This was a case of hooked by the blurb- not such an unusual thing with me, but still, I was very eager to dive in to this new to me series and new to me author pairing. It was an intriguing juxtaposition in a romance between a guy who by all rights shouldn’t be a hero and a gal that shouldn’t have brought such a man to his knees. I just had to see how it happened.
The story opens with Daisy Miller determined to escape the oppression she feels at being trapped with an agoraphobic father and his fears. He can’t leave the house and he is terrified of being killed even in his house because his wife was killed in a robbery gone bad shooting and the killer threatened to come for him. That killer made an early parole. Daisy tries to be understanding, but she doesn’t share her father’s terrors that are fettering her- home schooled, locked in the house except a rare grocery visit, limited TV and internet, and feeling under the thumb of a tyrant. She finally makes her escape to the big city to start her new life. Unfortunately, all she can afford is sharing the rent on a dumpy apartment and no one wants to hire a girl with no work experience and only a high school diploma. Daisy’s dreams of really living run up against the wall that is reality. Then she meets Nick and cautiously begins a relationship. She is awkward and ignorant of what to do, but then so is her big intense Ukrainian.
Nikolai is part of a feared Russian crime organization. It is all he has known since they took him off the streets as a young boy, broken him down and remade him into the cold-blooded killer he is now. He was pushed out of the organization- the only family he has ever known- because one act that made his leader think he was too soft. Now he freelances, but still does work for his old retainers and that’s why he is watching a mark in an old run-down apartment building from his own rented apartment in the building next door. Instead of studying his mark, doing his job and getting out like usual, he is distracted by an amazing sight. Through his sniper scope, he can observe the sunny, innocent beauty who occupies the rooms opposite. Nothing in his life has prepared him for someone like her. His dried up heart thirsts to step out of the shadows into the sun with her and for the first time in his life, he reaches for something good. Nick wants Daisy and he will have her for as long as she will have him. It is only a matter of time before she learns that he doesn’t deserve her and she will toss him aside in disgust, but until then he will revel in her warmth.
Alright, so this is the story of an innocent, naive farm girl who comes to the city and manages to attract a killer who is just as naive about relationships as she. The story is told first person point of view in alternating narrations from Daisy and Nick. It is a story that one has to really set aside realism and just go with the unlikeliness that this would ever end up well much like one does a Disney fairytale. I say that because I did a lot of skeptical eyebrow raising particularly over Daisy’s choices. I like Nikolai, but only because I was allowed to see what he was thinking. Under normal circumstances, a girl doesn’t go off with a stranger a few hours after meeting him, then lets him buy expensive clothes for her and then starts dating him and she definitely doesn’t stay with him when he admits to stalking her even by watching her through her windows.
I wanted to set the book aside because of all this unlikeliness, but then there was Nikolai. I was fascinated and enthralled by him, his past and his story of falling in love. I loved that the authors do not soften him or make excuses. He is a killer and he acts like one, but he also wants to have redemption and Daisy’s love and acceptance represent that for him. I had my doubts about Daisy being a good match. In a way, she seemed the only logical match because it was her innocence, purity and light that got his attention, but those things also made me wonder if they were too opposite. Nick is pretty lusty, dangerous, jaded, but also innocent of normal life. There was some humor in the way these two try to figure out normal life and dating. Between Daisy wanting to brazenly explore sexuality and Nick wanting to kill anyone who even made Daisy frown, I found them highly amusing and ended up liking them as a couple.
Now the story itself fell into two parts for me. The first half was one long piece of set up and slow movement. It is nearly boring in the details of Daisy and Nick’s life. Nothing exciting though the storm clouds are gathering and the reader realizes that something is coming. Then it hits suddenly and this book is off to the races and hits hard. Nick’s past and his secrets are now Daisy’s in the hardest, most brutal way possible. There is the fear that even if Nick is able to get Daisy out of the crosshairs that he will have still lost her. This half of the book makes the slogging pace and sleeper tone of the first half worth it. Be patient, readers.
I was glad to see this is a series because there are other characters like Daisy’s roomie, Regan, and Nick’s fellow assassin, Daniel, that had me all sorts of curious. Regan is left in an appalling, horrific place when this story ends so I can’t wait to find out what happened to her and if she can ever come back from it all.
In the end, I just let the story play out and set aside my feelings of incredulity. The world of the hired killer was new and intriguing for me. The character of Nick was the biggest sell of all. I would recommend this to those who want something a bit different in the way of their set up and hero, like it steamy and even lean toward mafia-style romance in their contemporaries.
My thanks to Penguin Group and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this story in exchange for an honest review.
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