This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: New Adult Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Atria Books
Released on March 3, 2015
Have I mentioned just how amazing I find this author’s books? Yes, we all know I have. I thought that it would be difficult to top the first book in this series, Burying Rain, but happily, I discovered that difficult or not, the author did it. Luke Boone was a secondary character in the first book and he was deliciously complex the way his desires warred against his better nature. This all comes front and center when he becomes the hero of his own story- a tarnished hero, but a hero nonetheless. Like I said, just amazing how the author comes up with her characters and situations.
The story jumps in shortly after the dust settles from the events of the first book. I would highly recommend starting there for the chance to start at the beginning with Luke, but admittedly, one could get away with getting them out of order or treating this like a standalone.
Luke is chafing at the chance to prove himself to the uncle who reared him and took care of his family after his dad walked out on the family. His Uncle Rust runs legal and illegal businesses very successfully and Luke wants in on this both to gain his own place and to start making the big money. His uncle has held him back until now, but finally he lets him in just a little moving stolen cars and meeting with the partners who handle the shipping and ordering side overseas. Luke is nervous around the dangerous Russians and the enigmatic Iranian, but he wants to be a part of it all. That is until Rain comes into his life and he takes a good hard look at his best friend Jesse’s happy and idyllic life with the woman he loves. A few danger moments, the constant need for secrets, and the issues of trust teach him that a life on the wrong side of the law might not be worth the gain of wealth. He is just about to make the decision to get out and stay on the legit side when everything falls apart.
Police Officer Clara Bertelli goes undercover willingly both to bring down the stolen car organization responsible for the destruction of a family when the dad is killed in a car grab and because it is her opportunity to shine in a temporary assignment with the FBI which is the job she really wants. Her assignment is to get close to the nephew of the man suspected as the head of the organization, start up a relationship so he trusts her and glean the information and proof they need to bring it all down. Clara has done this sort of work before and she’s good at it until she encounters Luke. First, she finds that he’s not easy to hook and then she finds that he’s nothing like the slimy criminals she is used to bringing down. Her handler worries that she is falling for her mark- too late. She’s fallen. Luke is a beautiful man with lots of good in him. He’s made mistakes, but they aren’t big ones yet. She will do what she must because the criminals need to go down. It makes her sick not just to see Luke going to jail in the near future, but the knowledge that it was she that brought him down. She wills him to stay clean and stay away from the illegal stuff, but things begin moving fast and are way beyond her control.
The story is told alternating first person point of view between Luke and Clara/Rain. It is an impressive story about a guy balancing on the edge of the knife between criminal work and staying legit when almost everything he has known and been groomed for is to go into his uncle’s organization. He does have a conscience even if he suppresses it most of the time in favor of the easy road so it was a well-developed and paced story full of natural tension and suspense because of the dangerous sharks he is swimming amongst. While on one side he is self-absorbed and greedy, that is only a part of him. He is also a loving, kind-hearted trusting man coming into his own and figuring things out. I loved how the author drew him as both.
Then there is Clara/Rain. If Luke’s story and character is impressive, the heroine’s is mind-boggling. She felt so real and I had strong opposing visceral reactions to her. I admired her, but the results of her success with Luke repulsed me. It was hard watching her do the right thing in using Luke to nail him and the bigger criminals. Just like Rain, I felt the pushing-pull as she fell for Luke, tried to keep perspective and do her job, and still do what she could to keep him on the straight and narrow and protect him. She crossed the line both ways and couldn’t get away from the guilt tugging at her when she deceived Luke to get the proof they needed or when she deceived her fellow law officers to protect Luke. Total rock and hard place. She was so strong and I respect her to death for how she worked out the right thing and was willing to take the consequences for her choices.
The romance was an interesting thing as a result of what is going on in the story. On Luke’s part, it is the usual natural progression while on Rain’s part it is both total lie and still the truth. The pacing was perfect as was the passion and tension. It stays more on the spicy side instead of full on heat because Rain will only go so far because of the ethics and legal situation. Even though it was an unusual romance, I loved it. Maybe because it wasn’t easy and was so complicated. It struck the right chord all the way through the story even through the moments after the truth came out- yep, those scenes were the most riveting of course.
The suspense side of things was such a tantalizing puzzle with layer on layer. Some characters and their actions were obvious while others were so tricksy and mysterious that I didn’t know what they were up to and how their maneuverings would affect Luke and Rain. There were a few delightful twists and surprises that kept me guessing. There was also the bitterness of cause and effect for most of the characters involved in the wrong doing. The author doesn’t pull any punches making this story a hard hitter in ways.
There was a delicious scene that dropped in for a follow-up with Jesse, Alex and Sheriff Gabe and I loved how in ways it was pivotal for both Luke and Rain while also just being a fun scene with some favorite characters.
I could have used a bit more closure at the end on the relationship, but the story wasn’t rushed and totally did the job. It was a fantastic second book that will have wide appeal to New Adult, Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense lovers.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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