My second book off the Romantic Novel of the Year long list is PASSION by Louise Bagshawe.

Her publishers call it James Bond for girls and, on first finishing it, my question was ‘Why for girls?’   Because the author is a woman?  

This has all the ingredients of a classic action adventure:  devious men with dubious backgrounds;  relentless, professional killers;  power play at the highest levels;  conspicuous consumption; high octane sex; a nerve-wracking chase; mulitple disguises; and a super sexy, highly trained former secret agent hero who is the best of the best.  Doesn’t sound particularly girly, does it?

What it doesn’t have, I suppose, is the Fleming fascination with weaponry and exclusive brands,  nor the snobbery.  The gorgeous hero was a Barnardo’s boy – now a  billionaire banker, he goes to New York Private Views, but not to casinos or gentlemen’s clubs in St James’s.   And the heroine, though plain, ill-dressed and border-line depressed, is a respected academic . . . 

Ah, that’s why this is one for the girls.  The heroine has a brain.

It starts in Oxford with a teenage romance between don’s daughter and boy from the wrong side of the tracks.  It ends badly, scarring both.  But twenty years later, Will has not forgotten Melissa and the memory causes him to make connections between unexplained deaths . . . and to see, long before anyone else does, that his old flame is probably the next target.  He sets out to save her … and the hunt is on.

The action – and by golly there is plenty of it, edge of the seat stuff – moves from Oxford to London, New York to Boston, rural France and Rome , with stops off in Berlin, Caracas and the Gulf to tune into the Opposition.   The hero is rich – but the Opposition is richer.  The hero is shrewd and skilful with good friends still in the spying business who will help him out.  But the Opposition has limitless resources and access to the intelligence of several governments.  No doubt who the underdogs are and, indeed, Will and  Melissa end on their own with nothing to rely on but their courage, intelligence and resourcefulness.  (Their planning, by the way, separately and together, is one of the most rewarding bits of this book.)

A page turner.

DECLARATION OF INTEREST   Nope, don’t know Louise Bagshawe either.

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