimately runs into Aaron in the jungle with his bad-ass team of spies who have also set out to rescue her sibling. Now, if it were me, and I ran into 4 burly, surly commandos in camouflage and carrying some intense firepower, I’d probably trust them to get the job done. As for Zoe? She’s still determined to try and ditch them in an attempt to rescue her brother by herself. But…why? At this point Zoe merely suspects Aaron and her phantom might be one and the same, but it’s not confirmed 100%, meaning she really has no reason to distrust Aaron when he says he’ll do whatever he can to bring her brother back home. It was an argument I had trouble wrapping my head around!
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Final Impressions: All in all, this was an interesting read that presented us with some rather fascinating psychological debates. From Zoe’s difficulty at opening herself up to love again following the death of her husband and child, to her questioning loyalties for the two men she’s grown to care for, we’re constantly wondering how things will come to pass. Looking back, I will say the synopsis was far too revealing in some of the exciting plot developments which took place throughout the story. At times it was tricky to follow the reasoning behind the decisions of our lead characters, including Aaron’s initial ruse to give money to Zoe in exchange for sex in the dark with no conversation, as well as Zoe both asking for and then refusing Aaron’s help to save her brother. Overall though, it portrays two characters who aren’t necessarily perfect, who battle with their inner demons and past traumas, but can find love and comfort in each other’s arms.
Smut Level: They may have kept the lights off, but Zoe’s sexual delights with the phantom were red hot!
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Sandalstring Productions. 364 Pages
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