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“Chaos Agent” Has One of the Most Complicated, Heartbreaking Lesbian Romance Protagonists I’ve Ever Read

Lately, I’ve been thinking about morality and what it means to be a good person. How does someone earn that distinction, and more importantly, how do you keep it? People are, well, people: wonderful and flawed, prone to mistakes and selfishness. It’s conversation that is forever bubbling up on the internet, and honestly, it’s usually not the kind of thought exercise I seek out in romance novels. I know what I am getting in a romance novel: a meet cute, a conflict, a resolution, a happy ever after. Comfort reading at its finest, most pure form. But Lee Winter’s Chaos Agent surprised me with its smart and heartfelt combination of questions about morality and ethics, as it concluded the story that began in The Fixer. If you have not yet read The Fixer, I urge you to stop reading this review right now and scoot over to your favorite bookstore to pick up a copy. I won’t be including any major spoilers here, but it will make more sense if you’ve read the first book!

We pick up where we left off: After Eden completes a freelance job for the mysterious corporation known as The Fixers, she’s offered a job by the staggeringly hot, super closed off CEO, Michelle Hastings. It’s clear from jump why Michelle does this — she’s not ready to say goodbye to Eden, though expecting her to admit that would be tantamount to asking a dog to perform open heart surgery. But Michelle knows the work her company does is not what kind, progressive Eden wants to be mixed up in, so she does her best to ensure that the jobs she’s given are tailored as best they can be to Eden’s politics. It…very nearly works, until Eden starts breaking down the siloed departments of the office, hanging out with cybersecurity folks and starting a coffee tasting club, sourced by — what else — ethically grown beans from various locations around the world. In another writer’s hands, it would be easy for Eden to turn into a progressive, sunshiney character who feels too childish or naive, but Winter deftly avoids that by giving her just the right amount of edge. On the other end, Michelle is forced to spend her days ensuring the other employees don’t tell Eden the truth about their company, a plan that, of course, is doomed to fail.

And fail it does. When Eden realizes the depth of the depravity the company Michelle runs, she fights back in the only way she knows how: leaking classified information, trying to take them down. Even as Michelle fights to protect her company, she does it without any of the usual ruthlessness and malice she would typically lean on. Sure, she keeps getting Eden’s van towed, but she won’t mess with her family, or her bank accounts. Something about Eden has rattled her, and Michelle is having a harder and harder time doing the work that she used to carry out without a second thought. Possibly it’s the constant migraines and ulcers, but even her usual stress relief method (smashing mirrors in a rage room, natch) isn’t working anymore, and she can’t figure out how to fix herself, or if she deserves it.

Michelle is one of the most interesting and, it must be said, heartbreaking romance protagonists I have ever read. In a romance, a character like this — self loathing, insecure, convinced of her own evil — is more often than not a cis man. A Christian Grey, if you will. In those moments, it becomes the job of his love interest to break down his walls, make him confront the worst parts of himself, and turn him into someone ready for love. Here, Eden allows Michelle to heal at her own pace. She is supportive, she is there for her, but she cannot do the work for her. Michelle has demons to battle, and while they are rooted in her actions, it is the geyser of self loathing that bubbles inside her that she needs to soothe, to see herself in a new, not-evil light.

Which brings us back to the central question of the book: What does it mean to be good? Does it mean never making mistakes, never desiring revenge, never doing the selfish thing when you could do the generous thing? And once you’ve made that mistake, how long are you supposed to atone for it? What does accountability look like? Winter isn’t trying to answer all of these questions for everyone, forever, because how could you? Yes, of course, there is often a clear right and wrong, and we should all do our best to do the right thing. But Winter argues, quite compellingly, that there should be grace, too. Because if everyone was defined by the worst things they’d ever done, then we’d never get a happy ending. And we deserve that, don’t we?


Chaos Agent by Lee Winter is out now.

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Christina Tucker

Christina Tucker is writer and podcaster living in Philadelphia. Find her on Twitter or Instagram!

Christina has written 285 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. Can I say, I love your book reviews. I had $200 in Amazon gift cards for Xmas just sitting there and was like, what do I want? I honestly couldn’t think of anything. I saw your review of The Fixer and it sounded great. I’m like yeah, books. I purchased that and scoured through your reviews and picked up 13 additional books, some new, some used. Physical books. I’m on my phone and pc all day, I’m actually over reading on them at night. So thank you. I think I’m actually going to do this again for my bday and Xmas this year. Why not? Plus living in FL I feel almost compelled to start buying books again.

  2. I’m a quarter of the way through Chaos Agent now and I just want the warm fuzzy already! I adore the villainous Michelle and I’m fond of Eden, but JUST KISS ALREADY! Ugh, the anticipation… Lee Winters is definitively the Queen of Anticipation!

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