A Lila Review: Enemy Within (The Executive Office #3) by Tal Bauer

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The White House, infiltrated.
The president, running for his life.
A traitorous general, intent on burning the world to the ground.

When everything falls apart, who do you trust?

President Jack Spiers fled Washington DC on the heels of a devastating attack on CIA headquarters, masterminded by one of America’s own, former General Porter Madigan. While the world believes Jack was killed in the bombing, he embarks on a wild infiltration mission, smuggling himself into occupied Russia to rescue the love of his life: former Secret Service Agent and First Gentleman Ethan Reichenbach.

Reunited, Jack, Ethan, and deposed Russian president Sergey Puchkov, along with President Elizabeth Wall—the only person left in Washington DC who Jack trusts—must work together. They piece together a desperate plan, hunting Madigan to the ends of the earth and the bitter frigidity of the Arctic, where Madigan’s world-shattering doomsday plan comes together.

Outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and outgunned, Jack, Ethan, Sergey, and the rest of the team struggle to put a stop to Madigan and his army. In the desolate extremes of the Arctic, their resolve, their strength, and even their love is tested, pushed to the absolute limits as choices must be made: choices that pit the fate of the world against the love in their hearts, and the loves of their life.

As the world crumbles around them, Jack and Ethan find themselves waging a war on two fronts—against an enemy they can see, and another, hiding within their ranks.

Who can be trusted when the enemy is within you?

Enemy Within is more than one book. It’s a romance series following three couples. A political thriller, studying the tights between two former enemy countries. A history lesson with a speculative edge. It’s filled with intrigue, angst, hope, policies, friendships, psychological profiles. All, wrapped up to bring a coherent story with a single purpose, entertainment.

I normally read the whole book before I start writing the review, but in this case, it’s not possible. I’m thirty percent into the story and it feels as if I had read several books. We started shortly after the end of Enemy of my Enemy, without losing a step. Within the first pages, the major players are introduced, and the plot arcs set.

The changes between settings are well-documented at the beginning of each chapter and the frequent POV changes extend the complexity of the story, without hindering the connection with the characters. Our feelings, as readers, are drag through the mud of the Siberian wilderness and brought back into redemption. I’m sure this is going to happen many other times before I reach the end.

Yes, I did skim thru some of the prose and descriptions looking for more dialogue and less introspect, but the overall combination of elements worked for this series. With this marking the end of the road, the POV changes and the high amount of settings are easy to follow. And all the fight scenes and high action drama read as a contemporary Hollywood movie–a combination between the Bourne movies and Behind Enemy Lines.

At the moment, I had hit a moment of calm and had to stop by to highlight the balance between the love stories and the political mayhem bringing all the characters together. In any other book, this would be considered the last turn before the end, but is this story, is just one of many of false assurance they would face.

On the second segment, we still see all the action, but the love stories take precedent. We get into the heart of the series and all the ramifications Jack’s & Ethan’s relationship created. There’s a chance to the ghost of an HEA for all involved, but it’s, as expected, just a specter–hopes for closure and a deserved future. It’s going to be a mix of awws and angst.

There’s an intersection point with the ending of Enemy of my Enemy and as I mentioned in that review, not something I liked then, or now. But it was a necessary evil to advanced one of the many plots/romance arcs forward. I just stopped in the middle of it to take a break and let you know what’s happening.

I think I’m changing my mind. This story is more of an espionage tv series. The only difference is the bromance between the main characters is, in this case, a true romance. I feel like I’m reading different chapters of an overall plot. Perhaps that’s the reason I feel the need to write my review as I read. It’s like watching with a friend and chatting before starting the next DVR episode.

After way too many action scenes, I can finally say that some light is coming out. The unmasking of the moles that had carried during all three books was well-done, even when a bit telling. The fights, the overseas, underseas, and everywhere in-between settings added character to the story. A sense of suspense disbelief, enough to engross the reader and making them want to read faster. At points, it was hard to follow who was fighting who and how the movements worked, but all melted together at the resolution.

If you started reading looking for realism, this is not your story, but if you believe in the power of fiction, go ahead, and read. I’m so close I can smell the fuel and the HEA.

But before that, we have to dip into American Politics. If you’re a political junkie, like me, you will enjoy the number of similarities to our date-to-date politics. The book was written ahead of its time, but can be part of any late-night news broadcast.

The last part of the book, with the end result and the future for the couples, are beautiful. We get to see how they grow into their relationships and their hopes for the future. We get multiple happy endings, with a nice closure for all the alternative arcs, but there’s always a chance for more or a spinoff. Not necessary, but enough to bait the readers.

In the end, reading this series is worth all the time it takes. It’s long, but now that all the books are out, it would be a great time to read it in its totality.

The new covers for this series, by Natasha Snow, are interesting, but a bit generic. I do like them better than the original ones, though. Plus, they bring all the books together nicely.

Sale Links: AmazonNook | Smashwords

Book Details: 

ebook, 445 pages
Published: March 28, 2016, by Tal Bauer Publishing

ISBN: 9781310458163
Edition Language: English

Series: The Executive Office
Book #1: Enemies of the State

Book #1.5: Interlude: First Noel

Book #2: Enemy of My Enemy

Book #3: Enemy Within

Release Day Blitz: Enemy Within by Tal Bauer (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Enemy Within

Series: The Executive Office, Book 3

Author: Tal Bauer

Publisher:  Self-Published

Release Date: 3/28/2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 176K

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

The White House, infiltrated.
The president, running for his life.
A traitorous general, intent on burning the world to the ground.

When everything falls apart, who do you trust?

President Jack Spiers fled Washington DC on the heels of a devastating attack on CIA headquarters, masterminded by one of America’s own, former General Porter Madigan. While the world believes Jack was killed in the bombing, he embarks on a wild infiltration mission, smuggling himself into occupied Russia to rescue the love of his life: former Secret Service Agent and First Gentleman Ethan Reichenbach.

Reunited, Jack, Ethan, and deposed Russian president Sergey Puchkov, along with President Elizabeth Wall—the only person left in Washington DC who Jack trusts—must work together. They piece together a desperate plan, hunting Madigan to the ends of the earth and the bitter frigidity of the Arctic, where Madigan’s world-shattering doomsday plan comes together.

Outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and outgunned, Jack, Ethan, Sergey, and the rest of the team struggle to put a stop to Madigan and his army. In the desolate extremes of the Arctic, their resolve, their strength, and even their love is tested, pushed to the absolute limits as choices must be made: choices that pit the fate of the world against the love in their hearts, and the loves of their life.

As the world crumbles around them, Jack and Ethan find themselves waging a war on two fronts—against an enemy they can see, and another, hiding within their ranks.

Who can be trusted when the enemy is within you?

Excerpt

The sounds of the convoy coming alive in the frosty morning started clattering through their patch of snowy forest. Grumbled Russian, slamming doors and squeaky metal hinges, the crackle of logs in a fire, and the clang of pots and pans that Vasily insisted on bringing from Volga.

Jack nuzzled at Ethan’s neck, and the roughness of his beard, grown thick in the five days they’d been on the road, scratched over Ethan’s skin just before Jack dropped a kiss beneath his jaw. “Morning, love.”

Ethan smiled down at him, de-cocked his pistol, and slid it into his hip holster beneath their blankets. He wrapped both arms around Jack as Jack turned and faced him. “How are you? Are you warm enough?” As Ethan spoke, his breath clouded the air between them.

“I’m good.” Jack peeled off his gloves beneath the blankets and snaked his warm hands up under Ethan’s jacket and sweater. His gentle, searching fingers found the long line of ragged stitches in Ethan’s side.

Ethan flinched.

“Sorry. You know we need to check them.” Carefully, Jack felt around the stitches, testing the skin, and then rested his palm over the top of the mostly-healed wound. “No heat. No swelling. No pus. No infection.” He smiled. “You had me worried after yesterday.”

Ethan ducked his head, his cheeks warming. While rummaging through an abandoned barn, he’d walked right through a rotted-out baseboard and fallen into a cellar, into the rough, loose earth. Not his finest moment. They’d wrangled some supplies, but he’d come away filthy and bruised, his ego smarting. Jack’s worried eyes and his gentle ministrations after they’d stopped for the night had helped sooth the ache.

Jack’s gaze darted over Ethan’s face, searching. He frowned. “Did you get any sleep?”

“Some.”

“Liar.” Arching an eyebrow, Jack sat back but kept his hands under Ethan’s clothes and on his skin. “You should let me watch over you at night, too.”

“I’d rather do it. I have you close to me.” He patted his hip and his holstered weapon. “I have constant protection on you all night long. There’s no way anyone can get to you. Not without going through me.”

“Literally.” Jack smiled, but it faded fast. “I’ll drive during the day again. Rest, and let me watch over you.” He squeezed Ethan’s hip as if to emphasize his point.

Ethan nodded, and the corners of his lips quirked up. This was new, this give and take of caretaking and watching out for each other. In DC, at the White House, there had been their jobs and their duties and the world to react to. They took care of slights and wounds inflicted by the press, their suits and ties a kind of armor against the world. Out in the wilderness, in the forest, they’d fallen into a different kind of caretaking. A sharing of two lives, each supporting the other’s existence. It was primal, in a way, how they had fused together. Half of his life was in Jack’s hands, and instead of feeling vulnerable, it was the most natural feeling in the world. “Deal.” Leaning forward, he pressed a kiss to Jack’s lips.

A question hovered in the forefront of Ethan’s mind, weighing on his thoughts. Every morning, he felt the weight of his secret resting over his heart: two rings, made before the world fell apart around them. Some moments, asking Jack was on the tip of his tongue, ready to tumble from his lips with his next breath. He forced himself to swallow the words. Not yet. It wasn’t the right time. Not yet.

Jack leaned into Ethan, and his hands wound around Ethan’s back beneath his sweater. “At some point, we won’t be sleeping in this jeep anymore,” he whispered into their kiss. “We’ll have room to stretch out… share a sleeping bag…”

Smiling, Ethan pulled off his gloves and brought his hands up to Jack’s face, his thumbs caressing Jack’s cheeks. “We don’t need a sleeping bag…” One hand snaked around Jack’s neck, and the other dropped to his hip.

In a flash, he flipped Jack, laying him on his back across the bench seat. Jack wrapped his legs around Ethan’s waist as Ethan slid his hands through Jack’s blond strands.

Jack grabbed his shoulders and pulled Ethan closer, his legs tightening and holding Ethan in place. He captured Ethan’s lips, kissing greedily as his hips rocked upward. Even through the layers they wore, Ethan felt Jack’s hard cock, pressing against his own.

“I want you,” Jack breathed.  “I want you to make love to me.”

Ethan’s blood burned, searing through his body from his head to his toes, and part of him wanted to tilt Jack’s head back and ravage his throat, work his way down, unwrap him like a present until he found his cock. Suck him deep. Work him open with his tongue until Jack begged for more, and then sink his cock into Jack’s warm, tight body. Jesus, he wanted Jack. So much.

The springs on the jeep’s suspension squeaked with their rocking, and the tires groaned and crunched against the snow on the ground. In the distance, low chuckles sounded, and one catcall.

Deflating, Ethan dropped his forehead to Jack’s chest. He rode Jack’s deep, heaving breaths and listened to his racing heartbeat. “I don’t want an audience when I make love to you again.”

Jack’s legs dropped, one falling over the back of the front seat, and the other squishing against the window. His hands stroked over Ethan’s back and tangled in his hair. “I don’t want to have to be quiet.”

“Jesus.” Ethan gripped Jack and surged against him, thrusting against his hard cock once more. “That’s not helping.”

Smiling, Jack rocked his hips up once and then scooted backward, propping himself up on his elbows as Ethan sat back and tried to straighten out his clothes. A prominent bulge strained the front of his cargo pants. He ached, nearly painfully hard for Jack.

From the center of the camp, Scott called, “Coffee’s ready if you are!”

Rumbling laughter, deep and throaty, from nearly all the men.

Shaking his head, Jack started to pull himself together next to Ethan and fished out his balaclava from the pocket of his cargo pants. Outside of the jeep, he wore a full-face balaclava and, on their drive, he kept everything but his eyes covered. Ethan insisted, and Scott and Sergey both backed him up. The members of their convoy, of course, knew who Jack was, and just after Jack had shown up, Sergey had delivered a scathing speech in Russian to his people that had had even Ethan flinching, though he didn’t understand a word that had been said. But, they were traveling through a war zone, parts of Russia that were contested in the coup, under attack from Moroshkin’s forces, and that had been bombed by the United States and other nations, all trying to stop Moroshkin.

Who knew what was out there, or who was out there. Jack was, to the world, brain dead in Bethesda Naval Hospital. A front-page picture of him alive and well in Russia would go over as well as a nuclear bomb.

“Scott came by?” Jack tucked his undershirt into his pants, taking a moment to readjust. His cheeks were dusted crimson, a faint flush that Ethan wanted to nibble.

“Yeah.” He tore his eyes away from Jack and fanned the bottom of his sweater, trying to cool his body.

“How’d the scouting go?”

“The route is clear for the morning. More abandoned villages. They found fuel and some supplies. Vasily is cooking eggs.” Ethan reached out, and his fingers traced Jack’s spine through his sweater and jacket. “And you should talk to Sergey.”

Turning, Jack stared at Ethan.

“I think Scott’s worried about him.” A tight, strained smile, curved his lips. “And that’s saying something.” Scott’s trust in Sergey, and in their Russian allies, extended from meal to meal. Day to day, hour by hour. If everything came apart, Scott would be the first to say “I knew it”.

“He hasn’t wanted to talk to me.” Swallowing, Jack leaned back with a sigh. His hands dropped to his lap, and he picked at the wool fibers of the balaclava. “He’s kept his distance since Volga. I’m not sure I’m the person he wants to see right now.”

Nodding slowly, Ethan frowned. Sergey’s harsh accusations, thrown at Jack at Volga air base, had been the last direct contact the two had. “After all this time, you think he’s pulling away because of…”

Because of their love? Because he and Jack were together? Because Sergey had been loved by a gay man? Was this some kind of reaction, a fear that falling in love with another man “was contagious”, as he’d hurled at Jack?

“He’s pulled back before.” Jack sat forward, slipped the balaclava over his head. He tugged it down around his neck. “I want to do the right thing by him. I don’t want to piss him off.” He frowned, deep lines furrowing his brow. “But, no matter what else is going on, he’s devastated about losing Sasha. I remember what it felt like when I thought you were dead. I can at least try to talk to him about that.”

Ethan’s chest constricted, and his heart almost seized. Was it only a week ago that he’d thought Jack was dead and gone as well? Never, ever, again. He’d do everything in his power to keep Jack safe, keep him from ever coming to harm. And, he’d never lose faith like that again, either. The darkness that had swallowed him on his race from Saudi Arabia to Russia. The emptiness, the silent scream within his soul. The way he had wanted to die, had begged the world to kill him.

Together. They’d face everything together from now on. No matter what.

Adjusting the balaclava, Jack leaned over and pressed a chaste kiss to Ethan’s lips. “Time to face the music, love.”

Ethan pulled out his own balaclava, tugged it down around his neck, and gripped the door handle. They piled out of the back of the jeep, and Ethan caught the smothered grins and barks of laughter sent their way. Scott raised a dented metal mug toward them both. Jack headed for him, and for the small fire on which Vasily was cooking.

One of the Russians who went out with Scott every morning, Aleksey, slid up to Ethan. Middle-aged, Aleksey had been a federal police officer in Sochi and had fought back with Sergey against Moroshkin and Madigan’s forces the night of the coup. Now, he was one of Sergey’s officers in the insurgency. He had a small beer gut and a thick salt and pepper mustache beneath ruddy, pockmarked cheeks, a quick, sharp smile, and perpetually messy hair.

His eyes glittered as he clapped Ethan on the back. “You are good Russian lover!” he crowed. “Quick!”

Others laughed, and Ethan spied Jack smothering his grin and rolling his eyes as he took the coffee Scott offered. Scott shrugged and hid his smile in his next sip.

Ethan clapped Aleksey on the upper arm, smiling along with the others. When he and Jack had first met the men in Sergey’s insurgency, they’d worried about how they would be received. Two men in love in a country where only months before, Sasha had almost been killed for being gay. Another man, Evgeni Konnikov, had been murdered.

Sergey’s men, however, had been nothing but accepting. They were believers in Sergey’s government, after all, and Sergey had made equality a foundational platform of his politics and administration.

They just showed that acceptance through good Russian ribbing and teasing. The more ribald the better.

“If we had actually got going,” Ethan began, winking first at Jack and then sending Aleksey a grin, “we’d be here for days.”

More laughter. Aleksey wagged his finger in Ethan’s face and squeezed his elbow before handing him a cup of bitter, sludgy coffee. Vasily waved him and Jack over, and he scooped the last of the eggs into a scavenged plastic bowl they shared. “I save for you,” Vasily said, pointing to them both.

Jack thanked him. As they ate, Ethan spotted Sergey standing in front of his jeep, his hands resting flat on a spread-out map of Russia draped over the hood with his head bowed low. He looked up, and his piercing gaze fell on Jack. There was a moment where his face flickered, something dark passing through his eyes, but it was gone before Ethan could catch it.

And then, Sergey folded up his map and climbed into the driver’s side of his jeep. He kept his eyes downcast, not once looking at Jack again.

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Meet the Author

Tal Bauer is an award-winning and best-selling author of LGBT romantic thrillers, bringing together a career in law enforcement and international humanitarian aid to create dynamic characters, intriguing plots, and exotic locations. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.

Pronouns: They/them & he/him

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | eMail

 

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A Paul B Review: Interlude: First Noel (The Executive Office #1.5) by Tal Bauer

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

interlude-first-noelEthan Reichenbach has been demoted from lead of the Presidential protection detail in the Secret Service to the Des Moines, Iowa office.  Instead of leading a team sworn to protect the President at all cost, he now is tracking counterfeiters.  To make matters worse, his supervisor in no way wants the President’s boyfriend working in his office.  He tells Ethan to stay away from the press and to turn his cases over to another agent when evidence materializes.  His only salvation is his nightly video chats with Jack Spiers and his weekend trips to Washington to spend time with him.  However, as Jack is the President, those weekends are not always consistent. 

Jack is trying to enjoy his first Christmas in the White House but things seem to keep getting in the way.  Between international conferences to the rising problem of the Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East, it seems like he has no time to spend with Ethan.  Jack is also unhappy about Ethan’s situation in Des Moines, where he is pushed aside for agents who weren’t even in high school when Ethan joined the Service fifteen years ago.  Add in the tabloid press who basically have Jack and Ethan breaking up or making up depending on whether or not Ethan flies to Washington any given weekend just adds to the stress.  Jack counts the days until the two can be reunited.

I enjoyed this tale of Jack and Ethan as they prepare for their first Christmas together as a couple.  It was interesting to see the side of the Secret Service that most Americans forget that they are in charge of—catching counterfeiters.  Ethan’s demotion is made worse by a boss who thinks that Ethan will contaminate any case in which he is prominently involved in.  The only saving grace in Des Moines is a new agent who at first grudgingly partners with him but comes to an understanding that seems to help with the case they are working on together.  Along the way, Jack and Ethan must develop some sort of protocol for the various White House functions that come at Christmas time and deal with world problems at the same time.  This book nicely expands on the time that was covered briefly at the end of Enemies of the State. 

The cover art by Natasha Snow is perfect for the book.  The cover has the White House in a wintery scene surrounded by snow. 

Sale Links: NineStar | Amazon | NOOK

Book Details

EBook, 125 pages

Edition Language:  English

Published:  December 19, 2016 by NineStar Press

ISBN:  978-1-945952-30-2

Series:  The Executive Office

Enemies of the State (The Executive Office #1)

First Noel (The Executive Office #1.5)

Enemy of My Enemy (The Executive Office #2)

A Lila Review: Interlude: First Noel (The Executive Office #1.5) by Tal Bauer

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

interlude-first-noelBefore Ethan returns to DC…

Before he becomes Jack’s first gentleman…
Jack and Ethan share their first Christmas together. Step back to Jack and Ethan’s first Christmas season and the tentative early months of their relationship under the world’s spotlight. Three months into Ethan’s transfer-in-exile in Des Moines, Iowa, the pressures of dating Jack, the president of the United States, start to wear Ethan down. His weeks are measured by the days he works in Iowa, chasing counterfeiters and financial crimes, and the weekends he manages to steal with Jack back in DC. The media stalks his every move, he’s isolated by his coworkers, and loneliness hammers at his heart.

In DC, Jack tries to piece together a global alliance to take down the Caliphate, while the world seems focused on tearing apart his personal life. Hostility surrounds him from all corners of the globe, but a surprise offer from President Sergey Puchkov may pave the way for a tentative alliance…and perhaps the beginning of a friendship.

As Ethan finds himself in the middle of an investigation that rubs too deeply against his soul and Jack tries to balance leading the free world and keeping his and Ethan’s relationship going, the two men must face what their love has become…and where they are heading together.

Interlude: First Noel is more than a Christmas short; it’s three stories in one. We get Ethan’s story in Des Moines. How his life as a Secret Service agent changed and the case he’s taking part of, even when no one wants him around. Then, we have Jack’s first Christmas in the White House. The impact of his job and the coalition he’s trying to form. And lastly, we see how those two stories intertwined with Ethan’s and Jack’s romance. Plus, how they deal with their long distance relationship.

More than a novella, this is a full length story. Just like the previous books in this series, the author gives the reader every detail necessary to experience this holiday short as much. We get a lot of characters back, and how they related to book one and book two. And we see important friendships starting to form for Ethan and Jack.

The way both main characters are treated by those they work with is similar even when they are in two different places and have two different job descriptions. How they managed to deal with this, plays an important part in the story. The book is as much about self-discovery as solving Ethan’s case, and Jack’s political issues. As bonus, we get to see Sergey in all his glory.

If you haven’t read Enemy of my Enemy, yet, I’d recommend you read this novella first. Not because it would make a difference in your enjoyment, but it would help you follow the timeline when the book mentions events from when Ethan was in Iowa. As always, my only complaint is the amount of details and additional information we get with each book, but that’s just me. And the best part, everything is wrapped on Christmas spirit.

At first glance, the cover by Natasha Snow seems gloomy. But, it fits the longing atmosphere of the story and the roughness of Ethan’s and Jack’s separation.

Sale Links: NineStar | Amazon | NOOK

Book Details: 

ebook, 125 pages
Published: December 19, 2016, by
NineStar Press
ISBN: 9781945952302
Edition Language: English

Series: The Executive Office
Book #1: 
Enemies of the State
Book #1.5: Interlude: First Noel
Book #2: Enemy of My Enemy

 

In the Holiday Spotlight: Interlude: First Noel (The Executive Office #1.5) by Tal Bauer (excerpt and giveaway)

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interlude-first-noel-by-tal-bauer

Title:  Interlude: First Noel

Series: The Executive Office, Book 1.5

Author: Tal Bauer

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 19. 2016

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 60800

Genre: Romance, holiday, contemporary, demisexual, gay

Add to Goodreads

Interlude-f

Synopsis

Before Ethan returns to DC…
Before he becomes Jack’s first gentleman…
Jack and Ethan share their first Christmas together.

Step back to Jack and Ethan’s first Christmas season and the tentative early months of their relationship under the world’s spotlight.

Three months into Ethan’s transfer-in-exile in Des Moines, Iowa, the pressures of dating Jack, the president of the United States, start to wear Ethan down. His weeks are measured by the days he works in Iowa, chasing counterfeiters and financial crimes, and the weekends he manages to steal with Jack back in DC. The media stalks his every move, he’s isolated by his coworkers, and loneliness hammers at his heart.

In DC, Jack tries to piece together a global alliance to take down the Caliphate, while the world seems focused on tearing apart his personal life. Hostility surrounds him from all corners of the globe, but a surprise offer from President Sergey Puchkov may pave the way for a tentative alliance…and perhaps the beginning of a friendship.

As Ethan finds himself in the middle of an investigation that rubs too deeply against his soul and Jack tries to balance leading the free world and keeping his and Ethan’s relationship going, the two men must face what their love has become…and where they are heading together.

Excerpt

Tal Bauer © 2016
All Rights Reserved

“Twenty-seven credit cards, thirty thousand in hundreds—all with the exact same serial number—a credit card reader and a laptop.” United States Secret Service Special Agent Blake Becker whistled, shaking his head, and glared at the two suspects in handcuffs sitting in the back of the Des Moines police cruiser. “We bagged another couple counterfeiters, huh?” He squinted at Ethan, snowflakes clinging to the ends of his eyelashes. Becker was twelve years younger than Ethan, and two years out of the training center at Rowley. He was an infant, compared to Ethan.

Ethan said nothing. Becker’s use of “we” was disingenuous. Ethan had put together the case after pulling files from three different states. He’d worked long, lonely hours in his cubicle, reading arrest records and statements until his eyeballs felt like they were bleeding. He’d tracked the washed bills, the counterfeit currency used in stores and banks across Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Built a timeline along one wall of his cube, tracking the rise of counterfeit bills in the tristate area. Connected the dots, leading them to bust this run down motel room and this raggedy team of counterfeiters.

And, when he’d presented his case to Shepherd, the Special Agent in Charge of the small Des Moines field office, Shepherd had assigned Blake Becker as the lead agent, over Ethan. Days later, after Becker filed the affidavit under his name, he and Ethan, along with the Des Moines police, broke down the door of the motel room their suspects were living in and arrested two men in their boxers and stained tank tops. One of the men had a mullet. The other had a greasy mustache and not much hair on the top of his head.

Two white news vans sloshed through the motel’s parking lot. Muddy snowmelt splattered the sides of the vans, arching away from salt-crusted tires. On top of both, satellite dishes and transmission poles collected fat snowflakes beneath the dreary sky. Red and blue police lights swirled, giving a splash of color to the monotonous Midwestern gloom.

Becker jerked his head toward the new arrivals. “Media is here. Shepherd wants you to book it. Doesn’t want you anywhere near the press.”

Nodding once, Ethan kept his head down and headed for his Secret Service car, a nondescript sedan issued to him by the Des Moines office. He tucked his face into his scarf and his hands in the pockets of his trench coat, not looking toward the news vans.

If there was one thing Shepherd hated more than Ethan, it was the media attention Ethan received. “Secret Service Seduction” “Who Really is the Boyfriend of the President of the United States.” “Boyfriend in Exile; Can Their Relationship Survive?” “What are the Presidential Boyfriend’s Duties?” “Secret Service Hiding One of Their Own?”

He slid into his car, slamming the door shut. Leaning back, he exhaled, watching for a moment as the news crews set up around the motel parking lot, peering at the Special Agents and police processing the scene.

Ethan grabbed a pair of sunglasses and a ball cap from the passenger seat before he started his car. The sunglasses turned the drab gray sky almost black, but he kept them on as he backed up, maneuvering out of the crowd of police vehicles.

One of the reporters spotted his car leaving. She waved to her cameraman and jogged across the snowmelt, her brown boots sticky with slush. He tried to speed up, but she made it to his driver’s side as he waited to turn onto the street.

“Mr. Reichenbach?” She knocked on the glass, and her cameramen scraped their news camera’s lens over his window. “Mr. Reichenbach, can you talk about your involvement with the Des Moines Secret Service? What are your official duties?”

His jaw clenched, and his fingers gripped the steering wheel. A few more seconds, a few passing cars, and he could peel out of there.

“How does it feel to be separated from the president? Are you and President Spiers still together? It’s been a while since you were both seen togeth―”

Finally, a break in the traffic. Ethan wanted to slam down on the accelerator, spin his wheels and spray the reporter with mud and snow. But he couldn’t. Everything―every single thing―he did was a reflection on Jack. A reflection on the president of the United States.

He revved his engine once, a warning, and then rolled forward. The camera squealed across his window, and the reporter pounded on the glass, repeating her questions, almost shouting.

And then, he was out of the parking lot, back on the main road. He floored it, speeding off as the news camera tracked him. A few blocks away, he ditched the sunglasses, throwing them into the passenger seat with a snarl.

Three months in exile. Three months of living in Des Moines, Iowa—away from Washington DC, his friends, and the love of his life: Jack Spiers, the president of the United States.

His head hit the sedan’s headrest again, and his fingers kneaded the steering wheel. Three months of counting the days―and sometimes the hours―until he could see Jack again. He lived for Friday evening through Sunday night, when he flew to DC, and the forty-eight hours at least, it was just him and Jack. If he squinted while he was there, it was almost like it had been before everything came out, when they were hiding what they’d become together, and when Ethan had been his Secret Service lead.

Day in and day out, they’d been at each other’s side. Inseparable…and sharing a scandalous secret.

But every weekend ended, and Sunday night came, and with it, another flight back to Des Moines.

Ethan glared at the clock in his dash. It was too early to go back to his apartment and do anything but bang around the empty walls and sulk, and too late to go back to work and expect to get anything done. Still, he turned for the office, heading back downtown. At the least, he could work out in the private gym for the agents assigned to the Federal Building. FBI, DEA, ATF, Secret Service, and Customs all shared one building.

And all the agents seemed to share the same wide-eyed, horrified distance from Ethan. He moved like a pariah, as though he’d been branded with a scarlet letter and anyone who came near him would suffer the same catastrophic fall from grace he had.

From the most prestigious posting in the Secret Service―protecting the president of the United States―to puzzling through counterfeiting investigations out of a tiny field office in the Midwest. And giving those investigations up to another agent, a junior agent, and running from the media.

He waited at the stoplight downtown, just before the turn into the Federal Building’s garage, listening to his wipers scrape snow off the window. The red traffic light blurred through the slush on his glass, tinting the inside of his sedan a dark crimson. Christmas lights stretched overhead, arching over the streets and between the buildings. Evergreen garlands clung to the streetlights, and LED wreaths hung at every intersection. Over the weekend, Christmas had descended, just days after Thanksgiving.

If he knew then what he knew now, would he do it all again? Make the same choices? Take the same risks? Kiss Jack―the president, his sworn duty, his job―and throw caution to the wind, going against his very bones, his dedication to his career and the Secret Service?

The wipers slid against the glass again, squeaking, and the light turned green. His tires slipped on the snow, skidding out briefly, but he slogged across the intersection and turned into the underground parking garage.

Of course he would. Those forty-eight hours each week with Jack made everything else worth it. Made bearable the isolation, the intrusive media, the sidelong glares and bitten off conversations that abruptly stopped in his presence.

How his toes would curl as they kissed. Jack’s smile, and the way his eyes lit up for Ethan alone. How Jack had looked at him when he burst into the Oval Office, gunfire cracking the air, taking out Jeff Gottschalk and Black Fox’s operatives. Like Ethan was his whole world, the sun rising in the sky just for him.

Ethan had never loved anyone like he loved Jack. And he’d never been loved by anyone the way Jack loved him. It was still new, just six months old, but that love had remade Ethan’s entire world. So far, he’d put up with anything. Everything. As long as Jack kept looking at him like that. Kept loving him like that.

But, it had been over two weeks since he’d last been with Jack. ‘Every weekend’ had turned into something else. Loneliness scratched at the base of his heart, and whispers of fear snaked down his bones.

Ethan wound through the underground garage and pulled into his assigned space, in the corner beneath the leaking air compressor and next to the dumpster that always smelled like stale piss.

Shepherd’s car was still in his space. Great. He’d probably already seen the news footage of him, playing over and over on the local stations before being picked up by the national news for prime-time replay. He’d be pissed. More than pissed.

Sighing, Ethan badged into the building and onto the elevator, punching the button for the Secret Service’s floor. When the elevator spat him out, he gave Agent Gibson a tight smile as he passed him.

Gibson didn’t smile back.

Ethan badged into the backdoor of the office, heading for his cube and his gym bag. On the way, he passed Shepherd’s open office door.

The TV hanging on the wall in his office was on, images of Ethan driving out of the motel parking lot playing on repeat as the news anchor droned on about how evasive he’d been, how he hadn’t answered any questions. About what his presence at the crime scene might mean. And, of course, wondering why he hadn’t been seen with the president, or in DC, in weeks. They were America’s most scandalous couple, perhaps the world’s. The question had been blaring from every radio, every gossip magazine, every late night talk show host, almost from the moment they’d been photographed kissing on the North Lawn. Were they still together?

Of course, the questions had gotten louder these past few weeks.

Shepherd’s glare fixed on Ethan. Shepherd pursed his lips as he perched on the edge of his desk, arms crossed over his slight pudge, a beer gut in the making. His tie was undone, the first few buttons loose.

Ethan grabbed his gym bag, slung it over his shoulder, and trudged to Shepherd’s door. “Sir, I left as soon as they arrived. She chased me down. I wasn’t trying to get in front of the cameras.”

Shepherd pinched the bridge of his nose. “What did I do to deserve you?”

Ethan stayed silent.

“Thanks to this―” Shepherd gestured to the TV. “—the US Attorney is going to have to answer a million questions about you from the whatever defense these guys cobble together. What you were doing there. Why you were involved.”

“I put the case together―”

“And then it was given to Becker. All of it. The entire thing. Your fingerprints were stripped from it.” Shepherd sighed again. “I don’t want some criminal defense attorney trying to drag the president into one of our cases. Asking about what kind of special favors you get, or what the president is interested in, or how you don’t play by the rules. We have to prove everything you do is one hundred and ten percent above board.”

“Everything I’ve done here has been completely legal―”

“It’s what you did before you got here.” Shepherd fixed Ethan with another hard glare. “It’s your character. The kinds of rules you break. A good defense attorney would rip you to shreds on the stand.”

Ethan’s chest felt like it caved in. “I have never compromised an investigation for any reason.”

“No.” Shepherd snorted. “You just compromised the president.”

Silence.

“Get out of here.” Shepherd waved Ethan away, dismissing him as he stood. “I don’t know what’s going on with you and the president, and I don’t want to know.” His hand cut through the air, before Ethan spoke. He jerked his chin to the TV, and the reporter musing about Ethan and Jack’s relationship being on the rocks, or worse. “But you’ve gotten grumpier these past few weeks. And that’s saying something.” Shepherd squinted at him. “Go do something about that. If the media is going to hound you everywhere, you don’t want them thinking you’re a half breath away from snapping. Don’t add fuel to the fire.”

Clearing his throat, Ethan nodded once while Shepherd shuffled papers on his desk, dropping a stack of manila folders into his drawer. “Sir, I have a question for you.”

Shepherd arched his eyebrows and grunted.

“I submitted my vacation request for the holidays, but you haven’t approved it yet. Is there a problem?” Ethan had lost vacation time in his demotion, and had used up what he did have flying back and forth to DC. He was scrapping the last days he had to put together a trip back east over Christmas. It wasn’t as long as he wanted, but it was what he had.

Shepherd barked out a harsh laugh, slamming a stack of papers down on his desk. “Why do you do this?”

“Sir?”

“Why do you pretend like you follow the rules? Like they even matter to you? You can break every rule we have and nothing will happen to you.”

“That’s not who I am,” Ethan growled. “I don’t act that way.”

“That’s exactly who you are. And exactly how you acted.”

Ethan’s frown deepened, turning to a scowl. “Sir, I don’t get any special treatment―”

“Of course you do!” Shepherd cried. His hands rose, and then he was shouting, pointing at Ethan as his face turned red. “Why do you even bother coming in? Why do you put up the pretense of being an agent? You’d make it easier for everyone if you just stopped pretending!”

“I’m not pretending!” Ethan roared. “I’m doing my job!”

Shepherd laughed, long and loud. “You stopped doing your job the moment you compromised yourself and the president!”

“I am still an agent―” Ethan seethed.

“You’re a Goddamn pain in my ass.” Shepherd cut him off. “And I have no clue why you’re still an agent. You shouldn’t be. You should have been forced to turn in your badge and your gun and got kicked out of the Service.”

Ethan’s jaw snapped shut, his teeth clicking together.

“Let me be perfectly clear. I don’t give a shit what you do. Come to work. Don’t come to work. Go on vacation for the entire month of December. Run away with the president and get drunk on some beach. I don’t give a shit. Just stop wasting my time, okay?”

Ethan nodded once. “Sir.”

“Get out of my office.”

His hand clenched around the strap of his duffel, and his teeth ground together, but he strode out of Shepherd’s office with his chin held high. Rage roared through him, deep in his veins.

There had better not be anyone in the gym downstairs. He had to get this out, pound it out into a punching bag until his knuckles split and he vomited in the corner. He had to get this out, because in three hours, Jack was going to call him on his computer, and he couldn’t face Jack like this. Not about to fly apart, quaking with too much fury and raw shame. It hurt, God, it hurt. But Jack couldn’t see that. He couldn’t ever see it.

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NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Tal Bauer writes LGBT fiction and romance, bringing together a career in law enforcement, trauma medicine, and international humanitarian and disaster relief work to create dynamic, strong characters, intriguing plots, and unique, exotic locations. Tal’s stories weave together pulse-pounding adventure, cunning intrigue, and sweeping romance. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.

Pronouns: they/them

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A Paul B Review: Enemy of My Enemy (The Executive Office #2) by Tal Bauer

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

enemy-of-my-enemy-by-tal-bauerI feel like I just binge watched a season of 24.

Tal Bauer’s second book in The Executive Office series starts out shortly after the first book left off.  President Jack Spiers, having survived a coup attempt by former General Porter Madigan, is looking to a return to normalcy.  That includes selecting a new Vice President and starting his life with Ethan Reichenbach, the former lead agent on his Secret Service detail.  Ethan, meanwhile, must adapt to his new role as First Gentleman, dealing with issues such as White House flowers and china patterns.  However, those are not the only duties the new First Gentleman will undertake.

Jack wants Madigan eliminated.  The former general has been leaving calling cards for the President as he breaks out the worst prisoners from several jails around the world.  Always seeming to be at least one step behind, Jack develops a black ops mission with Ethan in charge.  Their mission is to hunt down and kill Madigan.  However, they will find Madigan’s reach extends far beyond just the United States.

Russian President Sergey Puckkov has his own problems.  The Russian economy tanks after Puchkov has several people arrested for corruption.  In the new spirit of cooperation, Jack offers to help the Russian president.  This draws the ire of General Moroshkin of the Russian Army.  He believes that Puchkov is becoming too friendly with America and something must be done about it. 

So Madigan and Moroshkin join forces to take out their respective enemies.  Through a series of terrorist attacks, they have Jack and Sergey on their heels.  During a meeting between the two leaders in Sochi, Moroshkin makes his move staging his own coup against Puchkin.  Jack and Ethan barely escape but are surprised to find someone waiting for them at Olympic Stadium while they wait to be evacuated.  Sergey and his aid Sasha are determined to stay behind and fight the coup or die trying.

Enemy of My Enemy is just as action packed as Enemies of the State.   In that book, Jack believes he lost Ethan due to events out of his control.  This time, it is Ethan who believes he has lost Jack—not once but twice.  When the surprise that Madigan leaves for Jack in Sochi is revealed, Ethan decides he has to step away while Jack deals with the problem.  Then later an explosion threatens Jack’s life once again.  We also see a renewed romance between Adam Cooper, the leader of Ethan’s black ops team and Prince Faisel of Saudi Arabia and the unrequited love of Sasha for President Puchkin.  The book ends way too soon as we must wait for the next book to see what becomes of our six heroes and if Madigan and Moroshkin are brought to justice.

Natasha Snow delivers an excellent cover for the book.  It has our six warriors above the image of the White House.  It is a simple perfect cover for the book. 

Sales Links

Sale Links: NineStar | Amazon | ARe

Book Details

EBook, 287 pages

Edition Langague:  English

Published:  October 24, 2016 by NineStar Press

ISBN:  978-1-911153-96-2

Series:  The Executive

Enemies of the State (The Executive Office #1)

Enemy of My Enemy (The Executive Office #2)

A Lila Review: Enemy of My Enemy (The Executive Office #2) by Tal Bauer

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

enemy-of-my-enemy-by-tal-bauerFifteen years from now, an affair rocks the world.
Two men commit to their impossible love.
One general is determined to destroy them both.

President Jack Spiers and former Secret Service Agent Ethan Reichenbach throw caution to the wind, committing themselves publicly as the first out male lovers and partners to occupy the White House. Jack moves Ethan into the Residence, but as Ethan settles into his new role as first gentleman of the United States, not everyone is thrilled with their choices. When it seems like the world turns against them, Jack and Ethan must turn to each other, finding the strength together to press on.

In the chaos, Jack’s relationship with the Russian president, Sergey Puchkov, grows closer, and the two nations find themselves working almost as allies. But President Puchkov has secrets of his own, secrets that could rip everything apart. And Ethan steps back into the action with Lieutenant Adam Cooper, taking charge of a covert kill team tasked with hunting down General Madigan once and for all.

But Madigan is elusive, and his dangerous reach is long. He strikes at Jack and Ethan from the shadowy corners of the globe, unraveling their entire world. As the mad general draws new allies together, he is single-minded in his quest to destroy the only two men who ever beat him.

He will stop at nothing until Jack and Ethan are shattered men, worlds apart, and struggling to get back to one another.

And after that, Madigan’s true revenge begins…

Enemy of My Enemy will leave you with a book hangover and withdraws as soon as you reach the last sentence. It’s the type of book I’d have waited to read when all the installments were published. But, I’m too much of a fan to wait, and Tal’s delivery didn’t disappoint. It’s hard to review every part of this story without spoiling the book, so I’m going by segments.

Opening: Just like with Enemies of the State, it took me a minute to get used to the POV changes, but it was easier to follow in this case since we already knew most of the characters. I do appreciate the cast list at the beginning of the book. I did use it as a reference a couple of times.

Suspension of disbelief: One thing you need to be clear when reading this series is the need to put aside your presidential knowledge and the current timetable. I did read the story before Election Day, that’s not what I referring to. I’m talking about the names of current cabinet members, government officials, and foreign leaders. It’s almost like watching a contemporary political thriller.

Some of the events in the story, the main players, and the world reactions are far-fetched but relevant to the story and its alternate universe. If you want political correctness in all senses, this might not be your story. You have to read it with an open mind, submerge in it, and let the author guide you.

Characters: Jack & Ethan are once again the main couple in the story. We get to see them starting a life together in the White House, and responding to the country’s uncertainty due to their relationship. It doesn’t take long for Ethan to take a more active role than Jack’s partner, having something to do other than taking care of the First Gentleman’s office worked well for him. There are a lot of up and downs during the story, and I have to admit that some parts made me lose faith in them, but in the end, everything came back together.

Sergey & Sasha were a lovely surprise. I think I have a crush on Sergey and I wish Sasha becomes his boy. Sergey reminds me of Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister. And Sasha deserves all the happiness he can get. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book to learn more about them and any possible future they might have.

Cooper & Prince Faisal have a heartbreaking, but mostly, complicated relationship. I like how much Faisal loves Cooper and how much he’s willing to risk because of it. They worked well together, and I love the little stories about their past–of how they fall in love. There’s more about them, but I’m not going to spoil the fun.

Madigan & Cook were the ever omnipresent villains. We get to see the extent of their plans and what they are willing to do to obtain it. Again, there’s a nice background tying them, and others, together. We haven’t seen the end of them, but I’m sure they will be an even bigger part of the next book.

The rest of the supporting characters had a purpose to the story. We get to see good and bad guys. Plus, one or two surprises. Everyone has a story that has an impact on the overall story arc. The amount of names can be overwhelming at times, but the cast list helps. The more you read, the more you will remember the characters and their roles. Even what they ate became significant.

Settings: Everything, from the White House to every single country visited by one of the characters is well-researched and described. The amount of detail is perfect to give the reader and sense of place, to get them engaged in the story. It’s almost a guide to the areas that played an important part of the book.

Writing & Pacing: The story does start slow. The author brings us back into the Executive Office world and lets us get reacquired with it. The book is long, with multiple points of view, and some short passages, but overall, everything works. The writing is fantastic and as readers, we can’t ask for a more detailed tale. Another thing, don’t try to read the book before bedtime, it’s impossible to put down unless you want to wake up in the middle of the night to read some more.

Ending: The story ends with a strong HFN for two of the three couples we followed through the story. I don’t consider it a cliffhanger, but some might. My only objection comes to a small information reveal that happened near the end. I guess it was done to connect the next book, but for me, it was an unnecessary tidbit. I wish it was part of the start of the next book and not the last twist in this one.

Natasha Snow did an excellent job showing all the couples taking part of this story. Having the White House and the Capitol included was an extra bonus. The cover matches the one from the previous book, and keeps the continuity of events.

Sale Links: NineStar | Amazon | ARe

Book Details: 

ebook, 444 pages
Published: October 24, 2016, by NineStar Press
ISBN: 9781911153962
Edition Language: English

Series: The Executive Office
Book #1: Enemies of the State
Book #2: Enemy of My Enemy

 

A Paul B Review: A Time to Rise by Tal Bauer

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Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

A Tiime To RiseFor all the holiness that surrounds Vatican City, evil lurks within its walls.

Alain Autenburg has been a member of the Swiss Guard for the past twelve years.  As a member of the group of men charged with protecting the Holy See and the Supreme Pontiff, the Swiss Guard have been serving popes for centuries.  Unbeknownst to most within the Guard, there is a subset within their numbers who are members of the Knights Templar.  They are responsible for ridding Rome of all the unholy paranormal happenings going on in the city.  Alain is the current Knight responsible for these duties.

Cristoph Haase is a new halberdier in the Swiss Guard.  Older than most of the other new soldiers in the pope’s army, Christoph is not quite sure why he is in Rome.  While it is the top assignment of the Swiss army to be selected as a member of the Guard, Cris is not sure he fits in.  Resigning would not only end his military career, but also leave a stain for any future private employment.  To make matters worse, Cris is fighting his attraction to and non-committal response from the Sergeant in the “Special Projects” office of the Guard, Alan Autenburg. To make matters worse, the sergeant is assigned to be his mentor.

As the attraction between the two grows, Alain has severe reservations about letting Cris into his world.  The last time he let someone in it almost destroyed him.  Alain wants to protect Cris from the things that go bump in the night.  A relationship with this new recruit would put in jeopardy, especially if he were to be trained as his replacement.  All that changes when Cris is cornered in a bar one night by an incubus who is trying to steal his soul.  The incubus shows both men their deepest desire.  They must now move forward with their relationship while fighting demons being called by someone within the walls of Catholic leadership.

This is a well-crafted book with enough tease of romance and action to fulfill the premise of the book.  Alain wants to be with Cris but the last man he was close to was hurt by his line of work so he Is very hesitant to follow his feelings.  This drives Cris crazy with what seems to be Alain’s flip flopping on whether or not to see where their feelings lead.  The secondary characters work to move the story along.  Of special note is Father Lotario.  The chain smoking, vodka swilling exorcist is not what one expects to find. I hope there are more tales of Alain, Cris and the demon fighting men of the Vatican.

The cover art by Aria Tan is perfect for the book.  Alain is standing in profile with the Vatican City skyline in the background.  You can also see Cris looking on in the background.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details

ebook
Published May 2nd 2016 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781911153481
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Lila Review: Enemies of the State by Tal Bauer

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Enemies of the StateThe prologue sets the suspense arc in the story and brings the reader into the heart of Washington DC.

We first meet Special Agent Ethan Reichenbach on Christmas Eve as he guards President-Elect Jack Spiers. They’re at the President’s Austin, TX apartment getting ready to travel for the presidential inauguration. This night marks the starts of a friendship frown upon the Secret Service, but that would change their lives.

Life as President of the United States isn’t what Jack expected. He had not problems dealing with his political counterparts or advisors, but the lack of a personal life is keeping him off balance. As a widower with no children, he has no family living with him at the White House residence, and he spends most of his spare time with Secret Service agents that wouldn’t engage him in a simple conversation. It’s up to Ethan, his detail supervisor, to find a way to help the president adjust to his new reality.

This new friendship would keep them sane as they deal with the realities of their jobs. As time passes, they found themselves at the mercy of external forces trying to change the world’s political balance. Their relationship turns into an exploration of something more, and simple decisions would affect, not only their partnership but world peace.

Enemies of the State is a political thriller that happens to have two male main characters. There are three sets of narrators in this book. One brings the chaos into the MCs’ lives, as well as, into the world of politics. The second tries to stop the plans from the first group before they can accomplish their goals. And lastly, we have Ethan and Jack dealing with world threats as their friendship morphs into a loving relationship.

There’s no easy way to review this story without spoiling the outcome. Each chapter starts with a briefing of the political events taking place between chapters. Some of them are short and to the points, but others introduce too much political information for a leisure reader. In order to truly enjoy this story, you need a basic knowledge of global politics and current threats. That’s the only reason I took away from the stories rating.

The amount of characters involved can be overwhelming, and sometimes you have to read a passage twice to keep them all straight, but the further you read, the easier it’s to follow all the events developing concurrently. There’s never an idle moment. Something is happening at all times even when the main characters are relaxing and spending a comfortable afternoon together.

The location descriptions are accurate, and even simple things like weather patterns and smells play an important part in the story. The amount of detail is impressive and well distributed. We get to see exactly what the characters saw and what they experienced. The reader is always on the narrator’s side, being part of the events.

Yes, this story has a good dose of romance and sexual exploration, but it’s more than that. The political events are as important as the main characters’ relationship and without them, it would be another bodyguard/protectee cliché. The author did an excellent job creating a world, realistic enough, to set the love story. Their relationship goes beyond lust, and it’s based on everyday interaction and complete trust– a slow build with a fulfilling HEA ending.

The images in the cover matched the main characters descriptions very well, and the rest of the composition shows the main ideas of the story perfectly.

Sale Links: NineStar | Amazon | ARe

Book Details: 

ebook, 324 pages
Published: February 15, 2016, by NineStar Press
ISBN: 9781911153337
Edition Language: English

Series: The Executive Office
Book #1: Enemies of the State

 

A Paul B Review: Enemies of the State (The Executive Office #1) by Tal Bauer

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars       ★★★★★

Enemies of the StateEthan Reichenbach is the lead agent in the President-Elect’s Secret Service detail.  He expects to spend the next four or eight years being shadowing the man just elected to live in the White House.  What he did not expect is to become the new President’s friend. Nor did he expect to develop a crush on the man in the first few months after they move to Washington. Doing so would break so many Secret Service rules and would be grounds for dismissal.  Not to mention that the President is straight.  This breaks Ethan’s personal rules of never getting involved in a relationship and never falling for a straight man.

Jack Spiers has spent the fifteen years since his wife’s death in combat in public service.  Focusing on veterans and their families, he has held several posts in Washington.  Having been elected President should be the pinnacle of his career.  But having lost his wife a long time ago, Jack finds the office lonely.  He turns to his lead Secret Service agent for friendship, which Ethan is hesitant to give at first.   However, as their friendship develops, Jack is surprised when one night Ethan kisses him.  To say that Jack is surprised would be an understatement.  As the two put distance between them, Jack still wants Ethan to be his friend.  But Jack begins to realize that he has feelings for Ethan as well.  He wants to find a way to make this work.

Against this backdrop, Jack is still President.  He must deal with a world that has basically gone to hell in a handbasket the last ten years.  With China and Russia both occupying countries and the Islamic Caliphate causing trouble both in the Middle East and around the world through terror attacks, Jack has his hands full.  However, the real trouble might be right under Jack’s nose.  An American general is working with agents in the Middle East to bring about even more instability to a region already at war.  As Jack works toward bringing peace to the world, there are others who are trying to insure that he does not succeed.  Ethan must work to protect the man who is not only the President but also his lover.

In order for a political thriller to work, the premise behind the book must work.  Set approximately 10-30 years in the future, Enemies of the State describes a world that could possibly exist at that time.  The Islamic Caliphate (ISIS/ISIL) has grown bolder with the passage of time, as has Russia with their land grabs.  The English, French and Germans are battle weary after numerous terrorist attacks.  Into this world, Jack must try to bring all sides together to prevent the start of World War III.

The other part of a good political thriller is the romance.  I loved the slow building romance between Ethan and Jack.  Ethan, the gay Secret Service agent, knows that a relationship with Jack is wrong on so many levels.  But are the signals the President is sending him real?  Jack is alone in the White House and needs a friend.  What could be wrong with that?  They begin to learn about each other as they work through their own problems with this relationship.  I look forward to see where the next book goes with both this relationship and the various subplots that are left unresolved.

The cover art by Aria Tan shows Ethan and Jack above the Washington skyline.  It is a fitting cover for the book.

Sales Links:   NineStar Press | Amazon |  ARe

Book Details

ebook, 324 pages
Published February 15th 2016 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781911153337
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series:  The Executive

Enemies of the State (The Executive #1)