Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “One of these days you’re going to say my name, and you’re going to say please, and then you’re not going to be able to say anything at all.”
Awkward can’t even begin to describe this couple’s relationship. Anne Calhoun brings the heat when she reconnects Riva Henneman with the man she fell in love with seven years ago. Ian Hawthorne. The only problem is he was the undercover cop who busted her for selling drugs on the local college campus and then blackmailed her into becoming his CI.
Riva ends up leaving college after her arrest and now manages a farm to kitchen restaurant that teaches urban kids how to eat and cook healthier. She is shocked when Ian walks through her door. When she learns he has arrested one of her kids and wants to use him like he used her, she jumps in and offers to give Ian the bust of a lifetime. The top man behind the drug ring.
Ian Hawthorne knows what it’s like to have his dreams derailed. A former navy seal candidate sidelined by cancer, he is now a Lieutenant in the Lancaster PD and up for a promotion. The guilt he feels over his actions concerning Riva seven years ago rides him hard. He knows he strong armed her into being his CI and put her in danger in order to boost his own career. He also fell in love with her but knew the power dynamics were all wrong and he refused to lose his job over her.
She’d always been his, the power he had over her as close to owning another human being as possible, and therefore never his. Riva had never chosen him.
Now seven years later, he’s surprised to see her and even more shocked when he learns she’d held out on him. He agrees to her terms, only this time they will go undercover together. And when he gets what he needs, he will once again have to turn her loose and this time hope she comes back to him.
Turn Me Loose is the 6th book in Anne Calhoun’s Alpha Ops series and continues with the drug running/corrupt law enforcement subplot from book five-Going Deep. Each book can be read comfortably as a standalone though there is character and scene cross over from previous books. I found this one more balanced and emotionally tight then the last book. Well written with an intriguing suspenseful plotline and enlightening dialogue; it’s the main protagonists and their journey of growth and second chances that is the main theme of the story. Calhoun works her magic in creating two characters whose inability to act on their feelings for one another is more than a just stubbornness or a few simple issues to overcome. Calhoun interjects pieces of their past into the story, showing readers exactly what happened and where they stand now.
“Would it make you feel better if I crossed that line? Give you plausible deniability?”
Riva Henneman learned at an early age to never show fear and to do as her father bid her to do. When she was arrested and her father washed his hands of her, she handled it all on her own. A born protector, Riva sacrifices herself again in order to help one of her kids, Riva will have to go back under Ian’s thumb again which brings to the surface all the resentment and distrust she has harbored towards him since the arrest. Though she understood and agreed with the arrest, she freely admits she was breaking the law, she chafed at the leash he put on her and the subservient role she was forced to play.
He pointed, she walked. He insisted, she gave in. He judged, she swallowed her pride. Seven years ago he held all the power in his hand, because helping him was the only thing that stood between her and prison. She’d resented him with every cell in her body, and wanted him just as badly.
Ian Hawthorne was raised in a law abiding family. A police officer with a chip on his shoulder, he used what and who he had to as he made his way up the chain of command. Older and wiser, he is a mess of emotions when he and Riva connect again. He’s thrilled to see her again, their attraction rearing it’s head as if they had never parted, but angry she kept something this important from him. He feels betrayed though he knows deep down he’s reacting more from the heart than the head.
The lie of omission stung more fiercely than it should have, and not just because she withheld critical information about known illegal activities. She’s withheld a key piece of information about herself. […] He’d taken care of her and she’d lied to him.
The romance is deliciously slow-burning and brimming with angst and anger as Ian and Riva delightfully poke and jab at one another in attempts to hide their fear and longing. The chemistry smolders heavy as they each struggle to deal with the changes in their relationship. It’s a strong part of the storyline and complements the conflict It was very easy to get caught up in the emotional currents of these two lovers. Calhoun gives this couple plenty of time to work on their issues; attempting to heal and move on from their past relationship and dealing with the imperfect power balance that still exists. Snark tinged humor and lushly satisfying sexual scenes help to offset the razor sharp edge of tension riding this couple and give them a push when they got a little mired down in their thoughts.
“You have to call me Ian. Say my name.”
The only sounds in the apartment were the soft hum of the ventilation system and her heart pounding in her ears. Their strange, strained relationship was so intimate in so many ways, but she’d never used his first name. “Ian.”
Her head snapped up. “Ian.”
“Good. Now use it conversationally.”
“Fuck you, Ian.”
“Wow That sounds different when I use your name. Lieutenant Hawthorne has the right to coerce. Ian doesn’t.”
Though we aren’t inundated with a lot of action in terms of the main conflict, we already know who the villain is, Calhoun still ratchets up the tension and intrigue as Ian and Riva work to bring down a drug kingpin. One whose connections to Riva spell danger and possible death to more than just these two if Ian’s cover is blown. I enjoyed seeing some familiar faces from previous books and learning of some possibly new couple hookups in future books.
Once again Calhoun writes a romance that digs deep into your heart, creating a relationship between you and the couple, making the outcome personal. Turn Me Loose is a must read for those who love their romances sexy, dark, and uncertain.