Thursday, November 26, 2009

Review of The Assignment by Evangeline Anderson

Evangeline Anderson
The Assignment
Loose Id, February 2006

Genre & Keywords
: Gay, M/M, Best Friends Become Lovers, Straight Guy Turns Gay, Cops
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 3 out of 3 flames

My first acquaintance with the books of Evangeline Anderson was Str8te Boys. I’m pretty sure that it was at the same time my first M/M story ever. And it got me completely hooked at the genre! It was such a sweet story about two straight roommates who start feeling attracted to one another. In fact, The Assignment reminded me of that story in more than one way. Both are featuring best friends falling in love and straight guy(s) turning gay. And both are written from just one point of view, which keeps you guessing about the other guy’s feelings. And let’s not forget, both contain scorching hot M/M sex scenes!
The difference is that the protags of The Assignment are working together on an undercover assignment and that they can’t screw up their cover, so the suspense level is higher than that of Str8te Boys. The publisher even labeled the novel as ‘Romantic Suspense’ (and GLBT). Maybe that’s a bit too strong a label, although I found myself being unable to put the book down. I wanted to keep reading and reading, but that was more due to them making out and falling in love with each other than to the investigation or the threats of danger that were supposed to hang over their heads.

Overall, I loved The Assignment but there were a few things I had questions about. So, I like to share my High 5, Low 5 with you. The High Five are five things that have impressed me or that I really enjoyed, and the Low Five are five things that had me shaking my head in wonder or annoyance.

First the Back Blurb:
Detective Nicholas Valenti, tall, dark and stoic, has been best friends with his partner, Sean O'Brian for six years. The two men have seen each other through divorce, disaster, and danger, and saved each other's asses more times than Valenti can count. Exactly when he started seeing his blond, intense partner in another light, Valenti isn't really sure. He only knows that he wants O'Brian in a way that had nothing to do with friendship and everything to do with possession. It is a desire he will have to hide forever because O'Brian is undeniably straight.
Just as Valenti is coming to grips with his new, unacceptable feelings for his partner their police captain puts them on a new case that could blow Valenti's cover once and for all. He and O'Brian are going undercover at the country's largest and most infamous gay resort to bust a notorious drug lord and stop the shipments of poison cocaine that are flooding the gay bars all over the city.
Now Valenti will have to make a choice between friendship and desire. He and O'Brian will play the roles of gay men that will push the limits of their relationship to the breaking point. Will their time at the RamJack forge a new bond between them or destroy their partnership forever?

High 5

• Favorite subject, effectively done
I’m a sucker for the Friends Become Lovers subject. Can’t help liking that type of romances, but when it’s done well, these are the best. It’s because friends already know each other well and apparently like the other person for who he (or she) is. And it’s not only about physical attraction in these stories, but there’s a broader base. Now, Ms Anderson has a way of making this subject work for me. The doubts and insecurities that come with the feelings of love and attraction are made insightful and perceptible. At least those of Nick, since the story is told from his POV. There are a few flashbacks in which their history as friends becomes clear, their special bond and how things started changing and became more than just friendship. Nick’s reluctance to take the next step with Sean, time after time, is understandable because of the way he feels about their friendship and losing that. It was very easy to empathize with him thanks to the insight Ms. Anderson gave into his emotions.

• Lively dialogue
The way Sean and Nick interact with each other is lifelike. A big part of what made me enjoy this story is due to the lively dialogue, which was also funny at times. Just let me give an example:

“So you’re sayin’ if Valenti and I don’t act the part, we could be
in deep shit,” O’Brian said bluntly.
“That’s putting it mildly, sweetie,”
Twonnie said. “And from what Turk said, you’ve only got a week to practice your
act, so you better get to it.” He gestured at both of them.
“What, right
now?” Valenti asked, feeling slightly panicked.
“What do you want us to do,
kiss?” O’Brian asked, a lot more coolly than Valenti would have believed
possible. What had gotten into his partner lately? Valenti would have bet even
money that if someone had suggested that Sean O’Brian was willing to kiss
another man -- even his partner and best friend -- O’Brian would have punched
the chump in the mouth. But now here he was suggesting it himself.
looked amused. “No, honey,” he told O’Brian. “You’ll have to work up to that, I
think. But why don’t you take tall, dark, and beautiful here out for a spin on
the dance floor?”
“What, here?” Valenti asked, knowing that he
sounded like a broken record, but unable to help himself.
“Where else did
you have in mind, honey, Grand Central Station? Of course here. Don’t get
that panicked look on your face; I’m not asking you to throw your partner
facedown on the table and screw him. I just said dance.” Twonnie looked
disgusted with them. “If you can’t even dance with each other, then you might as
well forget it -- you may have to do a lot more than that to pass at the

• Sweet, giving characters
Both Nick and Sean are very easy to like. They are good friends, willing to push aside their own needs to put the other at ease. Their appeasing words about what’s happening between them are meant well, even if they turn out to cause a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. In their lovemaking they’re sweet and giving as well, which makes that these scenes are not only hot, but also sensitive and affectionate.

• Great sexual tension
Yep, there’s plenty of that! And how can that not be a good thing in an erotic romance, right? It’s excellently done and it makes this a fast paced, page turning story that I didn’t want to put down.

• Memorable hot scenes
The Assignment does have a couple of hot scenes I won’t forget easily. One of them is when Sean tells other guests at the resort a bogus first-time story. This backstory is close to their real relationship except for the sex, which they hadn’t had yet at that point. He tells the made-up story while sitting on Nick’s lap, who’s sporting a huge erection at the time. Sean’s saving their asses and is voicing Nick’s deepest fantasy at the same time.
The other one is memorable in a weird sense, because the setting is awkward. A very intimate and hot moment takes place between the two guys while they’re accidentally participating in a very publicly jerk off contest (how weird is that, huh?). Because of that odd and unlikely setting I also mention it as one of the Low Fives, but memorable it was! And well written as well.

Low 5

• Single Point of View
I started missing the POV of Sean. For the most part of the book it works great that only Nick’s POV is shown. It adds to the tension and it makes you feel his doubts and fears as if they were your own (so to speak). But at the moment that Nick’s fears let him behave in a way I didn’t agree with and when the lack of communication between the two guys starts to get annoying, I thought it was time for a POV switch. But that didn’t happen, grrrr…

• Early 1980s?
It’s beyond me why Ms. Anderson had to date her story ‘Early 1980s’. I wondered about that for a while and it only made me realize that the guys would’ve been pushing the age of 60 in the year 2009 /:o. Luckily after the first chapter I forgot about it. Why did the author not just leave it to the imagination? Maybe it had to explain the lack of mobile phones when the guys are separated at the end?

• First names, last names
It bugged me a bit that someone calls the one he loves by his last name. They switched between first and last names, but a definitive choice for the first name with the progress of their loving feelings would have been so much sweeter.

• Suspense?
Like I said in my intro the publisher labeled this novel as romantic suspense. I thought the suspense storyline was a bit farfetched. It offered a good alibi for all the love scenes and it caused the kickoff of their relation to begin with, so it served a good purpose. But it got snowed under and the events became sort of unlikely. The guys are after this big drug baron who’s the owner of a gay resort, so they go undercover at that resort. But they hardly do any investigating. And when they sort of do, their personal issues get in the way. Not very professional... Even so, they know to arouse the suspicion of the bad guy. De drug baron exposes them and puts them in a highly unlikely situation, for a villain. For the love storyline it’s an excellent dilemma that brings the lovers to another level. But the suspense storyline gets wrapped up too quickly and not in a very satisfying way. Luckily I could easily discard that and concentrate on the romance part, but if you picked up this book for the suspense, it would’ve been rather disappointing I imagine.

• The RamJack? Really?
The location of the gay resort, the RamJack, put the guys in some awkward situations. I can hardly believe that such a place could be for real. And some of the regular activities were downright weird, like the on stage jerk off and suck off contests. But even though the protags participated in one of them, which was in itself nonsensical, Ms Anderson turned it into a beautifully written love scene. By concentrating on the feelings and actions of the guys as if they were the only people in the room, she succeeded in helping me get over the awkward feeling I had about the surroundings. And the emotional scene afterwards was even better done.

So, these were my five highs and lows. I did like The Assignment quite a lot, because of the excellent writing, the great tension and the sweet, loveable characters. And although I had a few annoyances and questions, they didn't bother me enough to take away from my enjoyment of the story. It’s definitely a hot and erotic M/M romance!
I’ve finished both sequels I’ll Be Hot for Christmas and Fireworks as well, but maybe I’ll write about them another time. Both are short stories and a nice addition to the novel. But since it’s past midnight, I’ll be off to bed now!


  1. Well... I see the Lion Tamer... he looks like he is exhausted... hee hee.. And did he hinder your review... I don't think he did... He sure is grinning from ear to ear!!


    Great review!! I like the High 5/Low 5 and I am a ***ssshhhssss*** virgin when it comes to M/M books. So this one does sounds very interesting and entertaining!
    Thanks for your thoughts!
    I hope you had a great night! And wonderful day tomorrow!

  2. I also am a virgin, never read any m/m before, this sounds like an interesting read!

  3. yayaya Marissa, I don't feel alone anymore!!!

  4. Ooo girls, I think it's about time you lose your virginity!! I promise it won't hurt, LOL. Maybe you can give this one a try, or else 'A Helping Hand' by Shayla Kersten. A 5 star read for me, but only available as an ebook (at Ellora's Cave).

    LOL, Cecile! I'm glad the Lion Tamer did get home safe... and satisfied... *wink*.. Don't you love his from ear to ear grin?!! I had a great time with him and I'm eternally grateful for your generosity, hon!! *sigh, already miss him*

    Hi Marissa, great to see ya here!! I'll be over at your place soon...I have been there and liked it a lot. Saw that you nearly live around the corner :)
    Hope to see you around here a lot more!!

  5. Wonderful review!!
    I really liked this story, and the 2 shorts, although like you I wished for a bit of Sean's POV.

  6. Thanks, Lily! Luckily we get some of Sean's POV in I'll Be Hot for Christmas. I thought that was great!
    And thanks for stopping by :)

  7. The Assignment just didn't do it for me. My biggest criticism is that I got so tired of them making out, and then the next minute they couldn't admit their feelings because they thought the other one was still in pretend mode.

    Totally agree with the jack-off contest too..that was just a little too out there for me.

    I will say that I do love friends to lovers themes and I bought into their love, I just wish they would have admitted it earlier in the story.

    Have you read Faith and Fidelity by Tere Michaels? That is probably my favorite friends to lovers.

  8. LOL!!! You promising it won't hurt!!! Hummm... I am trying to walk in the baby pool. I got a few good recs from other pople... aleays lookig for more though... lol
    Oh honey... that grin that man had.. was a sight to see!!! You are more than welcome to have him over again.. any time! =)

  9. Hi Mandi,
    I hear what you're saying and can relate to it to a certain point. But it didn't annoy or tire me that they were uncertain about their feelings. In fact, I thought it added to the tension and kept me turning the pages :)
    It's funny how certain things work for one and not for others, huh? But that's a good thing, don't ya think?

    Nope, I haven't read Faith and Fidelity. I did look it up on goodreads and it sounds good!! So it's on top of my TBB list now :)! Thanks for the tip!

  10. Hey Cecile,
    Yeah, I read your M/M meme, LOL!! I haven't read that much M/M romances either but the ones I have, are tagged 'Happy Gay' and can be found via the cloud at my sidebar.
    I think the (straight) friends become lovers theme is actually a good one to lose your virginity with. At least that worked for me (with 'Str8te Boys). 'Cause you take baby steps, together with the characters, into the world of M/M love ;)

    LOL!! I'll give you a call when I wanna see his grin again... you're the sweetest!! :)

  11. It is funny how we perceive things differently. Maybe I was just in a mood that night ;)

    BTW - I really like your high five, low five system. It made the review very nice to read.


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