Pros & Cons: Pros & Cons Of Vengeance – A.E. Wasp
*FIVE JOBS. FIVE CHANCES FOR REDEMPTION. One thing’s for sure: these men are no angels.*
There’s nothing like being blackmailed by a dead man to really bring a group of cons together. And what a group we are: a hacker, a thief, a con artist, a thug, and a Federal agent with an axe to grind. The deal is simple, we do the jobs and Charlie’s lawyer wipes the slate clean for each of us, one at a time.
Since job number one calls for some muscle, it looks like I’m up first. I’m Steele Alvarez, ex-Special Forces Close Protection Specialist (aka, a bodyguard for some not so nice guys).
After learning what the job is — taking down a seemingly untouchable senator with a penchant for beating up young male prostitutes — I’m in. No questions. A bullet ought to do the trick.
Then I met Senator Harlan’s latest victim: Breck Pfeiffer, the gorgeous hooker with a heart of gold and the soul of a fighter. One look at him and I’m gone. That kid laid me out harder than any punch ever did. I’ll do anything to protect Breck, even kill for him. But Breck doesn’t want the senator dead, he wants vengeance.
If we’re going to find a way bring down the slimebag and get the blackest mark on my record erased, I’m going to need all the help I can get.
Like it or not, we’re all in this together.
Pros & Cons is an MM version of Oceans Eleven / Leverage where a group of men with ‘special skills’ were gathered posthumously by the late Charlie Bingham, information broker and con-man extraordinaire. He ‘persuaded’ them into doing certain ‘assignments’.
It all became clear to me at that moment what Charlie’s ultimate motivation had been. These weren’t personal vendettas or petty crimes he wanted to be solved. He wanted justice, the kind he couldn’t get from inside the system
The first book, Pros & Cons of Vengeance, did a good job setting up the series and introducing the cast. I might not like George Clooney but I definitely love Charlie’s boys.
Leonard ‘Leo’ Shook – an FBI agent who’s been on Charlie’s tail for ages. I’m betting good money him and the mysterious ‘interested party’ will be hooking up soonish, maybe 5th book. And I think I know who that ‘interested party’ is.
Carson Grieves – a man of a thousand faces. The most mysterious person in the group. He’s so mysterious no one even knows his real name, age or accent. He always blends in but in this group of ridiculously good-looking people, he stands out for being plain. My favorite character. Can’t wait for his book.
Ridge Pfiefer – a thief. Kind of grumpy. The twin I liked better
Wesley Bond – hacker and master of all things tech. Social engineer. He’s my second fave.
Castille ‘Steele’ Alvarez – hitman, bodyguard and ex-Army Ranger. Doesn’t get along with Ridge but thinks Breck is adorbs.
Then we have Charlie’s angels:
Miranda Bosley – tough lawyer, executor of Charlie’s will and not someone you mess with
Josie DuPont – international woman of mystery and jill of all trades. Can cook the best Mexican dishes. Teaches a class on underwater demolition. Also, not to be mess with. I think she and Miranda might be occasional bedmates.
The ex-hookers with a golden heart:
Breck ‘Brekkie’ Pfiefer – Ridge’s younger twin. Fell into Steele’s lap and was happy to stay there
Danny Munroe – Breck’s friend who was dragged into the group and promptly adopted. He and Wes had that ‘I’m pissed at you because I like you dammit‘ thing going on. I’m going to love their book, I know it.
Steele takes point in the first assignment. They were to bring down a corrupt evangelical senator who preaches against LGBTQ but hires and abuses rent boys whom he sleeps with and uses to blackmail influential people by secretly recording them while they do the dirty. Two of these boys were Breck and Danny.
Steele was instantly attracted to Breck the moment he saw him but unfortunately they’re the two people in the group I’m least interested in. I have no complaints about them, I just didn’t really care much so I left them in peace a.k.a tune them out when they weren’t talking about the case.
The book is written in both MCs’ POV, except for the prologue and epilogue which were in the ‘interested party’s’ and Leo’s perspectives. The premise immediately grabbed my attention with a plotline that was made for movies. A big part of the story was the romance, this is MM afterall, but I did wished there was a little bit more heist in it.
The job is what I’m all about. Like in most heist novels, careful planning is the key. The fun part was the execution. I was keen on watching their elaborate scheme unfold because it’s going to be very satisfying to witness them destroy the bad guy. They’re pulling out the big guns at the end and boy, did Brekkie had his moment!
But it was the ensemble cast that really made the book shine. Each character brought something special to the table, both in skills and personalities. I liked how each of them was given ample page-time without them taking over Steele and Breck’s story. I loved the humor, the dialogues and the grudging camaraderie of the group. Like all the best teams, they have that kind of charismatic dynamics that drew you in and kept you in. The kind that makes you go, ‘adopt me please!‘ A.E. Wasp did a fantastic job with these characters.
Overall, Pros & Cons Of Vengeance was a fun, entertaining ride that succeeded in making me look forward to future capers. Recommended if you like cons, shenanigans and other creative ways of bringing the (other) bad guys down.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
If The Seas Catch Fire – L.A. Witt
Sergei Andronikov was a child when the Mafia wiped out his family, leaving him with nothing but a hunger for revenge. Years later, through ruthless strategy and tireless patience, he’s a contract killer working for the three families ruling Cape Swan… and he’s nearly in position to bring them all down from the inside.
Domenico “Dom” Maisano is Mafia royalty, a made man… and a hitman. He’s caught up in a violent life he can’t escape, struggling to maintain an image he doesn’t want, and suppressing desires he can’t have.
A chance encounter throws the killers into each other’s paths. Though Dom knows he’s playing a dangerous game, he’s intrigued and keeps coming back. Sergei can’t resist him either—Dom is everything he set out to destroy, but he’s also everything he’s ever ached for in a man.
Then Sergei gets the contract he’s been waiting for—the hit that promises to bring the town’s Mafia to its knees.
But when a capo makes an unexpected move, Sergei must choose between dropping the hammer on the families he vowed to annihilate, and protecting the man he swore he wouldn’t love.
And the wrong choice—or even the right one—will destroy them both.
I picked this up because I specifically wanted to listen to Michael Ferraiuolo. I went in blind and came out awestruck . It was so good!
First of all, I was delighted to discover that the main characters were an assassin and a mafioso. I love stories with these kinds of antiheroes and double the thrill that this is a love story between the two.
Sergei and Dom met in less than ideal circumstances, parted ways then met again because Dom couldn’t stay away. At first it was just for sex then the arrangement became something of an emotional lifeline for the two men desperate to escape a situation where the only time you get out is when you are dead. The book painted a good picture of the struggle Sergei and Dom went through. It was pretty much gutwrenching. It was such a convincing no-way-out scenario that I half expected the ending to be tragic. The only guarantee this ends happily is this being MM.
Sergei saved the day with his resourcefulness and quick thinking. The man is deadly as fuck. Dom was the most reluctant made man there is. He had no choice because his uncle, the don, effectively traumatized him to submission. Dom was also his uncle’s personal hitman. Thing is, he is really just a gentle soul so even though he was bigger than Sergei, he could learn a thing or two about intimidating a target from the smaller man. They were supposed to kill each other but the chemistry between the two hitmen were off the charts. The enemies to lovers aspect was executed really well here.
If The Seas Catch Fire is a book about people with guns so violence and death are a given. It was described as dark, but although there were scenes of torture, I felt it didn’t cross over to the disturbing territory. However, the protagonists make morally gray decisions so if you are not comfortable with these kinds of characters, this might not be the book for you.
Author L.A. Witt impressed me yet again with her story telling. The twist and turns, the gritty atmosphere, the heartbreaking family situations and intense scenes all came together in a powerful emotional rollercoaster that I have come to associate with her angstier books. She makes her characters go through so much shit that I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up dead. How Sergei and Dom pulled it off was pure suspense. It was almost perfect but of course, something had to go tits up and there was a very close call so boy, was I relieved to see them miraculously survive!
I had a great time with this book. It’s a winning combination of good writing and outstanding narration so I recommend experiencing If The Seas Catch Fire in audiobook form.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away