State of Mind by Libby Drew
Grier Crist works for the Organization—a group of Gifted “agents” who use their powers to keep peace, help those in need, and combat criminal influence around the globe. When a suspicious bombing drives Grier to break his ties with the group and go into hiding, the head of the Organization sends model agent Alec Devlin after him, claiming Grier is a murderer and traitor to their cause.
Grier manages to turn the tables and take Alec hostage long enough to convince him that the Organization is lying and hiding something sinister. The two strike a bargain: amidst enemies who want them dead, friends with their own agendas, and the growing passion between them, they’ll work together to bring down the Organization in order to protect the world… and each other.
[I love this cover. It’s futuristic, pretty and even though it’s got the typical naked male chest, at least it’s obvious this is an m/m book. If the naked chest guy had been in the back with the tank top guy in the front, that’d have been simply perfection.]
State of Mind plays on familiar and typical concepts to deliver an action packed story with a romance running along side. The characters are decent with a mostly solid story and the incredibly quick pace to the writing and dialogue lends to a very fast read. While there are no obvious missteps and glaring issues, the bland nature of the plot and ambiguous setting end up leaving the story somewhat indistinct and not very memorable – even though it’s entertaining and fun to read. I’ll definitely be interested in the next book in the series but this is the type of book that you forget in between now and the next book since there are no stark original details that capture the imagination.
Grier Crist and Alec Devlin are powerful psychics that work for one of the ubiquitous, anonymous secret agent organizations. In fact, it’s so familiar a concept the story simply calls it the “Organization.” This Organization is made up of other mentally enhanced individuals and is run by a group of people called the “Directorate” with one man heading the entire thing. The plot follows Grier and Alec as they become disillusioned with their jobs and attempt to flee from the Organization’s tight control. They happen to fall in love and lust along the way making for some steamy scenes and a very interesting addition of mental prowess during sex. The story relies on heavy action as the agents run from the ensuing assassins while trying to understand what has happened to the Organization with some political implications.
The plot itself is pretty classic for a spy action/adventure themed story. A lot of the elements play on well known concepts such as the anonymous secret agency supposed to help the world but really is after wealth and world domination. Part of this helps make the story go quickly and not bog down in complicated twists, but at the same time the lack of unique detail makes the story feel like one of many in the genre and somewhat forgettable. The book starts out with Grier running away with Alec soon following but never really explains what the big betrayal was that prompted Grier’s defection. Innocents were killed which throws Grier into questioning all his assignments but what he did in the Organization is never said and furthermore the lies, deception, and soul crushing betrayal of the Organization’s leader, Ethan, is never said either. Since the entire plot plays off that betrayal, the absence of an explanation waters down the intensity and originality.
Similarly the main characters both come from dysfunctional childhoods and were saved by Ethan, the father figure in charge of the entire Organization and Directorate. They struggle with Ethan’s betrayal and their future, but their reactions are thankfully different. Alec wants revenge and answers while Grier just wants to get away from the whole thing. The two have a lot of good chemistry and snarky banter, which helps the action pass quickly. Their dialogue is sometimes very witty and funny, reminiscent of spy movies with likable, clashing leads. Their sexual relationship doesn’t develop until almost the end of the story culminating in one hot scene. This keeps the focus on the story and action, yet throws a nice bone to the readers that they’ll appreciate.
While Grier and Alec are decent, solid characters, Nicholas by far stole the show. Here is the most interesting, complex character of the cast with questionable motives, pathological behavior, and oozing sleazy sexuality. His interaction is key to the story and the characters, although there are some plot holes with his involvement and the action surrounding him. Nicholas deserves his own book and he takes what is a decent, yet bland story to another level with his complicated personality. The details Nicholas brings don’t always fit well with the story sometimes, yet the anonymous nature of everything helps to smooth over any problems. Since a lot of plot is never explained or given names, details, or a presence, the story skips over any issues and keeps moving.
The writing is pretty crisp, though sparse with a familiar urban fantasy setting. The narrator is interesting with an occasional point of view confusion due to the writing choices, but overall very clean. The romantic relationship is understated, nicely so, yet clearly sets these two men up for another book where they can shine. There is so much action from such a large cast that all have motives and point of views – Grier, Alec, Nicholas, Roman, Nora, Ethan, Kay – that no one aspect is predominant. They all fit well together to deliver an entertaining and fun read, but one that is forgettable. This is the type of book you need to re-read before the next to remember the characters and situation since there are almost no distinguishing details and nothing to capture your attention to this specific book. That’s not to say you won’t enjoy reading – you likely will.
Pick this up if you’re looking for a quick, easy action/adventure read with familiar spy elements. Let’s hope the next book comes out quickly and pray it is Nicholas’ story. At least I do.
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