Title: The Chimera Affair
Author: Keira Andrews
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: LGBT Suspense / Contemporary M/M
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by jeayci
Review Summary: A James Bond-like adventure with a world-saving quest, determined assassins, and hot smexxing, culminating in true love and a satisfying happy ever after (with room for a sequel).
Blurb: When young Sebastian Brambani meets a sexy and exciting older man, he’s easily seduced. But for spy Kyle Grant, it’s all business. Sebastian is simply a pawn in Kyle’s mission to acquire a dangerous chemical weapon from Sebastian’s criminal father. Kyle’s life is his work for a shadowy international agency protecting the world from evil, and he can’t worry about what will happen to Sebastian when the job is done.
Sebastian’s unwitting role in Kyle’s plan is the last straw for his ruthless father, who has been embarrassed by his gay son for the last time. But when Kyle discovers Sebastian could be the key to finding the deadly Chimera, he rescues him from a hired hitman and fights to keep him alive. Can a hardened spy and naïve college student take down a criminal kingpin, stay one step ahead of the killers on their trail—and fight the scorching attraction between them?
Review: Psychology studies have found that experiencing fear (or, more specifically, adrenaline rush) with someone is a great shortcut to developing intense romantic feelings for them. There are even matchmaking services that take advantage of that phenomenon and have people go on “daredevil” dates together: skydiving, crossing flimsy wooden suspension bridges over deep gorges, etc., because it increases the probability that people will fall in love. Or, at least, that they’ll feel strong enough attraction and excitement to spend enough time together to fall in love.
In case it’s not obvious: I don’t believe in love at first sight. I do, however, believe in lust at first sight that leads to spending time together, getting to know each other, so it seamlessly blends eventually from lust to love. When you look back after twenty years together that began with that glance across a crowded room, I can see why it might seem like love at first sight, but in my opinion the love developed later.
In this fast-paced adventure, I think Kyle and Sebastian are great examples of both those phenomena. There’s definite lust when they first meet, and shortly thereafter Kyle acts out of character, disobeying direct orders and saving Sebastian’s life. I’m sure some readers will interpret that as evidence of love at first sight, and if that interpretation works for them, great. But this was done in a way that even works for readers like me, because before we see Kyle act out of character we learn that there have been a series of recent events that could cause anyone to reevaluate how they’ve been living. Combine reevaluation with lust, and that’s reason enough for me to find his actions believable.
There are moments like that throughout the story, where each character makes decisions that keep them together even if it seems dangerous or illogical, but that make sense within a broader context of lust and life-reevaluation. And, of course, over time spent together they really do fall in love. I thought the development of lust-to-love was very believably done, and helped by the characters understanding it the way I do. At one point Kyle thinks:
He knew it had to be infatuation; surely once Sebastian was gone, beginning his new life, he would be but a pleasant memory. It wasn’t possible to actually fall in love so quickly. Both of their emotions were simply heightened by the danger and the incredible sex. It couldn’t really be more.
Geek that I am, I adored Sebastian’s mathiness (I think I just made that up). At one point when he’s frightened, he comforts himself: “After running through the hexadecimal approximation of pi, he calculated Fibonacci sequences.” I thought that was a great way to show us how integral (ha!) math is to who he is. In a bit of opposites-attract, “Kyle couldn’t imagine why on Earth anyone would have a favorite number.”
I also adored Sebastian’s character growth throughout the story. When we first meet him he’s a bit of a pampered, petulant boy who is desperate to please his father so he can get permission for what he wants. But we’re not too far into the story before we see him start to take agency in his own life.
It was time to step up and show just what kind of man he could be. Was he the weakling his father had always believed?
No. He’d already escaped a professional spy. He steeled himself. There were depths of strength in him if he could access it.
The inner journey paralleled the outer journey as they dashed around Europe trying to stay ahead of the bad guys. The travel on trains and buses was realistic enough to take me back to my own days backpacking around Europe. And the scenery was detailed enough for me to almost see it like a movie as I read; a James Bond movie.
Although I’ve enjoyed Bond films, I don’t think anyone has ever accused them of being realistic. And those Bond-like elements are what kept it from being a 5-star book for me. There were a few things that stretched my suspension of disbelief uncomfortably close to the snapping point.
I get that Kyle is part of some superspy organization, and thus has access to resources and technology I can’t begin to imagine. So there was a lot I could believe in that context. But a few times, his tools or resources left me staring at my screen. Really? They can really do that? Each time I would eventually shrug and dive back into the story, deciding to believe. And, for all I know, those are merely the tip of the iceberg of what’s really possible. We often say “truth is stranger than fiction” because all sorts of things happen in real life that no one would ever believe if they happened in fiction. So I chose to believe and happily continued reading, but I was momentarily pulled out of the story a few times with those sort of questions.
There was a lot of humor in this story, some real laugh-out-loud moments. Not nearly as many as in Armed & Dangerous (I know I’m far from the only one who just read that!), but there were an unusual number of guffaw-worthy lines in that book. This had a more average interspersion of laughter, and suffers only in comparison to A&D.
The ending was complete and satisfying, but it left the door open for a sequel. If there is one, I would very happily read it.