Four Mercenaries: Their Bounty – K.A. Merikan
— Taken. Prized. Possessed. Loved. —
Clover is an orphan and has led a tough and chaotic life. No stability. No money. No friends. He trusts no one.
His already miserable life takes a nosedive when he ends up in the hands of a human trafficking gang. Someone has placed a request for a young albino man, and Clover is to become the property of a mysterious buyer who will stop at nothing to satisfy their depraved desire. Clover’s fate seems sealed until four bounty hunters appear to take out his captors and accidentally save him.
The four mercenaries want to move on, but when Clover pleads for protection, they offer it to him at a price. In the beginning, the arrangement is all kinds of shady, but as he gets to know the four men who’ve taken him on a wild ride, his developing feelings might become as dangerous as the elusive buyer.
But can a relationship with four such different men even work? Men who kill for a living? Men so full of contradictions?
Tank. The massive ex-soldier eager to be Clover’s Daddy.
Pyro. Wild, tattooed, with a filthy mouth and an itch for violence.
Boar. Ginger, bearded, a big teddy bear who can turn into a grizzly.
Drake. Dark and dangerous, with a tongue as sharp as his knives.
Can these men provide him with the love and security he craves? Or has Clover made the worst mistake of his life?
THEIR BOUNTY is a dark gay harem contemporary romance, book 1 in the “Four Mercenaries” trilogy. The story contains scenes of explicit violence, offensive language, morally ambiguous characters and lots of scorching hot, emotional, explicit scenes.
Themes: abduction, polyamory, mercenaries, bounty hunters, albinism, commitment issues, indecent proposal, dark past, male bonding, human trafficking, size difference, enemies to lovers, danger, alpha male, found family, size difference, distrust, shared, victim and protector
I picked up Their Bounty after reading Our King, Our Master, another poly series that had interesting characters but poor execution. I’m neutral on poly but I wanted to see better examples of how this particular trope can be done.
The four mercenaries are a brotherhood of former soldiers who take on jobs that bring down the bad guys while bringing in the money. On one of their jobs, they stumbled upon a 19-year old orphaned albino kid chained up to be sold to a mysterious buyer.
The kid, Clover, was part of a pick pocket gang ran by a local criminal. He was getting too old and too conspicuous given his unusual looks. Aware that he is a wanted man with no defenses, Clover pretends he has friends waiting for him in New York and negotiates his safe passage to the city in exchange for the men using him while they escort him on their roadtrip.
The leader of the group was Tank, a huge man whom Clover immediately tagged as his Daddy. He’s level-headed and he’s no fool. He knew what kind game Clover was playing but he felt protective of the kid. Tank’s alright but I don’t really go for Daddy kink.
Boar and Pyro are a couple very much in love but sexually incompatible. Boar is a hearts and flowers kind of teddy bear while Pyro is a blue-haired punk with ink and fast bike. Together, they found Clover to be the missing link in their relationship.
Everyone was quite smittened with their new boy. All except Drake. So of course he’s my favorite. I have huge respects for people who are not easily swayed by a pretty face and Drake was the only one who was unimpressed by their new plaything. He kept his distance. He was the only one in their group who thought they should stop spoiling Clover and teach him practical skills. Like self-defense especially with bad guys coming after him.
Drake was the main reason I stuck around. There was something about him, something smoldering behind his frosty exterior. He was the most nuanced of all the characters and therefore the most compelling. He talked some sense into Clover and in doing so revealed deeper hurts he rarely showed his brothers. He was definitely worth winning over especially when the ice did melt bit by bit. He wouldn’t admit it, but I bet he’s Clover’s favorite too.
I really liked how the authors made all of them stand out. It was tricky to find a nice balance between five MCs where each can shine individually and with their love interests. The authors succeeded in doing just that. The men each gave something to Clover who, in turn, gave them what was missing in their lives. It’s what made their 5-person romance work. They were like different puzzle pieces forming a cohesive whole
An oversight by the mercs came back to bite their asses and poor Clover was captured again. Clover was thrown into the very sinister world of human menageries and most definitely not the fun kind. Will he ever see his men again?
Unlike the other poly series where meeting a new character is just prelude to sex, the book had a solid story line that was pulled off well. Even if it was only secondary to the relationship development and group dynamics, the mystery + action-suspense part carried enough weight that added a lot of excitement to the overall plot. I liked how that twist came out of nowhere and threw me for a loop.
Their Bounty falls somewhere between like and love. I had a great time with it but some aspects were not my cup of tea. And TBH, Drake was all I cared about although I liked the other guys just fine. Clover was the one I’m least drawn to. He tended to act like a spoiled brat. And really, for a street kid, I expected better survival skills other than offering sexual favors.
Please do heed the warnings. The book touches upon human trafficking and other sordid crimes. There are some graphic details, enough to give color but not too much to completely gross the reader out. It’s dark but not so much. Probably medium gray on the blackness scale. Some things were somewhat dub-con. Most of the more disturbing aspects were off-page or hinted at.
The song for this book is Sweet Surrender, originally by Sarah Maclachlan. It’s a lazy choice because I have a hard time looking for a song about poly romances. The lyrics kinda fits the way Clover left his miserable life behind and surrendered himself to four dominant people. Turned out to be a pretty sweet deal.
Not outright recommending. I know how most people feel about poly so I say read this if you’re feeling adventurous.
Sharing these face claims from Ele, a GR reviewer because they’re perfect:
Posts on K.A. Merikan here.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
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Let’s talk about my favoritest mercenary boyfriends, Justin Mallory and his G Love, Gabriel Prescott. The two met in book one, Deadly Lover, when they were partnered for a job. They spent the first month trying not to kill each other until they settled on a truce. G Love and Special Sauce were born. The two quickly fell in love and decided to leave mercenary life behind.
The series, which is composed of 3 main novels and 1 novella, follows the two as they go on jobs and work on their exit strategy. Will they live long enough to enjoy a happily ever after?
Justin and Gabriel are on on my top 10 fave couples list because it’s always so much fun to watch the two together, whether they’re taking out a warehouse full of thugs or staking out bad guys or just chilling. Their chemistry is off the charts! I could listen to them banter all day. Heck, I would gladly read more books about them because they play off each other so well. I want more dancing under the stars!
Justin is a major goofball. He’s always ready with a joke or two. But make no mistake, the man is DEADLY. He’s ex-spec ops, ex-CIA, hacker and assassin. He has his cool assassin name which was later revealed in the third book.
Gabriel is more serious. He has a privileged but dark upbringing, having been raised as the successor to his father’s intelligence organization. He is a spy and an assassin, better known in their circles as the Reaper.
Together, they take out the bad guys to help the little guys. They also discuss bathroom remodeling while they’re at it. Multi-tasking like the pros they were.
This is a review of books 2 and 3. Review of book one, Deadly Lover, here.
2. Exit Strategy: Vengeful Lover – Jocelynn Drake
Every assassin has an exit strategy – their ultimate plan for leaving that dangerous life and disappearing. They just never expect to live long enough to enact it.
Gabriel Prescott was no different.
But everything changed when he met fellow mercenary Justin Mallory.
Now he’s racing across Europe with Justin to put to rest old threats before they can end both their lives.
Of course, it will also mean coming clean to Justin about exactly who he is and who wants him dead. Gabriel can only hope that Justin will still want him when the truth comes out.
This is Gabriel’s story.
It was a game of get them before they get us. G goes after members of his family who wanted him dead. Justin goes with him to protect and support his man. They met an unexpected twist when they came face to face with G’s sister.
Their mission takes them across Eastern Europe and Russia, right into the heart of the SVA. The CIA and the Russian police were after them. They seek help from Justin’s ex. Can they trust him? Would he come after Justin? Is that G’s jealous face?
The past lives of the two men were pretty much hush hush in the first book. Vengeful Lover answers questions about Gabriel’s former life. YES!!!
Between the two, G is more open to revealing details about his past even if he has the more taciturn personality. Meanwhile, Justin threw Gabriel, and us, a crumb by revealing his real name. Come on, Mallory, you can do better than that.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
3. Exit Strategy: Final Lover – Jocelynn Drake
Two assassins meet, don’t kill each other, and fall in love.
It’s happily ever after, right?
Not so fast.
Reformed mercenaries Justin Mallory and Gabriel Prescott have taken the big leap of living together. They’re even working together.
But “one last job” has them taking a falsely accused man and his young son into their home for safe keeping.
While dodging bullets and fellow hitmen out for the $27 million bounty, Justin and his G Love realize that falling in love was the easy part. Building a life together might be more than they bargained for.
Join Justin and Gabriel for their final adventure as they protect an innocent man and uncover the missing piece to their forever.
I thought this would be Justin’s turn to unearth the skeletons from his past. What we got was almost nothing. Well, not really nothing, but it was practically dismissed as trivial so it was a letdown. But after thinking about it for a bit, I thought it was apt afterall. It further reinforces how vastly different their backgrounds were.
The final book introduces another assassin, Kai a.k.a. Ghost. He was contracted to kill a scientist who was on the run. Justin and Gabriel knew the man, Devlin, was innocent and was also protecting his six year old son. They had to protect them both. Could they convince Kai to change his mind?
I’ll go ahead and spoil that question by saying I like the little spark going on between Kai and Devlin. There’s a story there!! Make it happen, please!
Pete and Repeat: genius pet names for their two German Shepherds which I’m totally stealing because my dog just had puppies.
Justin and G Love’s circle of friends expanded. That is, they now have actual friends. More family members come out of the woodwork. Major decisions were made. Closures were achieved. They now have a real shot at normal life, but, well, one more job?
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
The books are not standalones. It was a delight to be there for Justin and Gabriel from the time they couldn’t stand each other until they couldn’t live without each other. The relationship progression throughout the series was very well-executed. I could really feel the love between the two. They were one of Jocelynn Drake‘s best written couples.
I have many complaints about book one, chief of which was the predictable alternating pattern of work and sex. The second and third books showed much improvement. It’s still steamy but the sex has better timing, the plots less predictable. There was more focus on the missions and relationship development. The humor and the dialogues were consistently enjoyable. Many scenes were OTT. This is how the author rolls when it comes to the action suspense part. You can roll with it too. G Love and Special Sauce are so worth it!
Exit Strategy: Deadly Lover – Jocelynn Drake
Justin Mallory has years of bad decisions to make up for, starting with agreeing to join the CIA after being recruited out of the Marines. Now he chooses the jobs and he works alone. It’s safer that way, and he can make sure the good guy always wins.
But this job…he can’t do alone. Two pharmaceutical researchers are dead and a dangerous drug is on the cusp of winning FDA approval if he doesn’t track down the culprit behind the lies and murders.
Gabriel Prescott is a well-trained, efficient, and cold-blooded killer. After a brutal betrayal left his lover dead, Gabriel is out only for himself. But when this lucrative contract lands in his lap, he can’t pass it up. Even if it means working with the unpredictable and insane Justin Mallory.
Dodging bullets and secret meetings find them depending on each other. And one hot, frantic night together leads to a hidden sweetness…and questions of whether they could possibly have something more.
A Goodreads friend said it best ( here ):
“It’s a bit thin on the mercenary procedural angle and highish on the OTT scale. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but this could have been much more. Take out some of the sex, some OTT phrases, add in more mystery, more edge, then we would have had a winner. Alas, that was not to be had.”
Deadly Lover introduces us to Justin Mallory and Gabriel Prescott, a mercenary and an assassin with deep secrets and false names, who found themselves partnered against their will. They were drawn to each other despite having opposite personalities.
The story is part mystery, part thriller, more romance. There’s a bit of fake boyfriend thrown in and some forced proximity angle. I wasn’t a particular fan of the writing. It followed a sex-work-sex-work-sex pattern that would have made it predictable and boring. But what it lack for a more solid storyline, it more than made up for the fantastic chemistry between Gabriel and Justin. I had fun listening to their banter and I could easily overlook the weaker parts.
Justin is goofy and laidback while Gabriel is more uptight and tends to overthink. If it weren’t for the fact that their jobs involved hacking and killing, they could have been your favorite neighborhood gay couple. And they did a lot of cute couple things like grocery shopping and cookouts. I loved how Justin brought out Gabriel’s playful side. My favorite part was Gabriel knowing exactly where Justin hid his secret cameras and deliberately trying to provoke him. Also the “he can only speak Russian” gag was fun.
While not exactly a throwaway, the job wasn’t that hard either and the breakthrough was a matter of waiting for a program to finish decrypting the hard drive. Not my favorite way of moving plots forward but it did serve to give the two men more time together and make the development of their relationship more plausible.
The book ends with a kiss and a promise. And I am eagerly rooting for them to see that promise through. The whole premise of the Exit Strategy series is about two hired guns trying to leave the mercenary life behind and live normal lives. I don’t really like my assassins retiring but I also like them alive and would like Gabriel and Justin’s HFN become an HEA, which is only possible if they permanently remove themselves from their very exciting careers. But knowing these two, I’m pretty sure trouble will still find them no matter what.
All in all, not that deadly but still enjoyable. Recommended to those who love to see cold-blooded assassins getting hot and bothered.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
Demonica – Megan Derr
Life as a mercenary isn’t kind or easy, and Shale has lost much: one family, then another, one leg, one arm, one eye, and the love of his life when pain and medication left him disinterested in sex. The last thing he wants is to accept a job from his ex-lover’s mother, but the pay is too good to refuse, especially as it should be a relatively simple job.
But crucial information was withheld, and the man they’ve been sent to escort home is like no one Shale has ever met—despite the dangerous reason he’s spent so much of his life sequestered, and the fact he’s part of the family that hurt Shale once before.
author’s note This story was originally published in Magic And Mayhem: Fiction and Essays Celebrating LGBTQ Romance)
Wow! This is such a nicely written ace short story that has so much potential. I’m usually wary of reading ace stories because I have this pre-conceive notion that there would be a part where they would try to seduce the ace to have sex. I’m glad there’s no such thing here. The magic system seemed intriguing and the world as a whole has this awesome matriarchy vibe going. I would love more stories from the Demonica world!
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love