I actually read the second story in this series, The Merchant of Death, before going back and reading Two Gentlemen of Altona because I found Henry and Mac’s situation so intriguing that I needed to know more. Taking place during the course of the investigation of a mob boss by the FBI in Indianapolis, Indiana, this is a fast-paced, exciting tale of confusion and attraction, which tend to occur simultaneously, in this case. Additionally, several mysteries emerge during the narrative, including the identity of a mole within the FBI, an ongoing collection of threats against one of the main characters, and the biggest question, who on earth is Henry Page?
Henry Page is a con man, but, for him, it’s a matter of survival, and not just his own. With at least three aliases in this story alone, he is keenly observant, lies without really lying, and yet truly seems to enjoy it when he helps others feel better—even though it also makes them easier to manipulate if they like him. While he never means to harm most people, he does what he has to in order to remain free, flawlessly becoming whomever he needs to be to get by. Henry’s self-loathing permeates virtually every scene he’s in, however, and his fear of being trapped by his own truths is an ever-present entity.
Ryan “Mac” McGuinness, on the other hand, is awkward and growly, and doesn’t fit in, which he keeps telling himself is just fine. He’s a professional, after all. That he also seems troubled, if not outright resentful, about the fact is a notion that he savagely beats back with an “I don’t care” attitude that fools nobody. Especially Henry. Where Henry is elusive, mysterious, and frustrating, Mac appears to be completely transparent, and Henry’s ability to expose him so quickly and thoroughly makes him feel comically homicidal. Except that he finds Henry so vivid, mesmerizing, and alive that he can’t seem to resist the man. It’s an unaccountably charming situation, at least from my perspective as a reader, and I found Mac’s squirming and conversation-halting outbursts very entertaining.
There’s so much going on in Two Gentlemen of Altona that the entire narrative could easily unravel if not for the authors’ adept handling of all the various threads being woven together. Not only is the story suspenseful and romantic, but it tackles some complicated (and not entirely happy) emotional issues as well. Henry doesn’t always follow the rules, but, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Neither is being afraid, especially if something wonderful might be waiting a little farther ahead. Mac just wants the truth, and yet he finds that accepting certain lies can feel good, too, dangerous though that concept may be. The phrase “it’s complicated” definitely applies here, and I couldn’t help hoping for the best for the pair from the very beginning.
A thorough knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays isn’t required in order to like Two Gentlemen of Altona, but, given all the references and quotes from his works, knowing some (and looking up the rest) made it a lot more meaningful and fun. Henry and Mac are complex and fascinating, Henry most especially, and I found myself just as taken in by him as all the other characters in the story were. Though it might be possible to read Two Gentlemen of Altona as a standalone, the narrative doesn’t end so much as it’s interrupted, and I definitely recommend proceeding with the second book in the series to find out what happens next.
Special Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness is having a rough week. Not only is he on a new diet, but he’s also been tasked with keeping Henry Page—the world’s most irritating witness—alive. Which is tough when Mac’s a breath away from killing the Shakespeare-quoting, ethically-challenged, egg-obsessed Henry himself. Unless killing isn’t really what Mac wants to do to him.
Con man Henry Page prefers to keep his distance from the law . . . though he wouldn’t mind getting a little closer to uptight, handsome Agent McGuinness. As the sole witness to a mob hit, Henry’s a valuable asset to the FBI. But he’s got his own agenda, and it doesn’t involve testifying.
When evidence surfaces of a mole in the FBI office, Mac and Henry are forced to go into hiding. Holed up in a fishing cabin, they’re surprised to discover that their feelings run more than skin deep. But as the mob closes in, Henry has to make his escape. And Mac has to decide how far he’s willing to go to keep Henry by his side.
Release Date: December 24, 2014
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Series: Playing the Fool #1
Genre: Mystery, Romance, LGBTQ, m/m
Format(s): paperback (228 pages), e-book
Book Source: NetGalley
The Two Gentlemen of Altona (Playing the Fool #1)