Private Investigator, Austin Brook, plans to get close to the half-sister of the man he wants justice against so he poses as someone he’s not and then falls for the girl. The lies start to unravel when danger appears on Leah Reece’s doorstep. Oh, this can’t be good, but count me in.
This is the third story in the Hotter In Texas trilogy. While each story offers a different case, they were all leading up to this one. Finally, it was coming down to it with Austin’s story. One would probably get more out of it reading them in order, but I read this one first without being lost or confused.
So this one opened with Austin impatient to get things moving along faster in the team of investigators’ plan to find the man who got them wrongfully accused of murder among other atrocious deeds and he’s tired of relying on someone else to get the job done. He packs up and heads off to track down DeLuna’s half-sister to see if he can get DeLuna’s location out of her. He’ll try charming it out of her first, but if that doesn’t work he’ll have to get sneaky.
Leah Reece has been burned by men starting from when her father rejected her and her ex-fiance’ cheated on her. She might think the new guy next door is cute, but there is no way she is giving Austin a chance. She’ll stick to her vet clinic friends and her four cats for company. Unfortunately, her younger brother Luis seems to be in trouble, her older brother, Rafael is threatening her and she finds that for the first time she can’t go it alone and needs Austin’s help.
Austin finds that he can’t treat Leah like a job and struggles with his attraction getting in the way of doing his job. Well that and his great fear of her cats. Leah is closed up about her personal life and he suspects she is not entirely ignorant of DeLuna’s whereabouts since he seems to be threatening her and her little brother because something’s going down in his criminal organization. Charm isn’t working because she’s more gun-shy about relationships than he is so he goes with Plan B. And when she finds out, and she will the way weird dangerous stuff keeps going down, she’ll hate him, but to get scum like DeLuna and Cruz off the street and keep her safe he will do it.
Going alongside Austin and Leah’s story, is Roberto’s side of things and his little romance with Sara. Roberto has his own reasons for tracking down DeLuna and exacting revenge. He has placed himself in a precarious place just to get close to him. He has regrets when it comes to his interaction with Sara, but he still wants to be with her when it’s all over.
Both stories overlap for that big heart-thumping race to the end when everything converges after all the plotting and planning. Austin and Leah have to come to terms with their feelings and learn if two damaged people can learn to trust in love after so many times of being burned.
I thought the premise of this one sounded fantastic and for the most part it lived up to that expectation. I had fun with Austin’s antics trying to get close to Leah while avoiding her cats. I laughed out at the humorous scenes that made up their first meeting and later when she found his squirt gun and used it on him. I was nervous for Roberto as he worked his way closer into company with DeLuna’s evil right hand guy, Cruz. I was even taken with the romances- two of them for the price of one- both couples tentative reaching out and starting the relationships after what they both had in their pasts. My biggest focus was watching Austin dig his hole with Leah deeper and deeper with his lies to cover up why he was really around her. I kept waiting with expectation for that moment when it all came out in the wash. And let me tell you people, when it did, it wasn’t pretty. Let’s just say don’t let that woman near sharp objects or squishy vegetables when she gets het up.
That being said, there were a few things about Leah that were bothersome.
I found that I got impatient with Leah’s hang-ups and it seemed to bog down the pace for me. It wasn’t a lot, but I admit that I was somewhat bored when dealings with her were like pulling teeth. She’s got emotional issues and I get why, but at times it just got exasperating. When it came to beginnings of passion like kisses and touches or even looks for that matter, she runs off like a scalded cat even when she’s the one who initiates a kiss or touch. Then she has the audacity to be hurt when he puts the brakes on and says they need to take things slow. Poor guy was afraid she’d freak plus he was honorable and didn’t want to go too far with a lie between them.
Maybe it’s just me, but when you can’t even give someone a simple thank you when they stand in front of you sporting a bruised up face because they stopped an armed home invader for you, that makes me find you lacking and no issues from your past excuse this. Several times her gratitude was non-existent and that was just a peeve for me.
And the kicker? She couldn’t accept help let alone admit that she was in way over her head knowing what that older half-brother and his people were capable of. There was a scene late in the book that I suppose was supposed to be funny and it was a little, but there was a part of me that just shook my head at her. When bullets are flying and Austin is trying to save her, he ends up having to duct tape her and cart her off to safety with her kicking and screaming-literally- because she is so fixated on her anger and hurt. Yeesh girl! Get a grip. Be angry about the lies, but get your head out of the sand and take in what’s going down around you too.
Parts about Leah I did like and could respect, but it was a push to not skip through her scenes and points of view sometimes. Austin might have his hang-ups, but I really enjoyed his narration parts. He was a fun guy and really regretted the need for the deception, but as he pointedly asked Leah and she couldn’t honestly say yes, “Would you have really shared if I had just asked?” She couldn’t open up to basically a stranger and had learned to not trust in the police and he couldn’t very well assume she was innocent since the bad guy is her brother so it was a bit of a tricky empasse there.
Just an aside, cat lovers will really like this one. Leah is a cat specialist vet and has four cats at home. Austin has a severe phobia to cats and freaks out around Leah’s and one of his lies catches up with him when she saddles him with one of her rescue cats. The relationship that develops between him and that cat was high comedy for me and oh so cute. Gotta share a bit of a scene between Austin and Spooky in bed together much to Austin’s anguish:
“The animal stood up, did a front-to-back stretch, and moved closer. Austin held out his hand. “No! Get. Go!”
The cat kept coming. Scared to make a sudden move, Austin froze. The cat stepped up on his thighs, moved up a couple of inches, right above boys and friend. Austin didn’t even breathe. “Hey, buddy, I wasn’t the one who neutered you.” Loc3887 Austin to Spooky
Overall it was an enjoyable read and I would love to go back and get Dallas and Tyler’s stories. That epilogue reunion with all the cast was cool and wrapped up the trilogy nicely.
Those who enjoy a lighter-style romantic suspense with just a bit of spice in the romance should give this one a try.
My thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.