The Samms Agenda
by Alison Kent, contemporary (2004)
Brava, $7.99, ISBN 0-7582-0672-0


Putting a new spin on the "you get more for less" philosophy - I'll let you decide who is doing the getting here - this 117-paged story costs $7.99. But readers shouldn't grumble about the price because The Samms Agenda, in addition to offering a story filled with some of the more groan-inducing silly clichés of the genre, also offers a crash course in the Mandarin language. Who says money can't buy love? The Mandarin language course will come in handy when one is auditioning for a minority role in some two-bit TV series set in Chinatown.

Julian Samms is our Smithson Agency spy hero that gets his story here. He is the one with the dark past and a very healthy attitude about his priorities in life. When he is trying to break into Katrina Flurry's home, for example, his thoughts are focused not only on the job but also on the evaluation of Katrina's furniture and morals when he hasn't even met the lady in question. When you hire a Smithson Agent, you get more than just a template action man hero. In Julian Samms you get an interior decorator! Now that is value for money.

Men who were real men cared about two things. A woman able to carry on an intelligent conversation filled with innuendo and mind games, who then delivered an equally fulfilling challenge once she joined him in bed.

Or so thinks Hammy Sammy as he is working on entering Katrina's abode. Personally, I find it tedious if my conversation partner overuses innuendo in his conversations but what do I know? I'm not a real man.

His bitching about her wardrobe aside, he had to admire her taste.

Yo, Hammy, that's Carson from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy on the phone and he says to STFU bitch.

Luckily for him, he has time to save the world after his impromptu While You Were Out I Hate Your Wardrobe and Furniture gig because Katrina nearly gets shot while he happens to be spying on her bikini-clad sexy form. So he takes her along and tries to get her to safety while trying to throw off the predictably perverted sadistic sex-fiend assassin on their tail. I really love the part where Katrina is the ex of the bad guy Peter Deacon (whom readers of The Bane Affair will recognize) but you know, she has never slept with Peter. Uh uh, no way. For some reason that is supposed to be admirable, just as how she sleeps with Hammy Sammy days after meeting him, when she barely knows him, is. But I guess adrenaline can do funny things to people. Peter must be regretting not shooting at her sexy bum because she's such a wildcat in bed when people want to kill her.

But what I really, really love is how after spending a while ranting about shallow hot women and how he, as a real man, wants only women who ply him with innuendos and mind games, Hammy Sammy has no problems lusting after Katrina because she looks great in a bikini. Maybe I'm just being skeptical but I don't think this story will have a happy ending if Katrina weighs two hundred pounds, even if she is good in innuendos and mind games.

It's such a shame that Hammy Sammy is a mess of inconsistencies because Katrina is a smart and capable heroine who won't annoy people too much if they can overlook one or two irritating concessions in her character to the silly Virtuous Romance Heroine formula.

The plot is ho-hum and drags in the middle.

Also, Hammy Sammy has a habit of dropping phrases in Mandarin in the midst of his speech or thought at several points in the story. The thing is, the Anglicized Mandarian phrases here are nothing like any I've seen before. I've tried saying those phrases aloud in an attempt to understand what Hammy Sammy is saying, but when Hammy Sammy curses in anger and I get "I wish I have a telephone" instead, I think something has gone wrong, lost in translation. The problem here is that Ms Kent puts down how phrases in Mandarin will sound like to the ears but she neglects to put in accentuation symbols. Normally this won't bother me if the story is interesting but Hammy is too inconsistent for my liking and the plot is straight out of an average Miami Vice episode. I've had more fun reading aloud the Mandarin phrases to friends over the phone and we all make guesses as to what those phrases could be.

Unlike the previous two books, where it seems like Ms Kent is taking stereotypes and giving them her own unique interpretation, here it is like Ms Kent is doing the reverse, taking two characters that could have been a little different from usual and cobbling them to fit some defined formula. Hammy Sammy embodies this: he starts out by insisting that he is a different kind of man only to end up being exactly the kind of romance hero that is all about the T&A. There's nothing wrong with T&A but at least be upfront of it instead of giving me unwanted tours of the heroine's abode and silly speculations of her morals and character just because she was supposed to be some bimbo. Hammy Sammy ends up looking like a complete tool when he ends up lusting after Katrina for the things he insists real men don't go for. Then again, he takes more interest in interior decorating than any self-professed "real men" would. Methinks that guy protests too much! Hey, what does he think of the new range of closets in IKEA?

The Samms Agenda is a bump in the so-far so-good path to big time of this author. The last book is better, hopefully the next book is better, and at the end of the day, I've read better and Ms Kent can and should do better.

Rating: 66


My Favorite Pages

This book at Amazon.com

This book at Amazon UK

Search for more reviews of works by this author:

My Guestbook Return to Romance Novel Central Email