Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I’m with you until my last breath.”
**Tiny spoilers from book one, Last Hit**
At the end of book one, Last Hit, we learned that while Nick was able to save his lover Daisy, they weren’t able to save Daisy’s room mate, Regan. Kidnapped with Daisy, Regan finds herself sold into human sex trafficking and struggles to not lose her humanity in the face of her continuous degradation. Nick calls in a favor from a fellow mercenary who has spent the last eighteen months searching for his sister who was also kidnapped. Nick gives him clues towards his sister’s whereabouts asking that Daniel also search for Regan and bring her home.
Daniel Hays’s investigations lead him to Rio and Regan. Though his original plan was to save Regan and place her on the first plane home, Regan’s traumatic experience has her clinging to him. As they spend more time together, Daniel begins to develop feelings for Regan. Her indomitable will and powerful inner strength wraps Daniel around her little finger. Though Daniel knows he needs to let her go, each passing minute binds them tighter together until letting her go is the last thing Daniel will ever do.
Though Last Breath can be read as a standalone, the characters and a soft ongoing arc flows through the series. I enjoyed Last Hit and looked forward to book two. Last Breath is definitely darker and more emotionally structured romance suspense with a strong sexual base. Those with sexual triggers should read with caution. Claire and Frederick tackle a serious subject matter with honesty and consideration. I appreciated that the authors stuck to the facts without sensationalizing or dragging it out to try and amp up the drama levels.
Our protagonists, Regan and Daniel, are strong characters together and separately. Compelling narrative switches between Regan and Daniel, giving us the story from their points of view. Fast pacing keeps the storyline flowing a reasonable rate, not allowing for the choppiness that sometimes occurs with dual POV narrative. An action packed thriller whose multiple subplots keep the reader engaged while humor interjects at pivotal points to provide a reprieve from the serious undertones. Though romance is the end game it’s not the main objective. Neither of our characters are in a good place to fall in love yet the authors allow the chips to fall where they may and we are gifted with a love affair worthy of our protagonists.
We open with Regan and her thoughts as she is being sexually abused in the brothel where she is being kept prisoner. We learn exactly how she was taken and what has happened to her in the two months since. She tells us in a disinterested voice that makes the scene(s) even more chilling. She has learned to thwart her captors in the only way she knows how.
“I did everything I could to distance myself from what was happening to my body. […] I lived inside my head. And I didn’t let myself think about the men. They are nothing to me.”
After her rescue, Regan is a mess of contradictions. She is unsure, untrusting, scared, hurt, and confused. She is standing in the eye of a hurricane, waiting for the next storm to hit. The authors do a brilliant job of portraying Regan’s fragile psyche and the internal conflicts that bombard her. Her fear, guilt, and anger are all natural, expected, and justified.
“…because they couldn’t be bothered, I’d been left behind for someone else to find.”
Daniel Hays is one of the good guys. Plain and simple. He carries a lot of guilt these days. His sister was kidnapped while on a vacation he pushed hard for her to take. His parents blamed him for it and told him he can’t come home without her. That, combined with increasing dissatisfaction as an assassin for hire, Daniel is tired and ready to go legit. Deadly and dangerous with an outstanding sense of humor, he’s the perfect person that Regan never knew she needed.
Daniel unknowingly starts to fall for Regan from their first meeting. Though faintly attracted to her, he admits that is totally inappropriate at this time, he finds her strength and unwillingness to give up even more amazing in light of what she has gone through. Even when she does some questionable things that surprise and disgust him a little, he can’t condemn her for protecting herself. He understands what true survival is.
“Can you get me a gun?”
“Do you promise to stop crying?”
“I will if you get me a gun. Then I’ll just shoot you if I get upset.”
“I think we can manage that.”
With intimacy being a luxury Regan feels she can no longer enjoy, the romance is extremely slow to ignite though the sexual tension pulsates through the story. Daniel does everything he can to give Regan back her freedom both physically and mentally. She needs to feel safe and in control? He gets her a gun. She needs to cling to him? Then she can shadow him all she wants. She needs to get back her sexuality? He allows her to use and experiment on him…with him in order to regain what she fears she has lost. He shows her in numerous ways that not all men are bastards and she can always trust him.
“There’s a storm inside of her and I don’t know how long it’s going to take to die down but as I cradle her on my lap I realize that the world could burn up and I wouldn’t let her go.”
Amusing new and old secondary characters solidify the mobster/gang mentality this series is built on. Nick and Daisy remain adorably cute as Nick struggles with being a landlord and Daisy tries to help him adjust to normality. We meet some of Daniel’s military buddies who have seriously gone off the reservation and one of Nick’s ex-employers drops in on Daniel and Regan, blowing everything wide open. I would have liked more insight to Regan’s kidnapper’s reasons. It seemed a little trite in the grand scheme of things.
The ending is a climactic violent finale that resolves the main conflict, giving Regan some desperately needed closure, and opens new pathways in the ongoing arc. We also get clues to future storylines and possible couples. Claire and Frederick have penned a sexy thrilling romantic suspense with a strong heroine and a to die for hero. Romance readers won’t want to miss their latest.