Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter, former drug dealer, is dead. In his place, Simon “Lucky” Harrison lives on and continues to work for the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau, along with his romantic/agency partner, former Marine Bo Schollenberger. As Lucky recovered from his injuries, Bo has been working on finishing up the case without him and their schedules have left them with little time to spend with each other. And Lucky wrestles with the idea of having an actual relationship with a man he sees as so much better than himself.
Bo Schollenberger is still fighting his own demons, that of an abusive father, PTSD from his tour in Afghanistan, and continuing his recovery from prescription drug addiction. That addiction landed him working for the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau, same as Lucky and as a pharmacist, it is one Bo has to confront daily in his job as an undercover narcotics agent. Bo realizes that having Lucky as his partner in love as well as work complicates his life and makes it better at the same time. Now if only Lucky will realize that.
Then on their next case together, a situation arises that may jeopardize everything they have worked so hard to achieve. A prescription drug shortage places the patients at Rosario Children’s Cancer Center in danger, not just from the unavailability of life saving drugs but from the substitution of medications produced at less than legal companies. And Bo’s need to protect and assist those children places his job in trouble and pits him against his lover and his company. Lucky sees Bo getting in too deep to see who the villains really are, maybe even the doctors themselves. In a situation where the young victims get to even the hardest agent of them all, Lucky himself, what won’t Lucky do to save them all?
I thought that Diversion was going to be a hard story to beat but Collusion (Diversion #2) handles the job of sequel with astounding power and depth. I just loved it. Collusion takes up where Diversion left off. Simon “Lucky” Harrison has left the hospital, his former self, Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter now safely dead and buried. While he has recuperated at his desk at the Southeastern Natcotics Bureau, his on and off again romantic/agent partner, Bo has been dealing with the aftermath of their original investigation. Then a heartbreaking case of extreme urgency, that of a drug shortage at Rosario Children’s Cancer Center, gives them an investigation that will see them both undercover once more.
I cannot complement Eden Winters enough for the outstanding job she accomplished with Collusion. First, there is the heartbreaking story line, that of children with cancer desperately in need of the drugs that may either save them or at least delay the progress of the disease that’s killing them. Their plight is brought home by one patient, Stephanie Owens, a small child who manages to capture Lucky’s heart the moment they meet. Winters gives us a portrait of a child with cancer without any saccharine overload. Then the author proceeds with a steely outlook to demonstrate just how little the patients actually matter to those that use the life-giving drugs the children need as just another commodity to manipulate for the greatest monetary gain. Without lecturing or creating an information dump, Winters brings us into the gray world of pharmaceutical companies, the intermediaries that handle the transactions, through the shipment and warehousing to those that distribute the needed drugs through avenues as diverse as drugstores and Craigslist. Never boring, this information and insight into this industry will make you cry out for even more regulation to stop the abuse that is recounted within Diversion and Collusion. Contemptible is far too soft a word for the events that occur daily in this industry where some people put monetary gain above those in need of life saving medication and Eden Winters brings that home with an emotional blow to the heart.
And then we have Lucky and Bo, two such remarkable characters that they have been stuck in my head talking to me over the past couple of days. Complicated people, with all their human flaws and strengths revealing themselves over the course of these two stories, I loved watching them and their relationship grow as once more an undercover operation brings out the best and worst in them both. Told once again from Lucky’s pov, we get to watch as Lucky struggles to acknowledge just how much Bo has come to mean to him, and equally how much it would hurt to lose him. Given Lucky’s past history, to bring himself to trust another with his love (if he can bring himself to call it that) is a huge step forward, not one he is sure he can make. Bo’s character is as equally alive and a perfect match for the hard-nosed, former criminal. Bo’s background is one of parental abuse, PTSD and prescription addiction and yet Bo is still able to see the best in those around him. A wonderful contrast to Lucky’s belief that all are guilty until proven innocent. And as I said before, watching these two dance around each other, the word “relationship” never touching their lips, is a true joy. The author clearly demonstrates her understanding of the intricacies of relationships in her portraits of Bo and Lucky’s slow climb to love and romance. Eden Winters gives her creations such perfect crisp, snappy dialog that it enhances their personalities and gives the reader better understanding into Bo and Lucky’s characters. Do I love these two? Why yes, I do, in every way possible.
And then there is the resolution to the undercover investigation that is so satisfying and beautifully resolved that I had to read it twice. It made sense in that it seemed to be accurately feasible in the manner in which it was accomplished. I think you will find yourself grinning just as I did. I don’t know if Eden Winters has more planned for Lucky and Bo, but I hope so. There is still plenty of growth to be had within their relationship and I would think that the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau will never lack for cases to investigate and solve. Here’s hopeing that there is a Diversion #3 on the horizon for all of us to enjoy.
Cover Art by Trace Edward Zaber is full of elements pertinent to the story but lacking somehow, due in part to the blue toned cover.
Collusion (Diversion #2)
Novel, 275 pages, Amber Allure Press, LLC
Buy Link at Amber Allure Press: Collusion by Eden Winters
Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the situations:
Collusion (Diversion #2)