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    REVIEW: Love Is A Stranger by John Wiltshire

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    More Heat Than The Sun: Love Is A Stranger – John Wiltshire

    Ex-SAS soldier Ben Rider falls in love with his enigmatic married boss Sir Nikolas Mikkelsen, but Nikolas is living a lie. A lie so profound that when the shadows are lifted, Ben realises he’s in love with a very dangerous stranger. Ben has to choose between Nikolas and safety, but sometimes danger comes in a very seductive package. 


    Note: long post so you can skip to the last paragraph for the TL,DR version if you want

    Love Is A Stranger is built on layers upon layers of secrets, with just enough hints of the dark and dangerous to keep you on the edge, all wrapped up in old world suave and sophistication that charms and seduces. Very Much like Nikolas Mikkelsen.

    The story is told in Ben Rider’s POV. He’s involved with the married Nikolas. The story drops you right smack in the middle of their affair. They worked in what I gather is some government department handling sensitive missions. Basically, they’re secret agents.

    Nikolas is married for 10 years to a high-ranking lady in the royal family. Now, this part initially put me off this series. Cheating is a deal-breaker for me. But I’ve seen some glowing reviews and I was very curious to see how the author would make their relationship work. Quite spectacularly as it turned out.

    At first, it would seem Nikolas has all the power. Older, richer, cold and aloof, yet very charismatic. Also, the boss. It was pretty obvious that Ben was in awe of the man. As the story progressed, we see the gradual shift in dynamics as Ben work his way through the chinks in Nikolas’ armor.

    This could have been a serious, heavy book but the bright spots of dry humor really gave the story the levity it needed to keep the weight off. Usually this is when Ben is calling Nikolas out on his shit. I loved it when Ben is being very irreverent with the older man. Not only is it really funny but it also makes Nikolas less cold figure on a pedestal, more warm-blooded person.

    While this is a very Nikolas book, Ben’s character is just as complex. Blessed with model perfect looks, he had no qualms using it to get the job done. I really liked that he thinks of his looks as just another tool. He’s good at his job and doesn’t hesitate to maim, torture and/or kill to get what he wants. He also has a bratty side that loves to annoy his older lover. And boy, does he like to eat. We get Ben’s backstory but the latter parts teased us with more reveals in the future.

    My favorite part about Ben, apart from his super snarky attitude, is his sheer determination to love Nikolas in any way he can have him.

    “If this is love for you, then you are in love with a ghost, with the illusion of a man. Is that enough for you?”

    “Would you let me have that? If you do, then I will find the man. I’ll breathe life back into the ghost.”

    Ben and Nikolas are two beautiful, dysfunctional people that started their relationship backwards. They now had to figure out how to do it for real. Their chemistry sizzled right from page 1 and continued to set off smoke alarms with the way they played off each other throughout the book. Sometimes ridiculous, frequently fucked up, these two really deserved each other.

    The plot has, initially, a slice of life-ish feel to it. Generally, a book would cover one major mission. This one had Ben tackling a few missions during the course of the story, especially at the first half where the plot had things happening before establishing the set up. It was almost a spy procedural in a way.

    These parts had some very shocking revelations! Without giving too much away, it pave the way for the two men to really begin their relationship. The next portions admittedly meandered just like the two meandered through their days. This could be considered the honeymoon phase. Sadly, this saggy middle made me put the book on hold for a while.

    The story picked up at the third arc. That is when it took a much darker turn when Nikolas’s past caught up to him. The plot already covered some disturbing elements early on but this time it was way worse. That the man has a troubled past has been hinted from the start but I never realized how very troubled it really is. From the unspeakable abuses that began in his childhood to his career in shadow agencies, Nikolas is a man who lives a lie within a lie.

    Love Is Stranger is a riveting spy thriller and the beginnings of an epic love story. It does a good job setting up the succeeding books. The first parts could be struggle to go through. The character and story development doesn’t happened until much later on. But stick around for the twisty turny plot, the witty dialogue, the crazy awesome chemistry, and, most especially, when the layers start peeling off one by one.

    P.S.

    Open-ended conclusion but most of the books are out so you won’t have trouble bingeing.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Stranger
    Artist: Covey
    Album;


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    US: Kindle | Audiobook
    UK: Kindle | Audiobook

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    LOVE IS A STRANGER: US |UK

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    SERIES REVIEW: Bad Behavior Books 5 & 5.5 by L.A. Witt & Cari Z

    Note: another long post so you can skip to the end for the tl:dr version if you want. looks like this is turning out to be a series review month

    Bad Behavior was one of the best series I’ve read back in 2018. This gritty, partners to lovers, police procedural cemented L.A. Witt and Cari Z‘s status as one of the best writing duos for me. Just when I thought Andreas and Darren’s story was over, we get another awesome installment and a floofy floof short story.

    This is a review of Books 5 and 5.5.


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    Bad Behavior: Protective Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z

    Detective Mark Thibedeau is perfectly happy doing his job in Internal Affairs and going home to his cat. Still, when his assistant wants to set him up on a blind date, he can’t help but be intrigued.

    Dr. Ryan Campbell loves the frenetic pace of working in an emergency department. He likes his life and doesn’t need anyone. But that guy his colleague wants him to meet does sound pretty interesting.

    It’s instant chemistry when they meet—and instant chaos.

    That chaos isn’t just phone calls interrupting dates. When a patient comes into the ED rapidly bleeding out from a gunshot wound, Ryan suddenly finds himself in possession of evidence that could very well put two white cops in jail for killing an innocent black man in cold blood.

    Not sure what else to do, Ryan takes the evidence to the only cop he can trust—Mark.

    Now Mark is investigating a delicate case, and Ryan is a material witness, and putting their fledgling relationship on hold is the least of their problems. Dirty cops stalk Ryan and his colleagues. Higher-ups question Mark’s investigative integrity at every turn. Worse, he’s tugging at threads of a citywide systemic problem of cops getting away with racially motivated murder.

    And there are cops with blood on their hands who will gladly kill to keep that system running.

    CW: Racially motivated violence, white-cop-on-black civilian violence

    This book is #5 in the Bad Behavior series, but can be read as a standalone.


    I read in L.A. Witt‘s post somewhere that Protective Behavior began as series narrator Michael Ferraiuolo‘s suggestion. This book was a pleasant surprise. It’s a story I didn’t realize I wanted because I didn’t really pay that much attention to IA Detective Mark Thibedeau. After learning of its existence, I was like, oh yeah, about time we have a book about Internal Affairs cops.

    We first met Mark in Book 1, Risky Behavior, as the IA detective who thought Andreas was a dirty cop. He and Andreas were both grumpy assholes who butt heads all the time. Andreas’ daughter Erin later worked as Mark’s assistant. She wrangled him into a blind date with a doctor friend, Ryan.

    Mark and Ryan are two very busy men who had no lives outside work. They immediately hit it off but barely got around to their second date, let alone some smexy times, due to ongoing investigations and medical emergencies. They tried. Boy, they really tried but the call of duty always had impeccable bad timing.

    I felt their initial meeting was, deliberately, a conventional blind date, perhaps as a reminder that they were really just ordinary people cockblocked by extraordinary circumstances.

    Some time after they began dating, Mark found himself investigating a suspected murder of a black man by white cops. The more Mark uncovers, the more he realized this could very well be a systemic problem.

    The case was brought to his attention by Ryan. The doctor was the one who attended the victim. The man handed him a recording of the incident as he lay dying . This makes Ryan a witness and thus off limits for any romantic endeavors. It also made him a target of the psycho cops who were looking to get rid of evidence.

    I might have initially overlooked him before but the authors did a good job making Mark a likable character here. He’s not a flash and bang guy. He’s more of a solid, dependable, dogged determination gets the job done kind of guy. He goes home to a spoiled cat. A dead giveaway that this hardened detective is really a softie.

    Ryan’s more of the same, albeit more playful and flirty. Right away, they understood the kind of high stress, demanding job the other man had. They made their relationship work despite those hurdles. I liked that they were kind of low-key compared to the flashier Andreas and Darren because it feels right to their story. I also appreciated that they were both in their 40s and this is not an age-gap romance.

    The story is first and foremost, a police procedural. I really enjoyed this because it’s my first time to read a book that focuses on Internal Affairs. IA investigations are trickier than normal cases. Cops don’t snitch on other cops. Especially their partners.

    The plot was well-written. It was easy to follow but still giving plenty of twists and turns that kept me at the edge of my seat. Any police procedural aficionado would love all the nitty gritty investigative stuff.

    This is a very timely book that reflects real life events, specifically racism and Black Lives Matter. These issues were handled well. I read one review that says the story tries too hard to make a point. I did find some parts repetitive but not preachy.. All in all, gripping and relevant .

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bit

    Soundtrack: Matter
    Artist: For King & Country
    Album: Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.


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    Bad Behavior: Cuddly Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z

    Detective Andreas Ruffner is less than thrilled when his husband and partner, Detective Darren Corliss, announces they’ll be cat-sitting for a couple of weeks. He’s even less pleased when he realizes the cat in question is a large grumpy thing with razor-sharp claws and no regard for personal space.

    When Darren deploys the puppy dog eyes, though, Andreas is powerless to say no, so they’re on kitty detail… and despite his best efforts, Andreas is a sucker for the critter shedding all over his apartment and stealing his husband’s affection.

    It’s only for two weeks. Plenty of time for the cat to get on his nerves, but not nearly enough for her to trick him into falling in love with her. Right?

    This 15,000 word short story is Bad Behavior book 6, and is best read after Protective Behavior. 


    So I mentioned above that Mark goes home to his cat. The cat is Harley, a giant hairy ball of fluff with no regard for personal space. She jumped on an injured Mark and opened his stitches. So she was sent to live with Andreas and Darren for a couple of weeks while Mark recovers.

    This short story is full of adorable cat antics and besotted humans. It is a demonstration of how cats can win over even the most anti-cat person. Witness grizzled detective Andreas being trained by the cunning Harley to become her personal seat cushion, much to the delight of his husband, Darren. Photographic evidence was promptly obtained for posterity.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bit

    Soundtrack: Cuddles
    Artist: The Tired Flames
    Album: Cuddles


    Michael Ferraiuolo was right on the money when he suggested Mark’s book. Protective Behavior certainly added another dimension to the series by giving us a peek at the inner workings of the Internal Affairs Department. It is a solid police procedural tackling real life issues with a gentle, low-steam romance that goes perfectly well with the story’s vibe. Cuddly Behavior is the squishy cherry on top, a veritable catnip to all cat lovers.

    Protective Behavior can be read as a standalone but why stop at one? Experience all the different ways to misbehave in the first four Bad Behavior books: Risky Behavior, Suspicious Behavior, Reckless Behavior and Romatic Behavior.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of Protective Behavior and Cuddly Behavior. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    Protective Behavior: US | UK
    Cuddly Behavior: US | UK

    You can also use my Bookshop affiliate links to buy paperbacks and MP3 CD audiobooks and help support independent bookstores.

    Protective Behavior


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