Review: Diversion by Eden Winters

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Diversion coverRichmond “Lucky” Lucklighter’s luck ran out when he was caught up in a multi million dollar scheme to illegally buy, sell, and control the pharmaceutical drug market run by his criminal boyfriend.  In return for his testimony against his former boyfriend and drug dealing partner, Lucky would receive a reduced sentence and jail time.  Lucky agreed  for more than one reason and found himself in jail for ten years, a marked man because of his betrayal and testimony.  But two years into his sentence, the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau’s Department of Diversion Prevention and Control came calling with a proposition.  Come work for them teaching their agents all they need to know about his end of the business and assist on drug details or spend the remaining eight years in jail.  The decision for Lucky was an easy one.  Lucky wanted out and if that meant he had to play along with the narcs, so be it.

Now just two months shy of being completely free of his bargain and gaining his life back, Lucky must complete one last assignment and train a rookie in the bargain.  Lucky is not prepared for the rookie that shows up to start the investigation with him.  Former Marine Bo Schollenberger is tall, gorgeous, and gay.  Bo is the complete opposite of his cynical, hard-nosed partner or so Lucky thinks.  But Bo suffers from PTSD from his time on tour, and found his dream of being a pharmacist shattered when he got caught up in an prescription addiction. Bo’s out? The same one Lucky chose and he is Lucky’s replacement.  Now Lucky must contend with training a man he is increasingly coming to care for in a job he won’t admit he enjoys and secretly dreading his return to a freedom with no job in sight and no one to care for him.

When their current investigation turns into a much larger operation than anyone expected, including their bosses, Lucky and Bo go deeper undercover to catch the criminals and smash the operation.  Dangers are everywhere waiting to expose their cover, including easy access to the very drugs that pulled Bo under.  But  Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter is on top of his game and everyone had better watch out, including his own bosses because Lucky is going to do things his way and get what he wants.  Now if only he can admit to himself who and what that is…..

I love nothing better than a cynical, smart mouthed bad boy and “Lucky” Lucklighter fits the bill.  How I loved him from the first introduction as he scopes out his latest target and steals a semi full of prescription drugs.   A bantam of a man, his past history has contributed the arrogant, smug criminal  facade he projects to all around him.  But Lucky is far more complex than he appears.  I cannot give enough credit to Eden Winters for this remarkable character.  He exudes life and a certain swashbuckling criminality but the more we get to know him, we see who he  has become underneath, no matter how much Lucky refuses to admit his change of heart to himself.  Lucky is brash, outrageous, and a compulsive over planner.  I would have been so disappointed if Winters had paired him up with the typical lawman or something equally common.  I should not have worried because Winters then gives us  Bo Schollenberger, haunted vet who still manages an outlook on life surprisingly open hearted given his back history.  His complexities tie in beautifully with Lucky’s and it is one of the greatest pleasures of this book watching the two men dance around each other, testing each person’s strengths and weaknesses to their ultimate undoing because they are so well matched.

Another measure of the terrific writing found in Diversion is that I was never sure how the ending would turn out.  Winters kept me guessing the entire time because as the story is told from Lucky’s pov, he is not sure himself how it is all going to end.  So as the investigation ramps up, so does the reader’s anticipation and anxiety over how it will all fall out, if Lucky will take his freedom and walk away and what will happen to  Bo?

Another surprising pleasure is the storyline and the subject of the large pharmaceutical companies and prescription drugs.  I had no idea how the drugs were handled past their expiration dates, the necessary warehousing, and even the shortages which are used to raise the drug prices and control the markets.  It is clear that Winters has done her homework and then some.  But it never comes across as a info dump but effortlessly folded into the story. Eden Winters picked a fascinating and topical subject and than ran with it as the main focus of  the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau’s Department of Diversion Prevention and Control investigations and agent expertise.  Unusual topic meets unusual main characters and the final mixture is captivating and addicting and hard to put down.

I was thrilled to see that Diversion has a sequel, Collusion.  That will be next on my reading list.  Look for that review to be out shortly.  In the meantime, go grab this book up and prepare to meet two of the most addictive characters (in more ways than one) in a contemporary romance.  You will love them.  To quote Justin Wilson, I guarantee!

Cover art by Trace Edward Zaber, perfect for the story within.

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