Rating: 2.75 to 3 stars out of 5
Temptation, peril, and dirty poker.
Love is a high-stakes game.
When Collin Callahan, British secret agent, goes up against math genius turned surfer bum Oliver Elliot, the battle is epic—and so is the attraction. They’re pitted against each other in an exclusive, ultra-secret—and ultra-illegal—poker match in Gibraltar, but when players start dying and they could be next, they find a common goal: catch the killer before it’s too late.
Evenly matched at poker and romance, they each wrestle personal demons that threaten to consume them as the stakes climb. It’s an all-or-nothing gamble with both life and love on the line as they fight to be the last seven-card studs standing.
Seven-Card Stud (Wild Cards #2) by Ava Drake is one of the few misses in the Dreamspun Desires series that I have come to enjoy so much. I thought Ace in the Hole, Ava Drake’s first story in the Wild Cards series, a real winner. Loved the characters, thought the plot was a great mix of intrigue and romance. I recommended it to all.
But Seven-Card Stud? Unfortunately not.
I did like some of the elements of intrigue and wish the author had developed them more. The assasins and their identities? That was a neat imaginative twist and one I wish had seen more time and play here to see it through to the end. Because it vanished as though the author hadn’t even bothered to build it up in the story as much as she had. Just snipped out. Other characters and plot threads weave in and out just as quickly. I will admit, there’s more to this story but if you set all this many elements in motion, I expect to see it all carried out to some conclusion. Any conclusion. And that didn’t happen here.
Even the characters were problematic for me. Collin and Oliver. Oliver and Collin. I couldn’t keep them straight. Who was the british American? Who was the other guy? Really they blended together and early on at that. So not good in a romance. I never did get invested in their relationship.
What did I like? The whole gambling scene. The descriptions of the tells, the poker play, the intensity at the table. That was so well done. Those descriptions were vivid, believable, and made the reader feel as though they were looking over the shoulders of the high stakes gamblers betting away millions. Then it got bogged down by the intrigue and the silliness and that was lost as well.
I wish I could say it all ended well but it is more of a cliffhanger or at least ends where you expect the next novel to start. There is no real ending. Where the first story could be a standalone novel, this one definitely expects you to read the one coming after it. Be forewarned. It expects a commitment from you that I’m not so sure you will want to make. Its up to you.
Yes, I was disappointed. Here is one Dreamspun Desire that I would let slip away. Wait for the next to come along. Or read Ava Drake’s first Wild Cards story. I still recommend that one.
Cover art by Paul Richmond is wonderful. It has all the elements needed and then some. Love it.
ebook, 242 pages
Expected publication: November 15th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press