Seeking Mr. Wrong (Penelope Blue #3) by Tamara Morgan

This title may be purchased from Amazon

A fool-proof way to spice up any relationship:
1. Infiltrate a deadly ring of thieves, cons, and crooks.
2. Try to escape with your lives.

Penelope Blue used to be one of the best jewel thieves in New York City—but that was before falling in love with FBI poster boy Grant Emerson. Now she works at his side, helping her former enemy catch her past-life colleagues, and she couldn’t be happier.

If only Grant would remember to play by the rules.

Now he’s gone undercover on a cruise ship full of hardened criminals. To keep him safe, Penelope must pretend they’re nothing but strangers…while searching for an information broker desperately wanted by the FBI. While doing her darndest not to backslide and steal 20 million dollars’ worth of diamonds from beneath the noses of the criminal elite. It’s all Penelope can do to keep this mission afloat…

Good thing this cat burglar has plenty of lives to spare.

Rating: B

Tamara Morgan’s enjoyable crime caper series featuring (now former) jewel thief Penelope Blue and her gorgeous hunk of an FBI agent husband, Grant Emerson, concludes with Seeking Mr. Wrong, which picks up just a few months after the previous book (Saving Mr. Perfect) ended.  A notorious criminal and an FBI agent make strange bedfellows, and the pairing has made for a couple of breezy, fun stories in which both Pen and Grant, while clearly nuts about one another, are still navigating the sometimes tricky waters of their unusual marriage.

At the end of book two, things got pretty serious when Grant was shot and almost killed; several months on, he’s pushing to return to field work while Pen is adamant he needs a bit longer to recover.  He proves just as sneaky as his wife in his attempts to get himself signed medically fit and back to work – but just as it seems his latest bit of chicanery is about to bring down the Wrath of Pen upon his head, they are both summoned to an emergency meeting.  Pen now works as a consultant for the FBI – set a thief to catch a thief, that sort of thing (think Neal Caffrey in White Collar) – and with Grant about to be assigned to a dangerous undercover sting operation and Pen the only person he truly trusts to have his back, the pair of them are going to be playing in what is potentially the deadliest poker game on the planet.

For some time, the FBI has been trying to discover the identity of an ingenious criminal known as Johnny Francis.  But he’s an enigma.  Nobody knows anything about him beyond the jobs he’s pulled, and nobody even knows what he looks like – but the Bureau has had a tip-off that he’s going to attend the high-stakes poker tournament being organised by smuggler Peter Sanchez aboard his luxury yacht off the coast of Cuba.  Grant is going undercover as one of the players, and his bosses believe Pen and her associates will have a much better chance of asking questions and moving around among a boat-load of criminals than a group of agents.

Pen isn’t happy with Grant for taking on the job; but she knows there’ll be no talking him out of it, so she does the next best thing, and determines to protect him from Sanchez at all costs.  Grant will be walking a tightrope – one false move and Sanchez will feed him to the sharks – so she calls in her crew – Riker, Jordan and Oz – as well as her father and her stepmother, Tara, to help her to keep Grant safe.  The fact that the prize for winning the tournament is the famous Luxor Tiara, the centrepiece of which is a two-hundred-carat diamond worth about twenty million dollars – and they all want to get their hands on it – is most definitely an added inducement for their co-operation.

Seeking Mr. Wrong is an entertaining and funny read that skilfully combines a generally light-hearted ambiance with some more reflective and perilous moments, and the pages just zip by. I continue to adore Pen’s sharp, witty, and distinctive voice, and to enjoy the various relationships Ms. Morgan has developed throughout the series. The thief and the G-Man is an intriguing pairing, and I like the way it’s progressed; in the first book, Grant needed to be something of a puzzle, to both Pen and the reader, until the reveal that he’s just as devious and single-minded as Pen is, and since then, they’ve gone through times of mistrust to a position of strength because now they’ve got each other pegged. That doesn’t mean Pen doesn’t get frustrated with Grant, who still tries to protect her by keeping things from her, but it’s clear these two are in it for the long-haul… unless, of course, the sharks come into play 😛

Pen’s relationship with Riker is the other major one in the story, and I like the way she has begun to realise that, after an association begun when they were much younger, their paths are diverging and that she needs to let him make his own mistakes. I’d love to see more of Riker and I hope that perhaps Ms. Morgan may give him his own book or series; he’s gorgeous enough and grumpy enough to make for great hero material! The brief glimpses we get of Pen and Warren Blue and of Pen and Tara are also very nicely done; Pen’s relationship with Tara underwent a sea-change in the last book, and it’s nice to see their rather reluctant truce continuing.

Seeking Mr. Wrong is an ensemble piece really, with some new characters introduced into the mix who all bring something a bit different to the story. The downside of the undercover storyline is that Grant and Pen aren’t supposed to know each other and therefore don’t spend much time together, although the author makes the most of the moments they come together with some sexy flirting and teasing – but it doesn’t happen very often.

Even so, the story is well-plotted and executed and I enjoyed spending time with Pen and her extended family again. There’s a suitably high-stakes climax when she has to step up to save the day, and even though the identity of the mysterious Johnny Francis is pretty obvious from quite early on, that didn’t detract from my enjoyment. If you’re in the mood for something upbeat and funny – but with a bit of depth to it – the Penelope Blue series should be on your radar.

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Saving Mr. Perfect (Penelope Blue #2) by Tamara Morgan

This title may be purchased from Amazon

I’m a wanted jewel thief.
He’s FBI.
What’s that saying? Keep your friends close…and your husband closer.

Being a retired jewel thief certainly has its perks.

1. Oh, wait.
2. No it doesn’t.

Without the thrill of the chase, life’s been pretty dull. I garden, I drive my gorgeous husband up the wall, and I watch as my old world slowly slips away. But what’s that old saying? When one thief closes the door…a copycat jimmies open a window.

And now all fingers at the FBI are pointed at me.

Set up to take the fall for thefts worth millions, I have no choice but to strap on my heels and help my FBI agent husband track the thief. Grant might not think he needs a partner, but this is one case only a true professional can solve. Besides, I’ve got to know who’s been taking my bad name in vain.

Let’s just hope curiosity doesn’t kill the cat burglar.

Rating: B

Book two in Tamara Morgan’s Penelope Blue trilogy, Saving Mr. Perfect picks up about six months after the end of Stealing Mr. Right, with former-jewel-thief-extraordinaire Penelope Blue trying to adapt to a “normal” life and keep out of trouble – but she’s miserable and bored witless.

She and her gorgeous FBI agent husband Grant Emmerson have agreed they want to make a go of their marriage (which Penelope had tried to tell herself in the first book was just a means to an end), but she’s not cut out to be a housewife and is feeling decidedly sidelined. Her friends – and former colleagues – are cagey around her, and worst of all, she thinks Grant may suspect her of being the “Peep Toe Prowler”, the thief responsible for a spate of recent jewel thefts from a number of extremely wealthy Manhattan residents.

She isn’t of course, but it seems that whoever it is is a copycat and out to throw suspicion in Penelope’s direction, so naturally she wants to get to the bottom of it and find out who it is. But Grant doesn’t want her involved; he’s ruffled enough feathers as it is by simply being married to Penelope who, in addition to being a jewel thief is also the daughter of one of the FBI’s most wanted, the infamous thief, Warren Blue. Grant wants Penelope to fly under the radar rather than risk getting herself arrested, which isn’t all that an unreasonable request from a loving husband, but still… Penelope can’t just sit back and let someone frame her for crimes she isn’t committing.

Add in to the mix the reappearance of Penelope’s hated stepmother, Tara, a suspicious but bumbling FBI agent who seems obsessed with Grant and Pen’s formidable grandmother, and it all adds up to another well-plotted romp into which the author throws the odd curveball while creating an entertaining and often very funny story that, while not as much of a romance as the previous book, nonetheless shows us how Grant and Pen’s marriage is evolving and how they are evolving with it. I admit that I did miss the scorching sexual chemistry of the first book, but I enjoyed how the author looks at Pen’s relationships with those around her and how they have changed – with Tara and Riker especially – and at her situation as someone who is now neither fish nor fowl, having left her life of crime, but not really being part of her husband’s law-abiding world either. I also liked that we got some of the story from Grant’s PoV this time; he needed to be rather inscrutable in Stealing Mr. Right so the reader was never quite sure which side he was on, but now we know he’s a good guy who loves his wife and just wants to keep her safe, it was nice to get into his head occasionally to see where he was coming from.

Penelope is a great narrator and I like her, her sense of humour and her insecurities, but I have to admit that some of the things that bugged me about her characterisation in the previous book are still present here and continued to bug me. She’s efficient and competent when it comes to being a thief, but in other areas she is rather naïve and doesn’t always think things through – Continue reading “Saving Mr. Perfect (Penelope Blue #2) by Tamara Morgan”

Stealing Mr. Right (Penelope Blue #1) by Tamara Morgan

This title may be purchased from Amazon

I’m a wanted jewel thief.
He’s FBI.
What’s that saying? Keep your friends close…and your husband closer.

Being married to a federal agent certainly has its perks.

1. I just love the way that man looks in a suit.
2. This way I always know what the enemy is up to.

Spending my days lifting jewels and my nights tracking the Bureau should have been a genius plan. But the closer I get to Grant Emerson, the more dangerous this feels. With two million dollars’ worth of diamonds on the line, I can’t afford to fall for my own husband.

It turns out that the only thing worse than having a mortal enemy is being married to one. Because in our game of theft and seduction, only one of us will come out on top.

Good thing a cat burglar always lands on her feet.

Rating: B+

I’d heard good things about this book when it first came out, and I wasn’t disappointed. Stealing Mr. Right is a fun, light-hearted read in the best caper movie tradition; our heroine, Penelope Blue, is a highly skilled jewel thief and her husband, Grant Emerson is an FBI agent. Right from their first meeting, they are locked into a sexy game of cat and mouse in which neither knows how much the other knows and wants to find out.

Thievery runs in the Blue family, because Penelope is the daughter of the infamous Blue Fox, one of the best in the business. When he disappeared after a heist gone wrong a decade earlier and her stepmother abandoned her, it left Penelope alone on the streets, to fend for herself. Fortunately for her, she was befriended by a street-wise kid named Riker and together they did what they had to survive; stole, ran scams, always moving onto bigger and better jobs.

When the book opens, they and their team are about to steal a fabulous two-million dollar necklace – the very one that Pen’s dad was attempting to steal when he was caught. It’s kind of a point of honour that she should finish the job, but things go wrong when she recognises the man accompanying the necklace’s owner – it’s her very own gorgeous, six-foot-two, former-football-player-turned-FBI-agent husband, Grant. Pen, Riker and the other members of their team, Jordan and Oz, get out and regroup, but it’s clear Grant’s involvement was no coincidence, and Pen thinks he must be stepping up his search for the fortune her father left behind when he disappeared/died.

The story of exactly how a thief and an FBI agent got married is told in flashback throughout the book, and it’s very well done. Penelope believes Grant is out to locate her father’s money, and she’s playing along to find out exactly what he knows while she is searching for it, too. She maintains she married Grant as a way of “keeping your enemies closer” and that as soon as her father’s stash is found, they will go their separate ways. It’s very clear to the reader, of course, that she’s head over heels for Grant, but she maintains that self-deception almost all the way through.

What the author does so cleverly is to muddy the waters where Grant is concerned, making the reader wonder as to his true motives. When we – along with Penelope – first meet him, he’s friendly and open, a gorgeous guy chatting up/being chatted up by a woman he’s interested in. Because the story is told entirely from Pen’s point of view, he remains something of an enigma, and in the sections of the book set in the present, she sews the seeds of doubt and makes us wonder if he really is the good guy who would do anything for the woman he loves, or if he did marry Pen for ulterior reasons of his own.

Tamara Morgan has crafted a terrifically entertaining story which, while for the most part, a fun, sexy romp, has its serious side, too. Pen’s relationship with Riker – her dearest friend and the one person in her life who has always looked out for her – is strained and, as she painfully realises, hasn’t much changed since their childhoods, and she still finds it difficult to believe in herself, one of the hang-ups she acquired as a result of her father’s abandonment. Her friendships with Riker and Jordan are nicely done – Riker is actually rather awesome, dark, brooding and sarcastic, and clearly needs his own book at some point!

The central characters are well-written and likeable; I enjoyed Pen’s wry humour and her resilience, and Grant is super-hot – smart, perceptive, self-assured and very, very good at hiding his thoughts and emotions, so that Pen – and we – are never sure if he’s really a doting husband or deep undercover. The chemistry between them is fabulous, but I can’t deny that the book’s one love scene was just a teeny bit disappointing after all that lovely sexual tension and build-up.

All in all, though, Stealing Mr. Right was a thoroughly enjoyable, read with a nice balance of suspense and romantic comedy. I’ll certainly be picking up the next book in the series.