In the Counterfeit Capers Series Sloane Steele is going for a feeling like the television show Leverage and as I had just finished binging through the original, I was in just the right mood for what Steele was after. Unfortunately for me these books didn’t quite hit the mark. The basic set-up is Jared and Mia, the children of two notorious conmen and thieves who got away with a Ponzi type scheme decide to use their abilities and access to make as right as they can for the victims and punish the people who helped their fathers. To that end they recruit a thief, a hacker, and a forger to help them plan and execute a dozen art thefts in a few months.
The first book in the series, It Takes a Thief, covers the first heist and the building of the crew. Because these are romances, we also get the story of Jared and Audrey, the Hacker, whom have been flirting for ages as Jared hired her for previous jobs under her alias Data. Now that they have met the flirtation has only increased. But, Jared and Mia aren’t upfront with Audrey and the other members of the team (Nikki the thief and London the forger) about who they are and why they are organizing these thefts. When Audrey finds out, it halts the relationship she and Jared have just begun and puts their plan of running the remainder to the thefts together in jeopardy.
The second book, Between Two Thieves, picks up with action already in progress. Nikki runs into Wade while casing a house for a robbery and immediately knows they have problems. She and Wade used to work with her father in cons and thefts and have an intense romantic history that went up in smoke when Nikki went out on her own and Wade didn’t follow. In order to get her father out of hot water Wade needs Nikki’s help, but Nikkis has to balance the work she’s doing with Audrey, London, Jared, and Mia with how much she’s willing to let her father and Wade back into her life.
What I like about these books is the characters. Steele builds characters with great backgrounds. Jared and Mia’s father’s betrayals, and what it has done to their own reputations layers in easily understood motivation, and how Jared is completely comfortable living and working in life’s gray areas, while Mia has made her peace with having to get dirty in order to do right. Audrey’s focus on her grandmother and providing her the best care she can make her loveable, as does her insistence that she and Jared must function as equals. Nikki is an absolute livewire, she has been on her own, truly on her own, for years and agreeing to work for Jared and Mia, but most importantly with Audrey and London is an experiment in letting people in – an experiment she doesn’t realize she is doing until her ex, Wade sneaks his way back into her life. At the end of two books we know the least about London but she fits in seamlessly with Audrey and Nikki, providing the optimistic, artistic counterweight that the team needs.
What I don’t like – the pacing. These read very slowly for me, and they really should be crisp, quick, fun reads. While I appreciate that Steele gives herself the time to indulge in the planning/plotting/executing of the heists the reading experience suffered for me in the shifting gears from revenge plot to emotional arcs. All the Mia chapters felt out of place in the narrative and that is part of the reason I’m not sure about book three, which is kind of funny because emmalita’s review of To Catch a Thief is what got me reading these in the first place. It is entirely possible that you will enjoy these more than I did, but they were solidly three star for me combined, with Between Two Thieves the stronger with its interconnected plotlines keeping things moving.