Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Enemy territory is a dangerous place to fall in love.
After three undercover cops died while investigating a Seattle crime lord with international ties, Detective Mahir Hussain was chosen next to infiltrate the drug ring and finish the job they started. His superiors reasoned that Mahir had an advantage the other officers didn’t, the first and foremost being that Mahir is gay and currently lacking a partner. The drug ring operates out of a disreputable nightclub in one of the worst districts in Seattle and its head of security is known to only hire gay men. Mahir is also a Muslim and of Arabic descent which makes Mahir work that much harder to prove himself while taking on jobs that others might flinch at, including this one.
Mahir joins the club’s security team but only after passing his inspection and initiation by Ridley, the drug lord’s right hand man. And as only gay men are allowed to protect the strippers, Ridley knows exactly how to test each man that applies for work there….by testing his sexuality up close and personal. A test that Mahir passes with enthusiasm to his surprise. Ridley is not only cold and intimidating but extremely dangerous and dangerously handsome as well. Mahir finds himself getting in deeper than he expected….deeply involved with the sexy, ruthless Ridley and pulled deeper into a crime organization that is more than it seems from the outside.
Mahir knows that his position is shaky. He must find the answers he needs as well as the evidence to convict the criminals. And Mahir must do so quickly before he is discovered to be a cop and the ties and emotions he feels towards Ridley become too deep to cut. Mahir Hussain is a man on hostile ground. Will he be able to save himself when the danger is to his heart as well?
Undercover cops in danger is a terrific and exciting element for any story and in Hostile Ground, it is only the jumping off point for the action and adventure that Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt have in store for the reader with this marvelous tale of crime, passion, and deception. With Voinov and Witt at the helm, mayhem and hot, dangerous liaisons are sure to follow. And one half of the explosive duo here is a not only a total surprise but my favorite characters in the story. That would be Mahir Hussain.
To have your tale unfold from the viewpoint of an American Muslim of Middle Eastern descent is not only unexpected but adds a dimension of tension and potential for bigotry not found to often in the m/m genre or any genres I can think of outside the role of villain or conspirator. Having Mahir Hussein, as a main character in a m/m story, someone who is both a Muslim and of Arabic descent, who is also the romantic “lead” is both fascinating and compelling. That Mahir faces discrimination and hostility in both his law enforcement profession and from the criminals in his undercover role just points out that bigotry and race hatred has no boundaries. Between the “camel jokes” Mahir makes before anyone else can and his interaction with his strict Muslim brother who refuses to accept Mahir’s sexuality. we are given a broader picture of the consequences of his heritage, sexuality, and religion within society, whether that society is legal or not. Mahir is such a great character, flaws and all, that the reader will fall for this intense and complicated man from the outset.
Mahir’s character is grounded by his family, estranged brother included. The authors have given Mahir a young, gay nephew whose troubles with his father and family mirror those that Mahir went through earlier in his life. Seen through both their eyes, the struggle to remain a part of the tightknit conservative family while staying true to who you are and who you love becomes understandable with its familial pull and emotionally explosive issues to resolve. I loved the nephew too, so young, troubled, and in need of love and support from his uncle.
Ridley, the head of security for the crime boss, is deadly, ruthless, and sexually commanding. Ridley is both a threat and the magnet that is pulling Mahir into a relationship he never expected and a sexual role that is outside his comfort zone, or so Mahir thought. Prior to Ridley, Mahir has always been the person in command in the bedroom and elsewhere but Ridley expects submission and obedience. How Mahir handles that change in roles is both challenging and extremely hot to read about. Witt and Voinov up the suspense and action as the relationship between Mahir and Ridley gets as out of control as the situation they find themselves in.
Things I would have loved to have seen expounded on was Mahir’s role within his family and his nephew Kinza, mainly what happened to Kinza who I adored. Plus a little more transition between the last two chapters and the epilogue. It all happens so quickly at the end (as it would when that action was going down) but a little more explanations after the climax would have fleshed out the resolution as deeply and completely as the rest of the story felt. I know that is asking a lot as the book is already at 362 pages, but a complex plot needs that complexity mirrored at the end and I am just not sure that happens to its full potential.
As with all reviewers, the challenge is to talk about the book but leave out the information that spoils the plot and the ending. That is particularly tough here where the plot has more layers than an English Trifle. You must first navigate your way through all the layers of this story that the authors have constructed, to figure out all the hidden subterfuge, the antagonists and their roles, and exactly what the criminals are hiding, selling and willing to kill for….well, that’s a deep and complex dish. It’s very satisfying but the smallest additional information would reveal the wrong thing at definitely the wrong time.
Do I recommend Hostile Ground? Absolutely. It’s hot, sexy, surprising, and action packed. It’s a love story and a thriller. What’s not to love? Add an undercover Muslim detective, a commanding and dominant sexy criminal, a young, naive gay nephew and more secrets than any one cop can handle, and you have a recipe for an entertaining and hard to put down story. Grab this up and begin your investigation on Hostile Ground today.
Cover art by LC Chase. Chase gives us a dark and sexy cover which totally works for this story and its characters based in Seattle.
Word count: 96,600; Page count: 362
Published May 11th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
edition language English