Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Two men. Three identities. An unstoppable attraction.
Desperate for his luck to change, Jake Spencer manages to land a dance contract with Dmitry Gruzdev. The job has plenty of perks, including a simmering lust between him and Dmitry’s hulking brute of a bodyguard, Mikhail. Life is finally looking up. Except as the shine wears off, it becomes clear that Jake’s stepped into a world of darkness and depravity where Bratva answers to no one and allies are not what they seem.
Mikhail’s hiding a secret: there is no Mikhail. He’s simply a front for undercover operative, Ryan Harris. A means to gain access to Dmitry. Ryan’s not stupid. There’s no way he’s going to get distracted by a pretty face, no matter how attractive Jake might be. That would be far too dangerous for all concerned. Only it’s not that simple and before Ryan knows it, the line between personal and professional begins to blur spectacularly.
Lust develops into more. Secrets start to unravel. Ryan’s got an impossible choice to make: keep Jake safe or maintain his cover. But how much does Dmitry know? The hunted may be about to become the hunter, blowing both men’s worlds to pieces and leaving them with nothing.
Can a relationship built on lies ever lead to love?
Warning: This book contains a seductive dancer prone to getting into trouble, a gruff man who’s anything but, and a villain who just won’t go away.
A Step too Far (Too Far #2) by H.L. Day picks up after the events of A Dance Too Far where Dmitry’s loses his star dancer (and much more), Valentin. Valentin’s escape has left a hole in Dmitry’s organization as a cover, the lack of a dancer a continuing blow to the mobster’s pride and other self interests and something needs to be done about it. Immediately.
Questions that Valentin asked himself in the last story were what had happened to Mikhail, the stoic Russian bodyguard who had finally risked everything to help Valentin. And why? A Step too Far gives us those answers and so much more. Including the startling information that Mikhail is actually undercover agent Ryan Harris trying to gather intel and take down a Russian gang. The toll of being Mikhail is becoming too much, he’s seen and been a part of to too much. And now Dimitry has tasked him with finding Valentin’s replacement.
Day actually splits this character into Mikail/Ryan, that’s how it reads for most of the story because he’s two completely different personalities. One cold, ruthless, and trying to being sexless. The other warm,torn, intelligent, with a conscious that’s telling him he can’t keep doing this no matter the end result. We see them both. First it’s mostly Mikhail staying in character, then a mixture, and then finally mostly Ryan as that personality becomes dominant, dangerous while undercover.
The reason why? A young dancer name Jake who to his peril falls naively into the space vacated by Valentin because he wants to dance and needs an apartment to live, while having little outside ties. The perfect victim. Unlike Valentin who had been with Dimitry for a decade when we met him (and endured the abuse and control), Jake is fresh, happy, bouncy even, full of optimism and, trust me, the reader just starts to cringe from the moment Dimitry ushers him into his office and shuts the door.
Because this is a darker story than the first. Valentin had figured things out in a decades time, had methods to deal with Dimitry’s twisted love and abuse. But here Dimitry feels no love for Jake, he’s just a commodity. And what happens between Jake and Mikhail/Ryan is one that develops more than once because its with different men, a neat trick, narratively speaking.
Mixed in with all this is a deep espionage storyline, a high suspense thread that will have you on your seat, and a long, drawn out climax and resolution that includes timely and perfect appearances by Max and Valentin to give Ryan and Jake the ending their deserve.
The one thing that did bother me, the lack of therapy for Jake, was finally given a brief mention, a rationale as to why it didn’t work, and what was helping. I’m not sure I ever bought it , and yes, that was one of my issues in the first story as well. But at least it was mentioned here. That was a step up.
I tried to think about how I compared the two stories and decided I couldn’t. That was like comparing the two men as dancers. Totally different in so many ways. I liked some things about this story better but really not the characters. The characters in both stories are amazing. And this one leaves me wondering if there is anywhere to go from here. Just not sure.
But if you love your contemporary romance with raw sex, open emotion, some darkness and wild suspense. This story and the one prior to it, which you much read before this one, are just the thing! Pick up Valentin’s story and then head straight for Jake’s. Be prepared to be totally connected and unable to put them down. I highly recommend them both.
Cover art: H.L. Day. That’s post Dimitry Jake alright. I like the cover but truthfully nothing can match that impact of the first one.
Sales Links: Amazon