Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Gianni Cesare is a DEA agent and rancher—who also happens to be a millionaire heir to an Italian count. Running a multiagency sting out of his East Texas ranch means he needs a new foreman… preferably someone a little wet behind the ears who won’t ask too many questions.
Gianni’s Aunt Jerilyn hires Bonner Fannin, a roughstock rider with zero ranch experience and a sister who’s pregnant with a violent biker’s twins. If that’s not bad enough, Bonner is pretending he and his sister are married to protect her and to help get him the job.
Gianni didn’t think Bonner was the marrying type during their torrid beach affair years ago, but he’s not sure if he has time to explore that thought now, as overrun as his ranch is with drug cartels, macho government agents, and local cops. Looks like Bonner and Gianni are both in over their heads, and they may have to band together during this adventure to swim rather than sink.
BA Tortuga has set a huge agenda for this story and at 292 pages almost gets it all in. The author is juggling so many plots threads here and just as big a cast of characters to go along with them.
It starts with Gianni Cesare who wears identities like people put on clothes. He’s Italian count in his father’s side, Texas ranch royalty on his mama’s. He’s also a DEA undercover agent and millionaire with his fingers in a number of agency “pots”, local and otherwise. We enter the story just as a drug biker bustup is going south and it introduces us to Gianni, his partner, and associates. Briefly, just enough to see their camaraderie and the fact they’ve been together a while. It also introduces the fact that whatever they have been working on includes drugs, highways, and Gianni’s ranch being run by his aunt.
Which brings in another group of characters and necessitates the hiring of Bonner, his storythread with his pregnant sister, and the thug of a biker after her. I will be truthful here. I find the sister, her pregnancy the weak section here. There is, for me at least, ample storyline without her and in the end she just sort of fizzles away. I found her whiny and unnecessary. Surely BA could have found another way to bring these two together other than this sister. And doing an unnecessary injury to the aunt as well. Nothing about this element ended up satisfactorily with me.
The duo of Sheriff Chris and badboy/vet Xavvy, IT mad guy Colt and medic Mason, even Gianni’s partner Alison, his parents and aunt as well as Bonner’s best friend. They are all terribly interesting and engaging personalities and the story just doesn’t have time for them all. Although it tries hard. And that’s pretty much the issue here. Each character/couple has major elements in this novel and for a while get’s a narrative spotlight shone on them. Just not enough because of the overall plot arc which gets a little murky. If this is the first in a series, then this is all just the author laying the foundation for future stories to come. Which I get.
But if this is a standalone, then we are left at the end of this novel with several characters just sort of fading away that had major page time, an aspect of the crime story that is never fully resolved, and a general feeling of “where’s my wrap up?” And not just with the aunt, or the deputy, or some of the others in the team. I was just left with a sense of incompleteness somehow. That’s not a feeling I expect in a BA Tortuga story.
Like I said this is a huge novel with a huge agenda and a cast to match. Somehow I think something got lost here. Maybe it’s that intimacy, that sense of “knowing” that this author is able to bring to her Texas characters that I never felt with “Gianni”. He never rang true. Bonner did, so did the others. I don’t know. My usual connection was never made and I missed that.
If you love BA Tortuga, I’m sure you have already grabbed this up. If its action/adventure you crave, this has some of that as well. I’m just not sure it all made as much sense as it should have. I’ll leave that up to you. Romance? Check, it’s got that covered!
Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza. I like the cover with the Stetson and badge. Simple and yet, catches your eye and tells you about the character. Like it.
ebook, 292 pages
Expected publication: December 11th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English