These two novels by Jordan McCollum are 2014 Whitney Award finalists in the mystery and romance categories respectively.The Whitney Awards recognize novels by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The awards gala is scheduled for May 16. For a complete list of finalists and information about the gala, see whitneyawards.com.
"TOMORROW WE SPY," by Jordan McCollum, Durham Crest Books, $15.95, 313 pages (f)
In another installment of Jordan McCollum’s spy thrillers, Talia is 12 days into her marriage and consciously subduing her spy tendencies. She still struggles, as she makes breakfast in bed for her new husband, to compartmentalize her dangerous job and keep alive her hopes of leading a normal, safe life in "Tomorrow We Spy," the third in the Spy Another Day series.
The scene is Paris, where the lovebirds are honeymooning, and old habits die hard. Talia, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can’t shake the urge to look over her shoulder and pause at the hint of any suspicious activity. On the 12th day, she notices something is amiss, and it turns out her instincts are spot-on, as a mystery man knocks on her and Danny’s Parisian paradise.
What ensues is a manhunt for Talia, who weaves in and out of streets in her not-so-practical flats to avoid being cornered so the CIA can draw her into a foreign mission. But the mission is actually for her new husband. The CIA asks for Danny’s help in tying up loose ends from a previous mission that traumatized both him and Talia.
The bad news is she can’t go with him to Russia without comprising her cover and Danny’s life. The interpreter assigned to the case is an amateur, whereas Talia is fluent, so maybe they can make this cover work after all. She’s a spy first, but her spy skills are being tested on an entirely different level, as her husband is brought into her dangerous world with her — again.
The bliss of the honeymoon soon morphs into a contentious test of teamwork. Danny wants to protect Talia, but Talia believes she needs to protect Danny more.
The plot centers largely on this tug of war. She refuses to let Danny help, but her resolve is slowly whittled down to the point she realizes she needs him as much as he needs her.
If her books represent a new niche, McCollum has found it and begun to capitalize. This book and her others reinforce the fact that a great story can still be clean and family friendly. "Tomorrow We Spy" is also a 2014 Whitney Award finalist in the mystery/suspense category.
Talia and Danny live to spy another day, but not without experiencing the fear of losing each other, massive misunderstandings and a hint of betrayal. But most of all, Talia learns yet another valuable lesson. She and Danny won’t thrive until she lets him protect her as much as she protects him.
— Cait Earnest
“SPY BY NIGHT,” by Jordan McCollum, Durham Crest Books, $15.95, 294 pages (f)
“Spy by Night” shares the story of how CIA spy Talia Reynolds and aerospace engineer Danny Fluker meet in this third installment of author Jordan McCollum’s Spy Another Day prequels.
Talia is a spy, and with her partner, Elliott, is tracking a Russian spymaster in Canada, who is a barber and competes in amateur dance competitions among other cases. Her cover is that she’s a student completing law school and also works at a law firm.
In between the stress of the law firm and the unpredictable timing of being a spy, along with keeping that part of her life a secret, she goes to church like any other twenty-something Mormon and doesn’t intend to be attracted to Danny.
Danny, who is an aerospace engineer, not a “rocket scientist,” has recently moved to Canada for a fresh start after a disastrous dating experience and pressure from his family to move to back to the states.
The chapters switch from Talia’s and Danny’s perspectives as they work through emotional baggage from previous relationships — his is a broken engagement and hers is with her mother — the situations surrounding their jobs, roommates who seem to have the worst timing and navigating their singles ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Despite the seriousness and intrigue of spying and protecting a country’s secrets, "Spy by Night" is a fun and easy-to-read romance as Talia and Danny try to figure out their feelings along with what to do next in the roller coaster of a budding relationship while dealing with insecurities from past relationships.
The romance doesn’t go beyond flirting and kissing. There is no swearing and there are a few instances of mild violence that are generally described.
“Spy by Night” is a 2014 Whitney Award finalist in the romance category. The awards recognized novels by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
— Christine Rappleye