Blog Tour: Heart of the Steal: Avon Gale and Roan Parrish

Heart of the Steal
Avon Gale and Roan Parrish

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Publisher Philtre Press
Released July 11, 2017
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Responsible, disciplined William Fox channeled his love for art and his faith in the rules into being an FBI Art Crimes agent. Right and wrong, justice and injustice—the differences are clear, and Will has spent his career drawing a line between them. Maybe his convictions have cost him relationships, but he’s not willing to compromise what he knows is right. Until the night he meets Amory Vaughn.

As the head of his family’s philanthropic foundation, Vaughn knows very well that being rich and powerful can get him almost anything he wants. And when he meets endearingly grumpy and slightly awkward William Fox, he wants him more than he’s wanted anything. Vaughn is used to being desired for his name and his money, but Will doesn’t care about either.

When Vaughn falls back on old habits and attempts to impress Will by stealing a painting Will admires, their nascent bond blows up in his face. But Vaughn isn’t willing to give up on the glimpse of passion he saw the night he took Will apart. Before Will knows it, he’s falling for the man he should have arrested, and Vaughn has to realize that some things can’t be bought or stolen. Love has to be given freely. But can a man who lives by the rules, and a man who thinks the rules don’t apply to him, ever see eye to eye? 

Heart of the Steal is a standalone romance with a happy ending. It features a Southern gentleman who thinks he’s always right, a buttoned-up FBI agent who secretly likes his buttons unbuttoned, and wall sex. And desk sex. And picnic blanket sex.

Quotes from the authors about the book:

“Writing this book with Roan was so much fun! It was a joy to create these characters and take them on a journey to their hard-earned HEA. Even if we had to suffer some pretty bad hotel breakfasts of our own.” --Avon Gale

“I adored writing with Avon. It felt like I got to crack open her skull and peek at her brain. Which is my idea of heaven :)” --Roan Parrish
Being a collaboration between two authors whose individual works I’ve enjoyed in the past, Heart of the Steal was automatically high on my anticipated-reads list once I heard Avon Gale and Roan Parrish were teaming up for a novel. Admittedly, I did have concerns about how well these two writers’ disparate writing styles would mesh collaboratively, but as it turns out, I need not have been worried about it, because the individual characters played into each individual author’s style well, something I thought was the cleverest aspect of the book. But while I enjoyed the writing and main plot of the book, there was a significant problem that kept me from enjoying it as much as I expected I would.

I’m not sure if there’s a standard name for the initial trope found in Heart of the Steal, so I’ll refer to it as an “impossible pairing.” By that, I mean a pairing that should never work for a truly obvious reason. In this case, the main characters are William Fox, an FBI agent in the Art Crimes division of the agency, and Amory Vaughn, a billionaire who is in charge of his family’s well-respected charitable foundation who has, for lack of a better word, a habit of stealing artwork. I admit this seeming impossibility was one of the things that had me excited about the book prior to reading it.

Surprisingly, though disappointingly for me, this trope only served as a method for bringing the two together. They meet at an event catered by Will’s sister where, among other things, Vaughn learns of Will’s appreciation for a particular painting in the host’s personal gallery. In an effort to make a big impression on Will, whose occupation Vaughn does not know, Vaughn steals the painting and leaves it outside Will’s apartment with an invitation to be his date at his sister’s wedding. That sets up the first chunk of the book, and it’s something that drew me in completely. Once they were together, however, a little more than a third of the way through the book, the potential for conflict between them shifted from the obvious issue into the one that’s common to every billionaire book I’ve read, the power difference caused by money and influence. It’s admittedly not one of my favorite tropes, but with as much as I enjoyed the first portion of the novel, I hoped it wouldn’t become a problem. Once again, that was something I didn’t have to worry about, because while Vaughn’s lifestyle and the mindset it comes with ultimately does cause the big conflict toward the end of the book, it wasn’t handled in a messy or unbelievable way, so I was satisfied with it.

So this means I was happy with the first 40% and the last 20% of the story. Unfortunately, I had a hard time slogging through the chunk of the book that came between them. Once they had come to an “agreement” over the larceny habit, what followed were many chapters of mostly pointless fluff. Sure, some of it was get-to-know-you-better sorts of things, but the story no longer had the same sort of gripping quality the first portion did. By the 60% mark, I started getting bored, and by the 80% mark, I had surpassed my boredom limit to where I had started to find problems with small things, like the characters’ behaviors and the overly saccharine and cheesy mushiness, and eventually bigger things, like wondering what had possessed the authors to include such-and-such totally unnecessary scene. To be fully honest, I seriously considered DNFing the book at that point, but I was so close to the end, I decided to tough it out.

I got the impression that the authors were having so much fun writing together that they let the focus of the middle of the story get away from them, or that maybe each felt the need to write at least some minimum amount in order to feel ready to move on to the denouement. Either way, the result was an underdeveloped middle section that dragged. There were pieces in this middle section that were important to the story, but these few things were surrounded by so much filler that it served only to reiterate the romantic development that had already been done. Unfortunately, it also put a lot of distance between these things and the place later in the book that they would become important to the plot. One such event, which would later prove to be the cause of the big end-of-story drama, surprised me, not because the event itself was problematic, but because Will, being an FBI agent, should have been skeptical about what was going on as soon as it happened. He eventually does put it together, but it was so far removed from the actual event that it seemed out-of-character to me. That disconnect was the moment where my enjoyment started to unravel because it caused me to start looking for other things I felt were inconsistent.

Regardless of what caused the middle to become so bloated, Heart of the Steal is still a book I recommend for fans of either Avon Gale or Roan Parrish, because there is a good story here, the characters are well-written, and the authors' writing styles do not conflict with one another at all. Because of this, I hope they write another collaborative novel in the future, because I know they have potential to write something fantastic together.

The authors generously provided me a complimentary copy of Heart of the Steal in exchange for this fair and honest review.
“So, William. You came. But something tells me the sentiment behind my invitation has gone rather astray.”

“Then you admit that you left the Staunton painting and a note outside my apartment,” he said flatly, and my eyes narrowed.

“Have I miscalculated your interest?”

William looked like he couldn’t decide whether to laugh or yell. It was smoldering.

“You have miscalculated my profession,” he responded. We were standing close enough to kiss, and when he reached a hand into his jacket, my breath caught. I wanted to help him strip it off and kiss that spot of barbeque sauce off his perfect mouth.

But he didn’t take his jacket off. He slipped his hand out holding something from his pocket. A badge.

An FBI badge.

I was lightheaded. I spent three beats of my heart wondering what the medical diagnosis would be for dying of sheer irony. 

Avon Gale

Avon Gale wrote her first story at the age of seven, about a “Space Hat” hanging on a rack and waiting for that special person to come along and purchase it — even if it was a bit weirder than the other, more normal hats. Like all of Avon’s characters, the space hat did get its happily ever after — though she’s pretty sure it was with a unicorn. She likes to think her vocabulary has improved since then, but the theme of quirky people waiting for their perfect match is still one of her favorites.

Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert and will never say no to candy.

At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.

Avon is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

Roan Parrish

Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.


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