Sacrifice the Wicked
Avon / September 25, 2012 / $7.99 print, $4.49 digital
Mission Agent Simon Wells is everything Parker Adams has been trained to fight: manipulator, murderer, spy… witch. But for her, what makes Simon most dangerous is his mesmerizing sexual magnetism, powerful enough to tempt even the famed ice queen of the Mission. Though she knows better, each encounter with the deceptive agent leaves her craving more.
Simon isn’t a man to let go of what’s his, and his pursuit forces Parker, a woman he can’t get out from under his skin, to make a stand that could destroy her. If they can work together, they might survive the politics that have enslaved their devastated world—or fall victim to the pitfalls of desperation, bone-deep mistrust, and a hunger that threatens to consume them.
Sacrifice the Wicked is the first book I’ve read by Karina Cooper, and the newest entry in her Dark Mission series. It’s not an easy series to classify. Though the series has an overall plot arc and a futuristic, post-apocalyptic city setting, making it akin to urban fantasy in many ways, each book focuses on a single romantic couple, which I would usually class as paranormal romance. Also, I found the novel had some elements of suspense/thriller because the plot revolved around a conspiracy. There were many scenes in which the situation teetered back and forth because the characters didn’t know if they could trust each other, or were convinced they couldn’t.
Because I was new to the series, some of the conspiracy plot confused me a little. There’s plenty of information given, but I wasn’t always sure what was new information and what was backstory from previous books. Regular readers of the series will no doubt catch all sorts of references that were opaque to me.
I did manage to understand enough of the conspiracy plot to follow the romance plot. It’s made clear from the beginning that the hero, Simon Wells, and the heroine, Parker Adams, are at odds both personally and professionally, which leads to lots of chewy conflict. I had to decipher the reason behind their conflict, which at first was a little difficult. I began to catch on as more information was revealed about the organization for which they both worked.
However, even though I didn’t always know exactly what was going on, there were plenty of intriguing hints that held my interest and reinforced the strong conflict between the hero and heroine. Their romance is far from simple!
“Where is she?” [Parker] asked evenly.
“I don’t know.” Truth. He’d barely made it out of the lab facility alive; there was no way for him to know where Juliet and her rescuers had vanished to.
“But you didn’t arrest her.”
This was old ground. His debriefing had already covered all this. He didn’t care that his smile flashed a hell of a lot more tooth than amusement required. “I was bleeding to death at the time.”
…“Forget about Juliet Carpenter.” Every syllable fell in low, even tones. Unbreakable. “Forget about GeneCorp, me, Sector Three, everything you read in that file.”
Her eyes widened, fathomless and shadowed. “I can’t.”
“You need to. This has been going on long before you, and it’ll keep going after you’re dead,” he told her. Maybe it would help. God, he hoped it did. Because if the conspiracy unfolding under her feet didn’t get her, he would. He couldn’t avoid it, avoid her, any more than he could avoid breathing.
“You’re a witch,” she said quietly, voicing the accusation that had hovered between them all these weeks…
…“Who else is like you? How deep does the infiltration go?” she asked him…
…She wanted answers. The Church had them. Somewhere.
The worldbuilding is dark and claustrophobic, literally at times, as befits a place where conspiracy can flourish. It’s also complex enough to yield conflict for an entire series.
Along with Sector Three’s interference, names like GeneCorp and the Salem Project had cropped up. Words like human testing. Having Operation Wayward Rose end in bloodshed and disaster, end with more questions than when it began, grated Parker’s sense of responsibility. And her pride. But she hadn’t been able to learn much before the order had come down from the Church brass—destroy the data, classify everything. Hide whatever dirty fingerprints the operation had exposed.
Readers of romantic suspense who’ve been thinking about trying paranormal romance or urban fantasy might want to give this series a try. And fans of this series, if you haven’t read any romantic suspense, I think there might be some out there you’ll like. Karina Cooper’s Dark Mission series ought to appeal to a wide range of reading tastes.
Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. Her World War One-set Spice Brief is titled “Under Her Uniform” and is a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter:@victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.