I first encountered this author’s work when I read this books predecessor in the series. It was this huge, chunk of a book, but it was full of all things good for those who enjoy psychological thriller romances or darker romantic suspenses. It gave me the taste for more and particularly more with the team of good guys I encountered in Closer Than You Think so it was not a hard choice to snap up this next book.
It naturally follows the last book and establishes the inter-personal relationships from the last book, but would definitely work out of order or alone.
And I do need to give a trigger warning if human trafficking, rape, and torture are troublesome for you that you might want to check out something different. Some things are referenced to past actions, but some are quite in the moment.
Alright, so this book picks up several months after the big serial killer case involving Faith, her new-found family, other victims, and the newly established law enforcement team between Cincinnati PD and the local FBI. Deacon (hero from previous book)’s partner, CPD Detective Scarlett Bishop gets a call in the wee hours that she is very much needed. This call isn’t from her boss, but from the man that she hasn’t been able to get off her mind in six months. Marcus O’Bannion (Faith’s relation) had been shot while protecting a total stranger from the serial killer. She was fascinated with him and particularly his voice when she sat in his hospital room in the dark and they talked.
Now, he is calling her to help with a situation he encountered. Only when Scarlett arrives, it is too late and now instead of a rescue, they have a homicide on their hands. Marcus owns a newspaper and reporters are an issue for Scarlett. She wants to trust Marcus, but she gave her trust in the past and someone dear to her paid the ultimate price. But he is involved now and his connections and skills might bring justice for their victim.
Marcus runs a newspaper he inherited from his grandfather, but the paper shields and is the outward arm of his secret and more rewarding work- gaining safety and justice for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. His latest, Tala, is now dead. She was a human trafficking victim and sold into slavery. Someone followed her to her secret meeting with Marcus and now she is dead. He feels the frustration of not being able to help her and he will find her murderer and rescue her family.
And so begins the long twisting road as Marcus, Scarlett, and a host of others descend into the murky and dangerous world of human trafficking and the traffickers can see them coming and will stop at nothing to protect their empire even while wrestling amongst themselves for power and position. Marcus is their target and it’s a race to see who will get to whom first.
But along the way, Marcus and Scarlett are forced to confront the darkness of their own pasts and share their secrets with each other as they come together as an investigation team and a couple.
This will appear as one huginormous book and very intimidating at the start, but like the one before it, I got vested and it went by like it was barely novel-length. This story was big and had a large cast of characters. It is big because this is like two stories in one. There is a duality to it because on one side there is Marcus and Scarlett with their supporting cast working to solve the murder that blasts open into something much bigger and then on the other side is an equally compelling story of the criminals led by people whose sole motivation is greed and power. These are two parts to a whole and eventually come together in the end, but much of the book the reader is getting both sides like watching a chess match only the good guys have to work twice as hard figuring out who is on the other side of the board. This causes the story to go from engaging to riveting which can be a surprise since the reader is getting both sides. And trust me, there are some twists- there is a mole in the ranks (and I knew who it was and what they were doing which was unusually astute of me).
As to the romance side of things, this pair of lovers were not an instant thing. They were attracted and secretly yearned, but they were wary. Marcus had his secrets that he wasn’t sure Scarlett could live with and they are some doozys. I was in tears as his backstory finally came out. This man really does get where his victims are coming from. And then there is Scarlett, she was betrayed by a boyfriend who was a reporter and her part in the events of her friend’s death has led her to have issues with herself, her family, and especially those in the news industry. But as they come together for Tala’s case and experience the danger of being hunted by those they are hunting, they slowly learn to trust as partners even as they slowly build something on a personal level, too. The passion is there, but also the understanding, respect, and strength. This romance didn’t stick out as ill-fitting as sometimes can happen in a thriller. No, the blending was seamless and natural.
On a side note, this series began with a different name, Faith Corcorran and is now Cincinnati. The change makes sense. And to add to the rabbit trail, it was great to get to spend lots of time with Deacon and other familiar characters from book one that had a big part in solving this case, too. I’ll also throw in the bit that I had a main character as a reporter and loved it (I have the worst luck with reporter/journalist characters).
All in all, this was unputdownable and unforgettable. I can’t wait for more in this series. This is for those who like a longer developing twisty dark thriller and romance-blended plot. With gritty, realistic details to the suspense and a strong dose of spice to the romance.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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