Double Trouble: Double Or Nothing – Cari Z & L.A. Witt
Rich Cody joined the U.S. Marshals to hunt down bad guys, not babysit witnesses. Orders are orders, though, and now he’s protecting a hacker with ties to the Albanian and Sicilian mobs. It’s just another exciting day in WITSEC.
Leotrim Nicolosi was born into a world of crime and bloodshed. When that bloodshed hits too close to home, taking down Leo’s boyfriend—the son of a notorious mob boss—Leo is determined to destroy the Grimaldi family. He’s got evidence that will send every last Grimaldi to prison, he’s got the family’s wealth in an electronic chokehold, and he’s got a vendetta that can only be settled with the blood of the man who killed his lover.
When a routine transfer to a safehouse goes horribly wrong, Rich and Leo narrowly escape with their lives. With the Marshals compromised and Leo being framed for murder, he and Rich are on the run from criminals and law enforcement alike. They have no one to trust except each other, and nowhere to go that their enemies can’t reach.
And the only way out might mean making a deal with the Devil.
This novel is approximately 77,000 words.
How far will you go to keep a witness safe?
Rich Cody found out exactly how far the hard way when he was assigned Leotrim Nicolosi, a hacker holding information that will bring mafia families down. His transfer to a safehouse went to shit and the Marshal and his witness found themselves on the run from not only the Albanian and Sicilian mob but from several law enforcement agencies as well. There was no one they can trust, not the police nor the US Marshals, nor the FBI. The mob has a long reach.
Double Or Nothing hit the ground running with a shootout that set the fast-paced action/suspense vibe throughout the book. There was no rest for the weary, Rich and Leo were constantly on the move, driving from one point of the American heartland to the opposite end. The only downtime they had was in the missile silo/bunker when they asked Rich’s marine buddy for help.
I loved how the authors kept several levels of tension going. The book was very effective in the giving off that constant sense of danger hanging like the Sword of Damocles over Rich and Leo’s heads. Meanwhile, the sexual tension was a simmering slow burn that went nuclear in the missile silo.
Beyond their romantic connection, there was Rich’s unwavering loyalty to his witness and his duty as a Marshal. I loved his dogged determination to see things through to the end. Grieving the loss of his lover, Leo is equally determined to bring down his killers. The two men took on an entire mob. They didn’t hold anything back.
The book would make a great action movie. There’s a lot of explosions and gunfights and car chases that will keep you on the edge of your seat. There were twists and turns, double crosses and close calls. It was one heck of a mission.
There was one scene at the end, where they both just went through hell and Rich thought he lost Leo. That part where he was hugging him while shaking with shock and exhaustion was one of the most poignant moments. You can really feel his heart exploding with emotions. Mine did just that.
So just how far will you go to keep a witness safe? For US Marshall Rich Cody, all the way.
Double Trouble is a duology and best read when you already have both books in hand. Double Or Nothing ends with a cliffhanger. Rich and Leo’s mission continues in Doubling Down.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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Hitman Vs Hitman – Cari Z & L.A. Witt
Ricardo Torralba and August Morrison don’t agree on much besides the fact that they hate each other. According to Ricardo, August is a spoiled brat who really needs to knock off the sass once in a while. August insists that Ricardo needs a sense of humor, a good lay, or a well-placed bullet. Maybe all three.
Fortunately, the assassin’s profession is a solitary one, and they can go about their lives without getting in each other’s way.
When a contracted hit turns out to be a setup for both of them, they narrowly escape with their lives. Now, even if they don’t like it (spoiler: they don’t), August and Ricardo have to work together if they want a shot at survival.
In between firefights and questionable interrogation methods as they hunt down their would-be killer, the cranky assassins discover that under all that mutual loathing is a spark of chemistry they can’t ignore. They want to ignore it, they probably should ignore it, but August can’t help flirting to annoy Ricardo, and Ricardo can think of at least one way to shut him up for a while.
But they need to focus, damn it, and figure out who’s gunning for them and why.
Assuming they don’t kill each other first.
Hitman vs Hitman is a standalone gay romantic suspense featuring two men who’d rather chew glass than fall for each other, a whole lot of inappropriate comments, and some buttons that will need resewing.
L.A. Witt and Cari Z had wowed me with their awesomely co-written series, Bad Behavior. Their latest book, Hitman Vs Hitman is a fun, explosive romp oozing with USTs between two hired guns who were contracted to take on an assignment that was set up to get them both killed.
Hitmen all over the world are ranked in a website called Rate My Hit. It’s where clients post reviews worded as satirical comments.
The #1 hitman according to the website is Ricardo Torralba. He’s a born planner who has a trunk full of props and costumes that lets him slip through security. He’s of Spanish descent but he can change his accent when undercover. He’s a grumpy, taciturn fellow with a drawer filled with burner phones.
And #2 on the chart is August Morrison, an unlikely person for such occupation. He is publicly known as the son of a billionaire. His mansion is built like Bruce Wayne’s. He loves clothes. Wears designer suits to his assignments. And jeeesus, when is he going to shut up?!
This book moved fast, much like the way Ricardo and August were constantly on the run from whoever had them in their crosshairs. They paused long enough to come up with a plan to turn things around. Along the way, their combustible combination finally combusted and they discovered, that despite their very obvious differences, they’re really good together in more ways than they expected.
The chemistry is off the charts! The sexual tension adding piquancy to the already strained interactions of two men on edge. I love the way these two threw off fireworks while constantly bickering. And that they took time before jumping each other’s bones.
I do think the way their backstories were presented could have been stronger. While we get a good picture of Ricardo’s and August’s personalities, I felt their pasts could have been explored further. We learn more about August and his quirks. Also him with his famous billionaire face, going about his secret missions sans disguise and not recognized is stretching it.
Majority of the book is spent uncovering the identity of the person who set them up. The mystery wasn’t hardcore mindboggling and you can kind of expect who the bad guy was. Still, it was an intriguing enough plotline.
We get an HFN that left some things open in case the authors decide to give us a sequel. I wish they would because that conclusion certainly felt like the start of events that will shake up the charts. I liked that Ricardo and August did not retire as is usually the case when assassins are given their happy endings.
Overall, Hitman Vs Hitman is light, humorous, suspenseful with OTT stunts and a lot of ridiculousness, mostly from August. It might not be a bullseye but it still hit its target.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
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Single Dads: Promise – R.J. Scott
Leo Byrne is a cop, Jason Banks is an ex-con. Even after one stolen kiss, something has to give before Leo can convince Jason that falling in love is even an option.
Adopted at a young age, Leo is part of the sprawling Byrnes family. With his dog Cap, three siblings and a whole mess of nieces and nephews, he is never lonely, and his life is full. Love is the last item on his to-do list, but seeing his best friends Sean and Eric happy and making new families makes him want things he doesn’t think is possible. Kissing Jason at an event to honor his bravery was one thing, but anything other than that is off limits. Until Jason has no one left to turn to, and it’s Leo who helps him at his lowest. Taking Jason and his daughter into his home is one thing, but falling for the ex-con is something else altogether.
Jason made a deal to keep his daughter safe and spent years behind bars as a result. Volunteering as a convict firefighter was as much about helping the community as saving his sanity, but now that he’s out, he doesn’t even have that. He’s lost his future, his self-respect, and has no friends or a place to call home. Worst of all, even after rescuing his daughter he still can’t keep her safe from the man who wants to use her as a bargaining chip for money. Meeting Leo might give Jason a way to keep Daisy safe, but falling for the stubborn cop means the truth has to be revealed, and he could lose everything all over again.
Prepare for a chockful of ex-con+cop tension and sweet father-daughter moments in this moving contemporary romance by R.J. Scott.
Promise is the third book of Single Dads, a series featuring three best friends who work as emergency responders and the men who came into their lives. I started this series with Today, the second book about Brady and Eric, the firefighter and one of Leo’s bestfriends.
Jason was introduced as the convict working alongside the firefighters in a big forest fire incident where he saved Eric’s life. Eric and his friends promised they would do everything to help shorten his sentence.
Jason immediately piqued my interest. My gut told me he was a good guy who was dealt a bad hand. I knew there’s some big story behind his imprisonment that’s worth checking out.
Fast forward to the present time, Jason is out of prison and on the run with his 3 year old daughter, Daisy, in tow. Daisy’s mother, who came from a rich but shady family, was involved with an abusive boyfriend who was demanding money and threatening their lives. The man is wanted by the FBI. Jason and Daisy aren’t safe until he was caught.
Leo found Jason and Daisy outside his doorstep. His protective cop mode immediately kicked into high gear. He didn’t hesitate to take them in.
Jason’s backstory was indeed interesting. There were mob connections, drug overdoses, stint in bands, hacking and so on. However, most of these were told rather than shown. I wanted to see more of Jason’s life before he showed up at Leo’s house.
Leo and Jason had a history of sharing a kiss neither of them forgot. When they saw each other again, the attraction was still there. I liked that the story took time to build the trust and connection between the characters before things got physical. For sure, there were a lot of internal angstyings and things left unsaid. It would have saved them the agony if only they talked. But it took a while to gain Jason’s trust.
The book focused primarily in developing the romance, establishing the bonds between Jason, Leo and Daisy, and helping Jason and Daisy heal from their ordeal. There were plenty hurt/comfort to warm the heart.
And we also have Daisy lighting up the story by being her adorable self. Also lovable doggie antics courtesy of Cap, Leo’s black Labrador.
Narrator Sean Crisden hit the right emotional notes and I generally enjoyed his narrations. My only niggle with his speaking style is that when he reads, the words kind of run together, like he’s reading them a notch too fast. They’re not as enunciated as other narrators. I mentioned this too in my review of his other audiobooks. This could be a me problem since I’m not a native English speaker.
IMHO, pure contemporary romance of the heartwarming variety could get pretty sappy sometimes. Promise has a good balance between the emotional elements of the story. It’s the book to read for tales of angsty men with trouble on their heels, conflicted cops falling for ex-cons and precocious toddlers ready to save their dads.
Thank You to Signal Boost Promotions and Audible UK for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love0
Cabrini Law: Murder Aforethought – Parker St. John
A ticking clock. A deadly enemy. Can they keep their heads in the game when their hearts are already on the line?
Valentine Rivetti made a horrible mistake when he became a Marine Sniper at the age of twenty. Returning home with PTSD and a guilty conscience, he’s blackmailed into working for the mafia to save his family.
Maksim Kovalenko has everything he ever dreamed of growing up in a Ukrainian slum. As a notorious corporate attorney, he has the world at his feet. But wealth and power can’t protect him from the emptiness he feels every time he shuts his eyes.
When Val is arrested for a murder he didn’t commit, his redemption is a silver fox in a three-piece suit. But Val’s lucky day becomes Maksim’s nightmare when the mafia begins to cut loose ends… starting with them.
The passion between them is overwhelming, but can two solitary men learn to trust each other before it’s too late?
It’s only the second book, but I’m declaring Murder Aforethought as the best book of the Cabrini Law series.
This is of course a completely biased judgement because I love Maks!
I first met Maksim Kovalenko in the first book, Risk Assessment. He got on everybody’s nerves and dazzled people with his perfect veneers.
Maks is a fascinating character. As the best corporate lawyer in town, he is a consummate workaholic. The type who dreads going on vacation. He was frequently described as an asshole and is only too happy to confirm the fact. The only person he cares about is his young friend, Emma, a teenage girl with neglectful parents. The rest of the world he holds at arms length.
Despite the cold, distant facade, Maksim dedicates a major chunk of his time applying his lawyerly genius doing pro bono work for Cabrini Law‘s underpriviledged clients. One of his cases involved a young ex-military held in question for suspected murder.
Valentine Rivetti was a troubled young man who has PTSD. He works as a hitman for the mob. He used to be a sniper in the military until he realized the job was not for him. His father was a petty criminal. His mother died of suicide.
Val believed the only thing he knows how to do is shoot. But he insisted he did not kill the man his father used to work for, both of whom were related to the mob. Still, somebody tried to kill him the minute he got out of the police station.
Bias or not, this was definitely a much better book than its predecessor. For one, this was a fast-paced running-from-the-mob story. We see a lot of action and flying bullets. The excitement and suspense was palpable as we hightailed it across the city alongside Maks, Val and Emma, who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I totally loved how Maks and Val’s romance blossomed over the course of the week of them on the run. It didn’t feel rushed. The progression was paced to perfection and developed organically with the rest of the plot.
Val was just the right combination of strong and vulnerable that appealed to Maks at some core level. He recognized the young man’s intelligence and potential to do great things. Val saw through Maks’ walls, right to the golden heart that lay beneath. Maks felt it in his guts, he had to give the ex-soldier a home where he could find peace. Then he realized, he had one more person he cared about.
All the other characters stood out too. I enjoyed how each character played off with the others.
Emma was spunky and brave. I liked that the author didn’t go overboard with that. Emma acted like a real teenager. She cried. She got scared. But she was quick to help Val when he was hit by a bullet.
There were welcome appearances from Miguel, another lawyer from Cabrini. He’s an easy going guy who claims to be Maks’ friend whether Maks admits to it or not. There was also Val’s friend and former captain, Reese. This man sure has a lot of baggage. His book is next.
Murder Aforethought was a book I couldn’t put down. The writing flowed smoothly. The characterization was on point. The plot wasn’t new and I wished we had more of Maks and Val but overall the execution was done well. I was swept away by the adrenaline, the sweet hurt/comfort story and the delicious slow-burn-but- not-really romance.
Let yourself be swept away too and be charmed by heroic men ready to jump in front of bullets and silver-haired lawyers quoting The Princess Bride.
Witness Maks being an asshole and meet Elliot Smith a.k.a. Beyonce in Book 1, Risk Assessment, review here.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away0
Death and Destruction – Patricia Logan
Forced to go into witness protection, ATF Special Agent Thayne Wolfe, is less than thrilled. The State’s Attorney needs him to testify against one of the most ruthless and notorious arms dealers in the world. Expecting boredom and lots of daytime television, he instead ends up with a ridiculous new job, a stupid new name, and the world’s most annoying shadow. Jarrett Evans, is nevertheless tasked with keeping Wolfe alive long enough to put Mills Lang and his crew away for the rest of their miserable lives.
Jarrett Evans, former Marine, has always been a free spirit, doing the dirty work for Uncle Sam whenever and wherever he’s needed. One of the best snipers in the world, Evans is at peace with the man he’s become. That doesn’t mean he’s ever liked the cold-blooded killer who stares back at him from the mirror every day. The moment he meets pretty boy Thayne Wolfe, things start a slow change and redemption begins to sound possible.
Mills Lang, the world’s most ruthless arms dealer, is little more than a serial killer in his own right. Rotting away in prison with nothing but time on his hands, Lang is determined to destroy the man he allowed into his inner circle. Thayne Wolfe will die in the most painful way… along with anyone he loves.
Death and Destruction has been lingering in my TBR pile for a while now. I wished I had picked it up sooner.
While the premise and many elements of the story were not exactly new, Patricia Logan was able to offer a well-written and gripping take on law enforcement romance. From the moment I started reading, I could hardly put it down. If not for the need to sleep, I’d probably finished it in one sitting.
The plot centers around Thayne Wolfe, an ATF agent who is the key witness to the trial of a notorious arms dealer, and Jarrett Evans, the ex-Marine assigned to guard him. Thayne did not go to WitSec as was normally the case. Instead, he hid in plain sight as a hairstylist in Cut the Crap (awesome name!) with Evans as a receptionist. When their covers were blown, they ran with an assassin hot on their trail.
I loved how the pace was consistently brisk even with their stops and couple downtime. The story is mostly Thayne’s and Jarrett’s POVs with brief shifts to other characters. I usually enjoy this type of style because it feels like a movie. Also I like getting inside the head of the villains. It heightens the sense of foreboding.
Aside from all the action and suspense, the way Thayne and Jarrett played off each other, the TENSION and them trying to fight the attraction for as long as they can were some of the things that made this so enjoyable. I loved how the romance worked with the other plotlines. The relationship developed so naturally there weren’t any doubts about these two even if at this point, they’re not official yet. I just love them!
My only complaint was that the bad guy did not get his comeuppance. According to the blurbs for the other books, he’s going to pop up once in a while. Tsk! I don’t want to see the evil bastard again! I want justice for poor Noah!
The story continues with Flash and Bang where the boys are now working partners. There are already 9 books out if you plan on binge-reading the series. I have a feeling I will end up doing exactly that.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits0