Review: Informant by Ava Archer Payne

The Informant Book Cover The Informant
Ava Archer Payne

MONEY I’m Kylie Porter, a nineteen-year-old biology major at San Francisco State. I’m a part-time waitress and a straight A student. I’m also an informant the DEA hired to infiltrate the Cuban mob.

DRUGS Specifically, I’m being paid to seduce Ricco Diaz, the sexy son of a sociopathic drug lord.

SEX And Beckett—the smoldering hot undercover DEA agent who lured me into helping him trap Diaz? I never meant to fall in love with him.

BETRAYAL And I definitely didn't mean to hurt him... I just didn't have a choice.

Review:

I received a free copy of this book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Kylie Porter is your average 19-year-old, broke and ambitious, attending college by day, waiting tables by night. Average, that is, until she’s approached by Thomas “Beckett” Smith, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent on an undercover assignment at Kylie’s college.

Beckett comes to Kylie with a proposition. In exchange for a full ride to college and $5,000 a month, Kylie must cozy up to her lab partner Ricco, estranged son of a Cuban drug lord. The goal is for Kylie to get close enough with Ricco to learn his secrets and pass them on to the DEA, in hopes that this will be help them catch Ricco’s father, the infamous Miguel Diaz.

Kylie isn’t not crazy about the idea of betraying Rico, but she can’t turn down the money and the chance to give herself and her family a better future. She grudgingly accepts Beckett’s offer, thinking there’s no harm in having a few casual dates with Ricco. After all, he hasn’t seen his father in years. No harm, no foul, right?

She never expected her mission to take her into actual contact with Miguel, newly arrived in the United States and looking for his son. And she certainly didn’t expect to fall for Beckett while she’s supposed to be romancing Ricco.

Informant has the distinction of being one of the first New Adult novels I’ve ever enjoyed. For one thing, the plot is actually engaging. Infiltrating the Cuban mob is a dangerous game, and a single mistake could mean gruesome deaths for Kylie and her loved ones. Can she keep Ricco at arm’s length without him losing interest? Can she withstand Miguel Diaz’s shrewd scrutiny? Can she trust Beckett to keep her safe even though he clearly has his own reasons for wanting Miguel behind bars, reasons that go way beyond his commitment to the DEA?

Another pleasing difference between Informant and most of the other New Adult fiction I’ve read to date is that Kylie is actually likable and smart. It’s sad that this should come as a surprise, but so many NA books seem to have insipid characters lacking in common sense. Kylie’s intelligent and actually USES HER BRAIN! She thinks things through before making decisions, does her research, and has specific tactics for going into dangerous situations. In the beginning of the book, for instance, before she knows that Beckett’s DEA, she agrees to go on a date with him. Because he’s basically a stranger, she makes her sister and brother-in-law wait outside the restaurant in their car. That way, if Beckett turns out to be a whack job, Kylie has an exit plan. Finally, a heroine making smart choices!

What’s more, even when Kylie does happen to have a lapse in judgment, I never have to suppress an urge to smack sense into her – she does it herself!

“I have to get my head together. Think. What I need now is perspective. I’m smart, and it’s about time I started acting like it. I’ve allowed myself to be used, but that’s my fault as much as his.”

Kylie’s funny, too, and she’s got spunk. There’s a boatload of amusing quotes that had me laughing as I read:

“‘She thinks I don’t like her husband.”
‘Why does she think this?’
‘Because he’s a total low-life shit head and I can’t stand him.’”

And:

“So yes, as humiliating as it is, my whole family is now involved. Kylie has a date. Repeat three times in a tone of increasing wonder and disbelief. Apparently the news is so staggering I’m surprised the media hasn’t picked up the story yet.”

And:

“How perfect that I finally go out, only to find myself caught between a DEA agent and the son of a Cuban crime boss. God, my life.”

As much as I liked Kylie, I can’t say much for her taste in men. Other than his hot physique, I have no idea what Kylie saw in Beckett. I didn’t find him appealing in any way and was bored whenever he had page time.

Ricco, however, is another story. He drew me in from the start with his gallantry, sweetness, and good-natured teasing. I never knew what to expect from him, which kept me on my toes, especially after his dad showed up and Kylie found herself getting more involved with Ricco and placed in increasingly dangerous situations.

“‘Sorry. School night.’
It’s clear that he’s never heard this expression. ‘School night?’
‘Yes. That means we have class tomorrow. All the good little boys and girls go home and do their homework.’
A mischievous grin curves his lips. The light of challenge sparks in his eyes. He rests his hands lightly on my hips, leans down, and whispers in my ear, ‘What makes you think I’m good?’
I raise myself up on my tiptoes to whisper back, ‘What makes you think I’m not?’
He smiles at that. ‘I like you, Kylie Porter.’”

The only thing that kept me from being completely delighted by Informant is that it fell prey to a typical weakness of the New Adult novel: trite and unrealistic sex scenes. I am ALL for steamy lovin’ in my books, but graphic sex just doesn’t impress me if it’s cliché and uninspired. If your lovemaking reads like a catalogue of sexual acts (“He did this. Then I did that. Then we did this.”) I’m going to start skipping ahead to the next actual plot point.

I’m hoping that Informant will mark a turning point for my relationship with New Adult fiction. I haven’t been a fan of the genre up until this point, but if there are more books like Informant out there, there may be hope for an Angela/New Adult love affair yet!

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