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

Region Two, Book #2

Review of Region Two, Book #1

Heat Factor: There’s some sex at the beginning, and then a really long dry spell

Character Chemistry: Their relationship is going through a lot, so their chemistry comes and goes

Plot: Uh. Let’s destroy the HEA from Book 1.

Overall: The first half of this book went some seriously unexpected places, which made for a very unusual romance reading experience.

So in Agent Zero, the first book in the Region Two series, we met Bruce and Vee as they figured out that they are in perfect sync and also figured out how to make their lives work. You know, since Vee is part of a secret paramilitary group of monster hunters who lives on an isolated compound with her unit and has very limited contact with the civilian world—and Bruce is a celebrity chef. Agent Zero was a really fun “Oh shit, I’m in over my head!” kind of book that also teased a larger mystery, so I was excited to see where Walden-West would take the world with Book 2. 

It did not go where I thought it would. 

Spoiler alert: I’m going to be talking about the plot a lot in this review because it threw me for a loop. Most of what I talk about happens in the first half of the book, but if you’d rather go in blind, uh, just know that the author puts her MCs through the wringer, and they have a lot of feelings about that. 

When Agent Down opens, Bruce and Vee are happy. They’re living the dream of Bruce taking care of the team and making them eat vegetables while Vee and the rest of the monster fighters go out and take out vampires and chupacabras. The first quarter of the book is full of minor domestic squabbles and some references to weird monster behavior. Vee meets Bruce’s family. Bruce buys a ring and starts planning his proposal. I spent a lot of time wondering where we were going with all of this, and also feeling a bit concerned because I had read a lot of words and was only 20% into the book. 

Then Bruce is diagnosed with cancer. So the second quarter of the book is about his awful experiences with chemo as he gets sicker and sicker. And also about Vee’s hail Mary efforts to save him…with vampire blood. 

This is where the book gets weird, from a romance novel structure perspective. So Vee captures a vampire and puts him in a cage and starts taking his blood on the regular. As she does so, she comes to realize that he’s not terrible and evil like she’s been trained to think vampires are, and they become friends, of sorts. Now, if this were a standard paranormal series, it would not be Vee who captures and befriends vampire Stavros, but rather another team member who steps up and does so, and then, of course, falls in love. Reading the interactions between Vee and Stavros with my romance-reader hat on was frankly disorienting because I have been primed to read interactions precisely like theirs as a prelude to eventually falling in love—but Vee is already in love, with a man who is dying of cancer.

Anyways, Bruce gets better (because of the healing properties of vampire blood) and is trying to rekindle the romance (he’s convinced Vee sees him as a fragile patient and not a sexy man anymore) and we’re only at the 50% mark. Where is Walden-West going with this????

I’ll tell you. 

Vee is ambushed in the desert and disappears for a year. When she returns? She’s a vampire. And has a weird vampire mind-meld with Stavros, who turned her after she was mortally wounded.

Anyways, so the second half is massive miscommunication between Bruce and Vee as they angst and brood and brood and angst about their new relationship (or lack thereof). Vee, as a baby vampire, has to suppress all her emotions or she’ll unleash the beast and go on a murderous rampage, and Bruce has his feefees hurt that she won’t hug him anymore. Plus he’s jealous of her new relationship with Stavros. It’s like Bruce had never seen a vampire movie in his entire life. What does he think is going to happen if they start sexing again? She’s gonna eat you, bro. Maybe give her the benefit of the doubt here instead of deciding that she doesn’t love you. There’s also a lot of tension between Vee and her former second-in-command who is now in charge of the team that was understandable but kind of a bummer to read about. 

Bruce and Vee do eventually work it out, but that bit felt rushed, especially after the pages and pages and pages of processing they do. Vee is basically like, “Oh, jk, I can control my murderous urges after all!” And then they live happily ever after.

I’ll be honest. This book dragged for me. It was really long and the fights and processing of emotion in the second half started getting repetitive. It would have been a better read with 30% less content. Especially since we didn’t get a lot of information on the big mystery, so in the end, I’m not entirely sure how this story moved the larger narrative arc forward in any way. 

I’m bummed because I really liked the first book in the series, and I’m interested in seeing what Walden-West does with the next book (which features a different team member), but I can’t really recommend this one. Unless you really really like it when people wallow in their emotions. 

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.

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