This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: New Adult Romance, Romantic Suspense
Released on April 1, 2014
An ex-underground fighter who becomes a guardian angel strip club owner and a young woman who needs a guardian angel badly come together in this dangerous, suspenseful third book in the series. Cain Ford has been the dark horse through the whole series and now we finally get his book. Nothing like a bit of anticipation and not just a few nerves that it would be worth it to create a bit of real suspense. Within a few moments of starting the book, I knew it was all good. Nothing to worry about except just how hard this new girl was going to rip his heart out, but yet knowing that with her background, Charlie, was just the right one to be its keeper.
As I indicated, this is the third book in the series. It would probably be best if readers read the books in order because the secondary characters are regulars from the other books, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s not absolutely necessary since Cain and Charlie’s story begins a new plot path. Another thing about this one is that while the other two are more NA in genre, this one feels adult plus it is more romantic suspense than contemporary romance. By nature of the plot line, this one gets gritty and somewhat violent though not necessarily more dramatic than the first book- okay, maybe, not sure.
Now that I’ve dusted those issues off, let me get to the ‘whatsit’ part.
Cain Ford is tired. Not the tired of a long day of hard physical labor, but the bone deep tired of someone who has given every thing they’ve got and it’s still not enough. He actually considers quitting and walking away from what he has started. Years ago, after feeling like he failed his sister, he organized a plan of redemption. Unlike what happened to Lizzy, he would ‘rescue’ girls like her. Cain opened a strip club with clear cut rules that would keep the girls on his staff safe and give them a chance to get their feet under them and then move on to something better. The girls’ lives are hard and some might never succeed, but at least he’s given them the chance. It takes a lot out of him too especially when his life is empty and lonely. He watches his friends fall in love and find happiness, but he knows that with his past, he doesn’t deserve, nor will he get something like that. But life is full of surprises and Cain’s life takes a turn when Charlie Rourke comes seeking a job and a chance.
The girl who is now known as Charlie Rourke feels like a butterfly on a pin. Her life is not her own and only has the illusion of freedom and rightness. She didn’t realize just how much of an illusion things were until this last change when her step-dad handed her a new identity taking away her old one and turned her into a drug runner. She knew from childhood that the man her mom married was different from other dads, but she always thought he loved her. It was only as she grew up that her moral compass told her that what he was doing was wrong and started to suspect that anyone who used their child in this sort of business might not love them. With guilt in the part she played that put harmful drugs on the street and the knowledge that people didn’t just walk away from Sam, she hatched a plan to make her successful bid for freedom. Charlie needs big money fast- enough to disappear. In the meantime, she’ll still run the packages for Sam and act like everything is fine. She’s a trained actress, gymnast and pole dancer so she allows a gym acquaintance to put in the word for her with a ‘safe’ strip club owner where Ginger works. One look at Cain Ford and she’s not sure she’s buying the ‘safe’ part. He sets everything off kilter inside her and his dark eyes seem to bore through her to see the truth, but she needs this job to break free of Sam and the drugs.
Cain and Charlie begin a game of cat and mouse with Charlie’s secrets and with their smoldering attraction. Things grow more intense and dangerous as they circle ever closer to the truth. Lives and hearts are on the line and its quite obvious that nobody will escape unscathed when it all comes to a head.
The plot on this one took its time and stretched out the tension and reveals nicely. It had a thriller quality without the heart pounding pace. The story is told from alternate points of view first person and some flashbacks on both parts. Charlie and Cain have pasts particularly Cain. Cain needs to get over his past and Charlie needs to live through her present so their issues are different. What they do have in common is that what they have gone through has made them stronger and resilient- survivors.
The romance had a Romeo-Juliet quality to it even from the beginning. I wanted to see it happen, but I knew that its chances of surviving knowing what was going on in Charlie’s life made it a million to one shot. This made every moment poignant. It was hard knowing the backdrop was a strip club and the harsh reality of that life for all involved, but I was impressed how the author was able to keep it from feeling too slimy.
Cain really came across heroic with a few rough edges and Charlie as a strong gal who just needed a break.
That being said, Cain wasn’t some perfect white hat hero in the sense that he was too good to believe. He had his women on the side- not from the club for which I am truly relieved to say- and he had a lethal vindictive temper when it came to those who tried to take advantage of his girls. He wasn’t afraid to handle his own rough stuff. He had a really rough start in life and voluntarily lived in the underbelly of society, but he had a true grasp on the important stuff. He believed in happiness and love just not for himself.
[quote]I believe second chances exist only in dreams, never in reality. I believe you don’t have years, or months, or weeks to impact a person’s life. You have seconds. Seconds to win them over, And seconds to lose them.
Cain from Four Seconds to Lose[/quote]
Charlie, like Cain, wasn’t perfect, but much of her situation is because she trusted the very person who should have been trustworthy. Her mother married a mob boss and cut her off from her family when she was a young child. Life with Sam was all she knew. He deliberately molded her into what he wanted and she, a child just craving love and attention from her parent, didn’t know better until it was too late and she was stuck with promise of death hanging over her head if she didn’t follow along. She had a tough row to hoe in life and it was due to her morally bankrupt step-dad. He used her and abused his own child’s love for his own gain. Charlie had my respect because she did what she had to do both to survive and protect the innocent people around her. She knew not to get involved with Cain, but who could blame her? She made the decision to take a little slice of happiness out of her miserable terrifying life and didn’t expect to fall in love or make him love her. I was happy for them having their chance even though I knew where things were going.
The end was like the light at the end of a dark, dank tunnel and just wonderful. I loved watching how a seeming impossible situation turned out. I had two things that were so small but…I wanted them. I wanted worse to happen to the villain and I wanted a bit more deets on where things were going for Cain. There’s a lot about Charlie, but not much about Cain.
And just as an aside, it was great checking in with the rest of the regulars of this series. Ben is off the hook and I can’t wait for his book next. I do hope and wish for Nate to have a book. Love that guy!
Fans of New Adult Contemporary and this series should definitely grab this one, but Adult Contemporary and Romantic Suspense lovers would enjoy it too I think. It’s steamy without being angsty and the characters are deep with the flaws mostly being not of their own making.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for my honest review thoughts.
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