Review: Enemies of the State (The Executive Office #1) by Tal Bauer

A rogue Black Ops unit with the president in their crosshairs.
A Secret Service agent who will break every rule.
A president falling for the one person he shouldn’t—a man.

Newly elected President Jack Spiers’s presidency is rocked from the very beginning, and he’s working furiously to keep the world from falling apart. Between terrorism attacks ripping apart Europe, Russia’s constant posturing and aggression, and the quagmire of the Middle East, Jack is struggling to keep his campaign promise—to work toward a better, safer world.

For Special Agent Ethan Reichenbach, Jack is just another president, the third in twelve years. With Jack’s election, he’s been promoted, and now he’s running the presidential detail, which puts him side by side with Jack daily. He’s expecting another stuffed suit and an arrogant DC politician, but Jack shocks him with his humor and humanity.

There are rules against a Secret Service agent and one of their protectees developing a friendship—big rules. Besides, Jack is straight as a ruler, and a widower, and Ethan has always avoided falling for straight men. Ethan keeps his distance, but Jack draws him in, like gas to a naked flame, and it’s a lure he isn’t strong enough to turn away from.

As the two men collide, rules are shattered and the world teeters on the verge of war, and a rogue Black Ops unit bent on destruction sets Jack in their deadly crosshairs. Ethan must put everything on the line in order to save the man he’s come to love, Jack’s presidency, and the world.

In order to read this book, you have to suspend disbelief.


And then more.

I had three major problems with this book (Whaaaaaat? Only three?).

Firstly, this is unrealistic. Not a little, or much. Just I-M-P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E. I spent the first 25% rolling my eyes six ways to Sunday (and the rest 75% I managed to combine the eye-rolling with some kind of grumpy acceptance). I was sinking in despair seeing how ridiculous it all was, seeing two grown-up men behaving like teens. Their infatuation lead them to make great mistakes and missteps because they can’t simply control themselves, even when the situation they are in requires a composure none of these guys happen to have a hint about.

How is it possible Jack Spiers became President of the USA? How is it possible Ethan Reichenbach is the detail lead of the POTUS, not only once but also three times before Jack?

Really, I appreciate fiction in my books, but this one goes too far. I was close to taking my eyes out with a spoon to see if they were working correctly. Because I was reading nonsense after nonsense. There was no bottom.

They both have important positions, important jobs, important tasks. Still, they seem to be a pair of totally irresponsible hotheads, drooling over each other when they are supposed to keep a professional distance, a distance they are both masters at, because they’ve spent years of their lives acting that way. Dealing with people. Having professional relationships. It’s not as if they don’t have any practice. However, they struck me as immature kids playing a game together, instead of fulfilling their duties, which are not few.

(Let’s play the President!)

Yes, I’m aware public personalities are not as perfect as they want to make us believe, but for some reason I couldn’t picture Jack nor Ethan, in the roles they were meant to fit into. I couldn’t picture Jack as the winner of the general elections, I couldn’t picture him as someone with connections, charisma, poise and that astuteness you would expect from a wannabe President of an important country. How did he survive all the sharks in the path towards the White House’s seat? He’s too candid and too trusting for this. He is simply not able to achieve it.

(Come on, you can do this, you are the President!)

And then Ethan… his job seems like a child’s play. I expected his job to be something of utter complexity, but he seemed decaffeinated in his duty, as if it wasn’t challenging at all. As if it required just a little effort, but not much beyond that. I tried to imagine him as a hardened Army guy with lots of experience in his field, but failed. He just doesn’t have that aura. He just seemed too vulnerable, too out of place. He falls for the President and he can’t avoid it nor keep a professional stance.

He’s a big boy. Supposedly.

I was beginning to tell a friend everything about the book (I do it very often, above all when I’m so WTF I need to give a way to out all my stupefaction) and the first thing he asked was “Do they masturbate themselves while crying?” (Damn, he’s good), and I said, “Almost”. Because, seriously, they both cry and sob multiple times in the story. For God’s sake, they are forty years old (or more) each! They have onion paper skin, everything hurts them and makes them cry!

I’m aware Presidents (and Secret Service people) can cry, too. They are human beings, after all. But please, they are public personalities, they have an image to maintain. They represent a country, after all. It was pathetic. The Russian President had more spine. Even the Chinese guy and the Saudi prince were made of tougher material.

It’s amazing they each got so far in their respective careers, that they could handle all the obstacles and difficulties they surely had to overcome. I don’t mean they can’t be good people or feel affected by the events but their roles are too big for them both. They don’t live up to their reputations.

(Pretend, you fool, pretend you are someone)

I was driven to despair for most of the book. I’m serious. I was pulling my hair, rolling my eyes, crying in disappointment. This is so unrealistic I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I pushed and pushed, making a great effort to finish this book, but with each passing page I was more and more traumatized.

I’ve not read many political books (but I do watch movies) because I’m not into thrillers but this was so perfect, so idealistic: the bad guy is very bad, the friends are all so good and supportive, the conclusion is so fairy-tale. Everything is so neat, so ideal, so black-and-white. When the big secret comes out, there is a scandal for a short while. They are so honest and morally strong and brave. Then everybody is happy with it all. Only a grumpy guy or two. Ugh? A pink ribbon or something similar would have been the icing on the cake in this madness.

This felt like a movie but not a serious one. I expected Q to appear all of a sudden to show off the new devices he has invented since the last mission and saying “Please, return the car in one piece”. With the difference that his movie doesn’t have the same charm Roger Moore’s films had.

Secondly, this major problem is only mine to blame for, but it didn’t help. My mind makes funny things sometimes. I plead guilty! I’m going to regret explaining it here and you are definitely going to hate me, but here it goes: I began comparing it with real life. For real. I began thinking about George W. Bush in this role. No kidding, I couldn’t erase that pic from my head. I began imagining Bush having a gay affair and now and then this thought came out in the most unexpected moments and I began giggling stupidly. Then I imagined Reagan. Or Donald Trump.

It’s not that a President can’t be gay, it’s just that the prospect of imagining the sexual life of certain people is bizarre at least. I prefer not thinking about their private lives at all. But I can only speak about myself, maybe some people do.

Then I did something worse, I imagined this situation in my own country. There are shipping stories with wannabe Presidents in my country (no joking here, and please, don’t ask how did that ever happen). What, you don’t believe it?

In this book, I find I’m ruined for future Presidential books. My bad.

(This is the only pic I’m going to post about this, I’m trying to control myself, dammit! And only a cartoon, reality is too creepy to tell)

I will draw a veil over this.

My third issue is this premise, or better said, the absence of this premise: you not only have to tell me you are good, you have to demonstrate you are good. Replace “good” with every word you can come up with: “clever”, “cool”, “strong”, “powerful”, etc.

Well, the characters and the narrator are talking all the time about how wonderful, awesome and effective USA is in every field you can think of.

If that’s true, then how is it possible they had so much shit in their politics and government and everything under the sun? How is it possible they ended up making a fool of themselves in front of everyone, with so many corrupted and powerful personalities manipulating so many people for so long… everything behind the President’s back, behind many important people’s backs! For years! And nobody suspects a thing! Only the Chinese guy and the Saudi prince and even the Russian President suspect something is off! Really! It’s worrisome!

The President is the best one in years, the Secret Service is infallible, the counselors are the most prepared people on Earth…

Yet they are deceived very easily. Yet they fail in their purpose. Yet they are ridiculous.

Is that the impression you want to give the readers about how awesome they all are? Because you are proving the opposite with these actions! Words are words, nothing. Actions are the ones that count. And here actions were crappy, at least.

However, the worst thing is that bad people are laughable. How did these idiots maintain the secret from everybody? It’s absurd. I knew for ages who the traitors were, who the moles were. And I suck at mysteries, everybody knows who the assassin is before I do. But here, I knew it before everybody else. They are supposed to be experts! I was never impressed. The nemesis is ridiculous.

I was thinking “This can't be happening” all the time.

I was in a constant state of facepalm.

This was a comedy, not a thriller.

This was a caricature of itself.

Now, about the love story. It was a gay-for-you. Jack Spiers is a widower, and he didn’t feel attraction to men. Until he meets Ethan. Well, that’s not true, after Ethan makes the move. Before that, Jack considers Ethan his best friend. That’s it.

I admit there were moments in which I smiled but still, the chemistry was off to me. I couldn’t believe the gay-for-you thing. Their relationship is more about “telling” than about “showing”. The sex scenes were cold and forced. I didn’t get the vibes I’d like to get.

Yes, I kept reading because of them, because they kept me interested, but I was never entirely captivated.

To sum it up, it was a total miss for me.

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Author Bio

Tal Bauer writes LGBT fiction and romance, bringing together a career in law enforcement, trauma medicine, and international humanitarian and disaster relief work to create dynamic, strong characters, intriguing plots, and unique, exotic locations. Tal's stories weave together pulse-pounding adventure, cunning intrigue, and sweeping romance. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.



Tal Bauer © 2016
All rights reserved

By the time Ethan made it back to the White House after the Inauguration Parade, all of the snow had melted from DC’s streets, and the temperature was a blustery seventy degrees.
“I still can’t believe you got taken out by a bunch of punks.” Agent Scott Collard, Ethan’s best friend, swiveled in his desk chair, grinning like a madman.
Ethan chucked a pen at his head as he leaned against Agent Levi Daniels’s desk. He flexed his leg, straightening his knee, and then kicked at Collard’s chair. Collard scooted away just in time.
“I didn’t see you brawling on Inauguration Day.” Ethan crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows. “Where was my backup?”
“Hey, you’re the one who wanted to walk around in the crowd with the intel dorks.” Collard held up his palms, shrugging. “Why you weren’t on the route with us is your business.”
“We had credible information that there was going to be an attempt to jump the perimeter and attack the Beast.” The Beast was the unofficial code name for the presidential limo.
“And by attack, they meant pelt it with tomatoes.”
“It’s still an attack.”
“You got your ass kicked by vegan vegetable throwers.”
“Hey, I kicked their asses!” Ethan stood, striding over to Collard’s chair and crossing his arms. He was trying to be intimidating, but his grin was ruining the effect.
“You had tomato dripping from your nose and hair.”
“What if they had hidden a bomb in one of those tomatoes? Huh? You wouldn’t be making fun of me then.”
“I’m giving you a new code name. Salad Reichenbach.” Collard spun in his chair, shouting out to the guys in all corners of their office. “You all hear? Quarterback is now Salad. Copy?”
Laughs and nods floated back to the two men. Ethan shook his head. He put his foot on the edge of Collard’s chair and pushed, sending his friend wheeling away, down the rows of desks and toward the lockers where the agents on duty at the White House kept their spare clothes, extra suits, and even their tuxes.
They were in the Secret Service White House command post, code-named Horsepower, directly beneath the Oval Office. Rectangular and the size of a soccer field, the agents used the command post as an all-around everything office. Bunk beds were pushed into a far corner near the lockers, and desks lined the front half of the room. Mirrors on the wall helped agents get into their suits and tuxes, if needed, and a projector at the front displayed intelligence on two screens, constantly updated and fed from the Secret Service Headquarters office on H Street. When the details didn’t need to be surrounding the president, or when they weren’t standing post, the agents spent their downtime in Horsepower.
“Hey, how’s Agent Welby doing?” Ethan headed back to Daniels’s desk and perched on the edge again, crossing his arms.
Daniels cast him a droll stare, barely looking up from the email he was typing. “Welby’s a’right,” he drawled. His eyebrows rose, nearly off his forehead, as he fixed his eyes on Ethan. “Stick up his ass, but he’s a’right.”
Ethan smothered a grin. Agent Welby had come in to replace him as presidential detail lead while he was out, recuperating from his sprained knee after the brawl during the Inauguration Parade. Collard had texted him almost daily, bemoaning Welby’s mulish, boorish behavior and his laugh-a-minute personality.
“You coming back in as lead?” Daniels eyes shone, hopeful.
“Hope so. Got to go through a few more stacks of paperwork first.” Ethan winked at Daniels and stood, stretching. He tried for casual, speaking as he rolled his shoulders. “How’s the president?”
He failed. Daniels’s eyebrows shot high again. “The president?” He stared at Ethan as if his former lead had just stated he was a prince from the planet Saturn.
“Yeah. How’s he doing?” No way to back out of it now. He might as well try to blunder his way through, as if asking after a protectee were the most natural thing in the world.
Daniels frowned. “I try to stay out of his way, and I make it a point to not listen whenever I’m in the Beast. I don’t want to know how his negotiations are going with Congress on the educational bill, or if he’s banging any aides in the West Wing.”
“Is he?” Frowning, Ethan folded his arms, not knowing he was doing it.
“Nah, man, the guy’s legit. Straight shooter.” Daniels’s wide smile broke his stern face for a moment. “But seriously, man, I stay out of it. Keep my distance, just like you taught us. Like you drilled us.” Daniels peered at him for a long moment. “This a test?”
Snorting, Ethan clapped Daniels on the shoulder. A way out, and he took it with both hands. “You passed. Good job, Daniels.”
The look in Daniels’s eyes said “fuck you,” and he buttoned his suit jacket as he stood from his desk. “I need a cup of coffee from the Press Corps Bullpen.”
“The White House Mess is six feet to the right.” Beneath the Oval Office on the basement level of the White House, the Secret Service command post shared space with the White House Mess, the Situation Room, and Homeland Security’s White House control center. It was an odd mixture of Top Secret Clearances and Navy stewards and chefs, but at least the coffee and chow was always close at hand. Agents went on fridge raids at all hours of the night, and the Situation Room hosted impromptu slumber parties at the drop of a Predator missile strike.
Smirking, Daniels gestured for Ethan to join him. “Yes, it is, but the Mess doesn’t have Annie Perkins working down there.”
“Annie Perkins?”
As they strolled up the stairs to the first floor of the West Wing, appearing in the hallway just outside the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room, Daniels filled Ethan in on the voluptuous beauty that was Annie Perkins, reporter from the Tribune and a current project of Daniels’s. Ethan chuckled, already well ahead of Daniels in the script. He’d seen this story play out time and time again. Daniels could woo the ladies in droves, and he stayed with them for a couple of months before cutting them loose and playing the field again. Mixed in were one-night stands and nights of debauchery, and several memorable nights where Daniels had chanced to go with Ethan out to Adams Morgan and the gayborhood. Ethan had told him the secret of picking up chicks in gay bars—nearly all of them were straight, and they would swoon for a straight man confident enough to chill at a gay bar with his gay friend. Daniels never left alone.
“Have you asked her out yet?”
“Patience, bro. Patience.” Daniels held up his hands, gesturing for Ethan to slow the hell down. “She needs to want it more.” One eyebrow cocked up, offsetting his smirk.
Ethan shook his head, retort on the tip of his tongue, when a voice down the hall called out his name.
“Agent Reichenbach!”
Daniels’s eyes grew comically huge, and he snapped to attention in a smart second, wiping the smirk from his face and hitting “professional” just as President Jack Spiers broke away from his chief of staff, and strode down the hallway to the two agents. President Spiers held out his hand to Ethan.
Ethan shook his hand, stunned. “Mr. President. How can I help you, sir?”
“They told me you were injured and recuperating. I didn’t know you were back on duty.” The president was beaming at him, a radiant smile that went all the way to his eyes. The press had endlessly dissected that smile on the campaign.
Ethan suddenly understood why President Spiers had locked up the Soccer Mom voting bloc.
“First day back, sir.” Ethan let go of the president’s hand and stepped back. “I’m working over at Headquarters for now.”
The president frowned. Behind him, Jeff Gottschalk cleared his throat, a polite reminder to the president to hurry it up.
“Listen, I’ve got a meeting I’ve got to go to. Can you swing by my office in an hour?” The president waited for Ethan’s single head nod before he flashed his smile again. “Great. We’ll talk then.”
And then he was off, striding down the hallway and into the cluster of his staff. He reached for file folders and a binder and pulled out his smartphone all at once. His glasses were sliding down his nose, and he absently pushed them back up with one finger as he scrolled through the emails on his phone.
When Ethan turned back to Daniels, the younger agent’s incredibly unimpressed face stared back at him, eyes narrowed. Ethan sighed and rolled his eyes. “That was nothing.”
“Should I ask you how the president is doing?”
“Shut up.”


  1. I want to take just a second to thank all of you who review books on this site. I read them. I do. And I purchase some books that you rate highly and rec to my friends. So thank you VERY much for saving me from this book. Because, while I too can suspend belief, I don't think I could deal with this mess.