Review: Agent Zero by Janet Walden-West (2021)

Region Two Series, Book #1

Heat Factor: She does pull-ups during sex, because she is that bad-ass (it’s sexier than it sounds)

Character Chemistry: Bruce is an arrogant asshole, but Vee seems to like that about him

Plot: He is attacked by a giant lizard monster, and she protects him

Overall: A really fun reading experience

Agent Zero is a classic “I’m in way over my head” story. Bruce Kantor, celebrity chef with an attitude, finds himself in a dark alley with a giant lizard that is definitely trying to eat him. Enter Vee Ramirez, the CO of a small group of elite monster hunters. Vee saves Bruce’s butt, and then brings him back to the team’s compound to protect him until they can track the monster down. Bruce, as you might imagine, does a lot of freaking out about his situation, not least because there are friggin’ monsters who like to eat people just wandering around Scottsdale, Arizona. 

This is also a great gender role reversal story—maybe the best one I’ve read. It frequently seems, that when the heroine’s a complete bad-ass, the hero also has to be a bad-ass, or at least challenge her so that it’s clear that he’s still the alpha. That is not the case here. I mean, Bruce does challenge Vee, but it’s not about establishing his dominance (more on this later). But when push comes to shove, he knows that she’s in charge. Take, for example, a scene where she’s suiting up to go fight some errant beasties. Vee tells Bruce to stay in the truck with the doors locked; after some consideration, she offers him a handgun, *which he declines* after admitting he’s not a good shot and would probably injure himself with it. A rare butterfly in adventure romance, this man, and I love to see it.

Lest you think fighting monsters is bonkers enough for one book, let me tell you…it’s not. See, Vee and her team have been raised from infancy to be elite paramilitary monster hunters. They think of themselves as siblings, and spend all their time together. They have very little contact with “civilians”—ordering pizza, the occasional karaoke night, and rescue missions. It is therefore incomprehensible to Vee to put herself and her feelings above the needs of her team. As you might imagine, this is a central source of conflict between Vee and Bruce. Their worldviews are fundamentally at odds. 

Here’s how their fights go: 

V: *says something that shows she’ll sacrifice herself for the cause*

B: *gets upset, because he doesn’t want her to get hurt*

V:  Don’t worry, your safety is my first priority. You’ll be safe in our compound while the team hunts this monster. 

B: You have been brainwashed since childhood! WTF! The way you were raised was messed up!

B: *storms off because he’s not worried for himself*

V: *is angry and confused*

I found the whole dynamic really fun and refreshing and believable (I mean, once I accepted the premise that Vee was an elite monster hunter who worked for a sketchy organization). It also adds an additional layer of questions about how they can even make their relationship work. 

While I found the plot and the relationship really fun, I must, in good faith, note a few things about the writing. First, Bruce’s chapters are written in the third person; Vee’s chapters are written in first person. This takes some getting used to. Second, this book would have benefited from a more thorough copyedit. Not because Walden-West uses a lot of words incorrectly, but rather because there are sometimes confusing leaps in the plot or conversations. For example, at one point, a minor secondary character appears and seems to be playing basketball at the compound with the team—but isn’t given a lot of context. I read the sentence, and then had to back up and reread it because I was so caught off guard. And then Bruce never notices that there are extra people visiting, which seems…unlikely? Moments like these threw me out of the story, but it’s frankly a testament to how engaging the plot and characters are that it didn’t bother me more. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

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