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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Operation Owl by Tara Quan

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.


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I'm a fan of fairytales that are retold with a modern twist, but while this story technically qualifies as such, it's not incredibly obvious that's what it is. To be fair, the story it's based on is a rather obscure one that few are likely to be familiar with--I know I'm not--so perhaps that's why it lacks a true fairytale feel to it, at least to me. This isn't to say I didn't like the story, for I did enjoy it quite a lot, I'm just noting that it doesn't entirely fit its billing.



Maya is a young professional who's torn between her family's traditional Indian values and beliefs, and her own modern, very American sensibilities and proclivities. She's also torn between her very staid and traditional sort of job as a forensic accountant, a profession which she loves, and her more fun-loving, non-traditional geeky side which exults in trouncing her friends at Guitar Hero and other video games. Instead of being tormented by being pulled in so many directions like many characters in her position would be, she's managed to find a workable balance for it all in her life that makes her happy and confident in her abilities and what she wants from life. Though she's still stinging from Zack's past rejection of her, and understandably a bit hesitant to become involved in illegal activities with him, she still finds it to be rather a no-brainer to help him when he comes to her in need of her aid to try to clear his name. She may be grumpy at times about what all exactly she ends up getting drug into, but she makes it clear at ever point that she's the one that's in charge of her life, and she's the one making the decisions that affect her and no one else will be allowed to make those decisions for her however well-intentioned they might be.

Zack is a computer genius that's run afoul of a crooked government employee and is now on the run not only for his freedom but for his very life. He has most of the information he needs to potentially clear his name from the charges of treason and espionage that he faces, but he lacks the ability to interpret the data well enough to figure out who exactly is responsible for his predicament. Because of this, he resists letting Maya become involved with him again despite his strong attraction to her. It's a classic case of White Knight Syndrome in that he's willing to deny his own desire for her in the name of not ruining her life too since he knows there's not much hope that he'll ever be able to fully redeem his own. Fortunately for him, Maya's got her own ideas about it.

I'm always a bit torn in reviewing short works like this. On the one hand I really enjoyed reading about both of these characters and I felt that many aspects of their situation were grossly oversimplified and their overall story got  bit truncated. On the other, I fully recognize that there's only so much you can fit into fewer than 100 pages and so of course things are going to end up getting oversimplified and cut short. In the end I felt Maya and Zack's story was handled well, with the focus kept on their relationship and how it develops and sorts itself out with surrounding details kept to a minimum. While many things get glossed over, nothing ever feels seriously rushed here in part because the author wisely chose to place them in a highly volatile situation in which quick action was necessary and they didn't have the luxury of deliberating too much over most of their decisions. Likewise, the way in which these two were given a deep history together in which most of the business of getting to know one another was taken care of in the past kept their coming together in the present from feeling overly rushed or too much like insta-love.

Overall I'd highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys contemporary romance, particularly romantic suspense stories. Though brief, the tension is very real at times, both from their external situation and from their interpersonal issues. I give 4½ well deserved stars to this story from an author that has never disappointed me thusfar. Also, though the other stories in this publisher's series are by other authors, I'll most likely be checking some of them out as well when I have the chance.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the lovely review! I'm so glad you liked it :)

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  2. The book sounds awesome! Definitely on my TBR pile.

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