The 18-year-old protagonist, X, is one of the top students at Blackwood Academy, a boarding school for young spies. She's given her first mission before she even graduates: keep Lorenzo Giovanni Baptiste Vallenta, the Crown Prince of Montrovia, alive. Her new identity: Huntley, a 20-year-old socialite who has just learned that she has a 21-year-old brother named Ari (also a spy, but with a slightly different mission) and a billionaire father. Their "father" has just died, and it's common knowledge that they both stand to inherit billions as long as they spend the next six months getting to know each other.
Although aspects of her situation don't quite add up, Huntley rapidly gets down to business, befriending those closest to the Prince and enjoying the money, cars, clothes, and house supposedly left to her and Ari by their father. The Prince needs all the help he can get - his security is riddled with holes, mostly due to his own love of women and parties, and there are multiple people in his life who might have reason to kill him.
I found out about this book via one of the panels at Book Bonanza 2019 and ended up buying it and getting it signed at the author's table. "YA spy series" sounded like my kind of thing. Now that I've actually read it, I can say that 1) it isn't YA and 2) it's definitely not my kind of thing. I wish the author had marketed it as what it actually is, New Adult, because then I could have avoided it and saved myself some money, brain space, and time.
The things I liked: it was a quick read, and the mystery of X/Huntley's past and plans for her future were interesting enough that I wouldn't mind reading spoilers for the later books. I just don't plan to continue on with the series myself. Oh, and I like the cover.
I knew this book wasn't going to be for me when Huntley hooked up with Daniel, one of the Prince's acquaintances, by page 40. She'd known him for maybe a few hours by that point. The sex wasn't particularly explicit, but it was definitely vigorous and on-page.
After that, Huntley spent most of the book shopping for expensive clothes and accessories, driving one of her new expensive cars, and lusting after whichever hot guy was in her immediate vicinity. Occasionally, she mistook her lusting for actual emotions, which resulted in one of the weakest love triangles I've ever read. There were a few opportunities for her to save the Prince's life, but that was mostly because the Prince was an idiot who'd structured his life around having easy access to hot women, even if that meant having enormous holes in his personal security. Huntley should barely have been a blip on his radar, someone new for him to have sex with and then forget about. However, she played hard to get, which apparently works like an aphrodisiac in this book.
I wasn't fond of the author's use of first-person present tense POV - I don't know if it was intended to somehow humanize Huntley, but instead she was oddly emotionally distant. It was like she felt whatever emotions were convenient for a particular scene and then forgot about them later. This was most noticeable with the "love triangle." When she was with Daniel, she'd feel her heart soften for him, worry that she was falling for him, and fret over the parts of her training that stated she shouldn't get emotionally involved with others. When she was with the Prince, she felt the exact same things, but for him instead, like Daniel didn't exist.
The overall world-building was ridiculous. I could sort of be on board with a school for teenage spy candidates. I was less pleased when it was revealed that
the school was created solely for Huntley, to the point that it was closed after she left - that felt a little too much like the spy story version of "the chosen one."
And I downright rolled my eyes at every mention of what life was supposedly like for citizens of Montrovia. In Montrovia, all hotels were 5-star and poverty didn't exist.
It'd be nice to find out what Black X's plans are for Huntley, and I'm morbidly curious about Dodd's plans for the romance aspects of this series (my theory: the Prince and Daniel are out, or will be, and there will be an overarching love triangle involving Huntley, Ari, and William, the 30+ year old hottie British spy that Huntley has had a crush on for years). However, I'm not interested enough to subject myself to more of this.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)