2 out of 4 stars
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Cynthia and Dan: Cyber War by Dorothy May Mercer has an interesting double plot line. On one hand, a P.I named Glen and his spy sister Cynthia, who works for a Senator in Washington D.C., teams up to start a cyber war with the help of two computer nerds, Tim and Garth. They hack into terrorist emails, social media accounts and occasionally thwart a threat or crash their systems altogether. On the other hand, there is Cynthia's complicated love life between her longtime boyfriend, Dan, and her new lover, Sky.
Mercer does a good job setting up the stark differences between Dan and Sky throughout the novel. Dan is portrayed as someone who is stuck in the same old routine and has no desire to change his relationship with Cynthia. Dan only wants Cynthia to be his on-demand friend but he doesn't want to even consider marriage. Sky, on the other hand, is so enchanted with Cynthia that he proposed to her less than twenty-four hours after they met. As Beyoncé said, "If you like it then you should have put a ring on it." Since Dan wouldn't step up after 3 years, Sky won the honor of walking Cynthia down the aisle by the end of the novel.
There were quite a few things I did not like about this book. From the very beginning, it seemed as though the author was trying too hard to make this a spy story. For instance, Glenn, a private citizen, has access to the most advanced technology then the NSA and Homeland Security. Mercer also mentions the exact type of car Cynthia drove, a red MX-5 Miata Roadster, periodically throughout the book. When I looked the car up on Google Images, it resembled the same kind of car found in the James Bond movies or the Spy Fox computer games. Cynthia also has a cover job as a receptionist for Senator Mike McBride to cover for the fact that she is his Chief of Security, which seems a bit over the top for an average Senator. The way Cynthia is portrayed, particularly at the beginning of the book, had a similar feel to Carmen Sandiego or Spy Fox.
A frustrating part of the book was how quickly and dramatically it went from unprotected sex to planning a nonexistent child's baptism. Less than twenty-four hours after Cynthia and Sky hooked up, Sky has already brought her: a package of 12 condoms to keep in her bathroom and bedroom, Plan B One Stop, pregnancy test strips and RU-486 for a potential abortion. He even went as far as to promise to devote himself to her until she says otherwise and proposes marriage. The entire exchange was extremely rushed and premature given they had just met mere hours before doing the deed. This is an important issue to address; however, most of this could have waited until Cynthia started experiencing morning sickness with the exception of taking the morning after pill. Plus while Sky was explaining to Cynthia everything he had brought, Cynthia acted as though she had never heard of this stuff before such as Plan B. For a woman who was experienced with security measures and protecting oneself from spies and terrorists, how can she know so little about basic sex education and how to protect her own body from pregnancy. This weird accelerated pace seems normal in the universe as demonstrated with the dialogue between Sky and Father Flanagan. Upon confessing to his one night stand, both men are in agreement that Sky has to marry her and have their child baptized at this particular church in the event she is pregnant. All still within twenty-four hours of meeting each other. It was very frustrating to read how this train wreck of a plot line unfolded.
Cynthia's character traits throughout the book are not consistent and at times completely at odds with one another. While at work, she is super diligent about security measures such as changing security codes daily and checking for listening devices throughout the Senator's office. However, as soon as Cynthia meets Sky, she throws all of her common sense and training out the window in favor of reckless, passionate sex. It doesn't occur to her until much later that Sky could possibly be using her to obtain secrets or gain access to the senator. These two aspects of her are so different, they could easily be mistaken for two different characters. The same could be said for Sky Eastman a.k.a. Major J.S. When addressed as Sky Eastman, he comes across as suave, romantic, and impulsive. On the contrary, when he is shown as Major J.S., he is tough, cautious and authoritative. These conflicting characteristics feel as though the author couldn't make up her mind on how she wanted her characters to behave so she just threw everything together and hoped for the best.
The book was littered with errors to the point that I had trouble at times understanding the author's intended meaning and I had to stop counting the number of errors in order to ever finish reading. For example, the author mentioned a car called the Alfa Romeo Spider; however, spider was misspelled as Spyder in both the text and the chapter title. It appeared as though there was minimal if any editing was done. At times, it became difficult to understand what the author was trying to convey. For instance, there was a section where the author was trying to convey that Cynthia was speeding down the road in her car; however, the author decided to put, "…Cynthia was tempted to open it up, to see what it could do…" It was so awkwardly formatted that it resembled more of a filled in outline than a final version of a book. For example, for the sex scene between Sky and Cynthia, the section begins with the bold heading, "(This Section Rated R)" and ended with "(End R Rated Section)". The author also had a tendency of starting sections with the location that particular scene was taking place such as "Air Force ROTC Academy" even though the setting was very clear and obvious from the text. It would be easy to recreate the author's outline based solely on the chapter titles and unnecessary headings.
While I was reading through the book, I got a very mixed impression on the intended audience. On one hand, the parts of the book that concerned spies and terrorism gave off the impression it was intended for either teenagers or pre-teens. Instances of Cynthia driving a common spy vehicle instantly made me think of either Carman Sandiego or Spy Fox, which to me just screams an adolescent audience. On the other hand, anything concerning Cynthia's personal life read like either erotica or a romantic drama. There is a huge contrast between a children's book and erotica to the point that there is no one audience that would be interested in every aspect this book has to offer.
Ultimately, I give this book 2 out of 4 stars. The general plot line was entertaining but there were too many errors and inconsistencies to ignore. This was written as though it were two totally different stories that were just smashed together and published. While an interesting read, I would not personally recommend this book.
Cynthia and Dan
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