Review: Hostile Ground by LA Witt and Aleksandr Voinov

Review: Hostile Ground by LA Witt and Aleksandr VoinovHostile Ground by Aleksandr Voinov, L.A. Witt

Genres: Romantic Suspense
Published by Riptide on May 12, 2014
Pages: 362
Format: eARC
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
four-half-stars

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Intense!  That ought to describe this one in a nut shell.  A police officer goes deep undercover to bust a criminal organization that has already capped three undercover cops before him.  Oh yeah, from page one I was riveted and I never lost that feeling until I hit the last page.

The story opens when Detective Mahir Hussein takes on a solo mission to infiltrate a strip club ostensibly to be one of the all gay security staff the owner insists upon so guys don’t hit on the working girls.  He will hopefully earn some trust and be let deeper in so that he can get the evidence necessary to bust the huge drug empire.  His first hurdle is the cold-eyed killer, Ridley, who is the head of security and his new boss.  Ridley has his ways of weeding out cops and playing with a guy’s mind that leaves Mahir reeling, but somehow he gets through Ridley’s tests and works his way deeper in.  Mahir finds that to succeed; he has to become the role, Sayed, and not just play at it.  Sayed is attracted to Ridley and vice versa it seems.  The two have a dangerous fascination for each other and carry on in secret because they’ll be killed if it’s discovered that they’re fooling around together.  Mahir can’t believe that he is literally in bed with a killer.  And what’s more unnerving is that he likes it- he likes something about Ridley.

On the home front, Mahir’s nephew shows up on his doorstep because Mahir’s brother won’t accept that his son is gay.  Kinza is scared and hurting and insecure.  He needs Mahir’s support, but Mahir can do little more than let the kid crash at his house since he has to stay at his persona, Sayed’s crash pad across the Sound in Seattle.  Kinza is a typical teenager in that he is snotty about Mahir not being there, but he also is curious what work Mahir is doing that keeps him away.  It’s not long before Mahir’s personal life and his work life come together in one big volatile situation that brings things to a crisis.

I don’t think it’s a stretch that the story has more than a nodding acquaintance with the psychological thriller stories.  This is told all from Mahir’s perspective and the reader is kept right there with him as he experiences the intense introduction to Ridley and each trap that Ridley sets for Mahir to vet him out.  This book grabs more than the emotions.  I was viscerally engaged.  Mahir walked the knife’s edge the whole time.  Each scene with the enigmatic Ridley just sizzled and snapped.  Again, it is all from Mahir’s perspective so it is only Ridley’s actions and words that are known and he is terrifying to Mahir.  There are moments when Mahir gets glimpses of humanity in Ridley’s eyes, but Ridley can switch that off in a heartbeat.  All that to say, plot and characters are fantastic.

I was pleased by the cutaway scenes with Mahir’s family situation because they were nice breaks from the intensity of his undercover role.  I was fascinated by the dynamic of not only Mahir being a gay cop, but being Arab and Muslim too.  I enjoyed the character of Kinza.  He is a typical teen in ways and it had me smiling to recognize that, but he has the added burden of not having family support.  Mahir can relate because it was the same for him.

I really don’t want to say much more, not because I don’t have a lot to say, but because I don’t want to say something that will spoil someone’s reading experience.

To bring it all together, I was pulled into this story so far that I’m not sure I breathed at times.  Amazingly strong plot and characters. I can’t recommend this enough to those who enjoy grittier m/m romantic suspense.

My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Aleksandr Voinov

Aleksandr has been published for twenty years, both in print and ebook. He has ten years’ experience as a writing coach, book doctor, and writing teacher, and until recently worked as an editor in financial services.

After co-authoring the M/M military cult classic Special Forces, Aleksandr embarked on a quest to write gritty, edgy, sometimes literary M/M and gay fiction (much of which is romance/erotica)—the only way he can use his American Literature degree these days.

He’s been published with Heyne/Random House, Carina Press, Samhain Publishing, and others, and is an EPIC Awards winner and a Lambda Awards finalist.

Connect with Aleks:

About L.A. Witt

L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer currently living in the glamorous and ultra-futuristic metropolis of Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, two cats, and a disembodied penguin brain that communicates with her telepathically. In addition to writing smut and disturbing the locals, L.A. is said to be working with the US government to perfect a genetic modification that will allow humans to survive indefinitely on Corn Pops and beef jerky. This is all a cover, though, as her primary leisure activity is hunting down her arch nemesis, erotica author Lauren Gallagher, who is also said to be lurking somewhere in Omaha.

L. A.’s backlist is available on her website, and updates (as well as random thoughts and the odd snarky comment) can be found on her blog or on Twitter (@GallagherWitt).

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Wow Sophia! I love undercover reads. That edge of danger really is something when done right. I’ve still not really jumped in to m/m (I like a chickie buffer in some way shape or form lol) but you have me considering more and more trying a full m/m read.

    • Yeah, this one was pretty intense and just how I like my romantic suspense. I love to suspect everybody and get freaked out when the hero is backed into a deadly corner. So this one does that.

      I can understand the hesitation on m/m books. I do have my preferences when it comes to the dynamics and style of romance and character development just as I do with m/f stories. My first dip into m/m was through Historicals that were pretty authentic about what it would have been like back in the day so there was quite a bit of closed door and not so much play by play descriptions. Some of the m/m authors are just bandwagoners who see m/m as popular so without much thought to the male mind or the gay male mind they dash off what they consider hot man love and…its not. It’s stomach-turning or just plain funny when that’s not what the author is going for. The authors I reviewed here tend to not be those sorts. They put together some hot scenes, but the plot is strong as are the characters. Well maybe some day. Knowing your tastes, I would recommend you go with Romantic Suspense or Historical Romance when you dip your toe. I’m happy to recommend when you’re ready. 😉

      • That happens a lot with BDSM reads. It’s popular so everyone thinks they can do it and there’s such a big difference in writing between those that have really gotten into it and researched or lived the life vs those that are riding the trend.

        I’ll probably go historical if I ever make it to straight m/m. I’ve read a couple with m/m scenes but there’s always a f somewhere in the relationship as well which is just my preference normally. But so far all of the little bits of m/m I think have been historical either the one I just did on Monday or with Kate Pearce or Sharon Page though there were fs involved in both just not every scene.

        • Yep, the same thing with BDSM, you’re right. Lack of research or bothering to get into the mindset just rings false even if the reader isn’t all that familiar either.

          And, hey, menage with m/f/m, m/m/f and sometimes both is a great way to slide into it or determine that its just not your thing. There are plenty of those too. Taste is original to each person and there are tons of books out there so I figure we don’t have to like or get into everything.

  • I’m going to give m/m a try again one of these days. I like the fact that this is a thriller too. I like reads that keep you on the edge of your seat, they’re really exciting 😉

    Great review Sophia.

    • Thanks! I love reviewing Aleks Voinov books. I could talk forever about them, but I didn’t b/c I didn’t want to offer spoilers. Haha!
      You’d probably like this one that has a mafia-feel to it, Sharonda. Aleks is one of my favorite m/m writers. He blew me away with his dark, gritty Special Forces books and each one after that.

      • Mafia huh? Oh, I’ll definitely have to try this one out then.

        • It’s not exactly the mafia, but it feels like it. Hope you like it when you get the chance to try it out. There’s an excerpt on the Guest Post page if you want to see what their writing is like.