Talons of The Condor by John Simpson

David J. Windsor, the first openly gay president of the United States, has his hands full. After surviving an assassination attempt, he’s now dealing with the fallout: finding all of the culprits is at the top of his list. Will his enemies give up trying to bring down the administration, or will they try again? In the meantime, he has to deal with fractious allies, hidden foes, the vice president’s kidnapped son, and secrets that tear at his heart – including his relationship with his lover, Shane Thompson, who is also his Secret Service agent.

While they want to live a more open life, it’s impossible while David is in office; the demands of the job and the constant spotlight would tear even the most devoted couple apart. Throw in David’s attempts to help gay teens and they’re living in a pressure cooker that threatens to boil over. Will David be able to get a handle on the intrigue and danger of his job and find a way to keep his lover as well? Or will Shane become a casualty of Condor One’s political decisions?

Talons of the Condor by John Simpson is the second installment in the continuing story of David J. Windsor, America’s first openly gay President, and his lover and bodyguard Shane Thompson. It is the year 2012, and after eight long and difficult years of Republican rule, the Democratic nominee David Windsor is elected President. President Windsor has survived several assassination attempts in what amounts to one of the highest acts of treason in American history and is now bringing “all” the culprits to justice. Or so he thinks. At the same time the affairs of the nation weigh heavy as he begins to implement new and forward looking policies on America’s involvement in Iraq, alternative energy, the environment, social and health issues and gay rights all the while trying to have a relationship with his lover and personal protector, Secret Service Agent Shane Thompson.

John Simpson continues to weave his web of political drama, intrigue and action in Talons of the Condor, the sequel to Condor One. The plot remains as strong as ever in the second book as he delves deeper into the assassination story. And just when you think you’ve figured it all out Mr. Simpson throws you a curve, or two.

The author also examines more closely the political and social issues currently facing America. One of the aspects that I enjoyed most about this book is that the character of David Windsor serves as a conduit through which the author raises such timely issues as America’s involvement in the Middle East, oil dependency, the environment, poverty and gay rights, often providing an alternate view to conservative ideology as well as some creative policy solutions to these matters via the character of the President. In this sense, there is absolutely no question that this author is writing about what he knows.

As with the first book, Talons of the Condor is written in the first person of the main character providing the reader with an intimate view of the world through President Windsor’s eyes. However, the first person point of view also presents some challenges in that the author tends to tell us rather than show us the story. This aspect was more noticeable to me in Talons of the Condor than in the first book.

The more personal side of David and Shane’s partnership is further explored in the sequel as their emotions deepen and they struggle for a semblance of normalcy. Shane wants their relationship to be out in the open, he doesn’t want to hide anymore. But this is next to impossible as long as David remains in office. While there is resolution of this issue by book’s end, it provides the main source of relationship angst for David and Shane. I felt there was a more relaxed and natural flow to the dialogue between these two characters in the second book and their sex scenes remained hot and heavy.

There was one part in this story that proved to be a distraction for me. Without giving away any spoilers it deals with a monumental event that affects a secondary character quite close to the President and yet David’s reaction to the tragic outcome of this event was almost a non-reaction. Given the proximity of this secondary character to the President I felt that this contradicted the qualities of sensitivity and compassion that the author had instilled in David.

Even with this, I did enjoy reading Talons of the Condor. As I mentioned in my review of Condor One, John Simpson is a good writer of political fiction with the ability for intricate plots that keep the reader on the edge. He has a vast knowledge and understanding of the American political system, its inner workings and of the issues – all of which are necessary ingredients for compelling political drama. As a storyteller Mr. Simpson contributes a voice to gay fiction that is filled with dreams and possibilities. Given the historic event we witnessed in November 2008, the possibilities that Mr. Simpson presents in the telling of David Windsor’s story may not be altogether out of future reach.

Although Talons of the Condor can be read as a stand-alone novel, for the sake of continuity, I would encourage those interested in reading this story to begin with the first book, Condor One.

Talons of the Condor by John Simpson is available at Dreamspinner Press.

NOTE: This review was originally published online by Rainbow Reviews.

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