Review: Corruption (Diversion #3) by Eden Winters

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Corruption coverSNB Agent Simon “Lucky” Harrison has had many lives and just as many names. He started life and entered criminal life as Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter.  He exited life that way too when it  became necessary to fake his death as a part of a pharmaceutical drug operation that turned ugly and ended up with Lucky “fatally” injured in the hospital.  Now Simon “Lucky” Harrison is a successful agent at the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau.  He is still recovering from his leg injury he incurred during the last drug bust when a new illegal drug operation comes to light.  When a young business woman dies on a dance floor from an overdose of bath salts, she is but the first of many.  The SNB clues lead to a local motorcycle gang and Lucky thinks he is the one most likely to be chosen to go undercover.  But his bosses have another idea.  They choose Bo, Lucky’s partner and love, although he would be the last to admit it.

Former Marine Bo Schollenberger, now SNB Agent Bo Schollenberger has turned his new career into a huge success.   Now his bosses at the    SNB want him to impersonate someone else. Someone named Cyrus Cooper, a bad ass drug dealing biker, a total opposite from the real Bo.  Bo has been taking  classes in undercover work and excelling at adopting various personas to everyones amazement.  But Bo is hiding a secret about his chameleon-like ability, one that just might get him killed or at least lose the man he loves, Lucky Harrison.

Soon Bo is deep undercover and becoming a man Lucky would never recognize.  Brutal, ruthless and deadly, Bo settles things with his fists or a gun and soon rises to the top of the organization.  When another agent dies, Bo needs another man to be his backup and guess who arrives?  But has Lucky arrived too late to save Bo?

With the third book in the Diversion series, Corruption by Eden Winters finds the two main characters at a crossroads in both their careers and their relationship.  In the last outing, we watched as Lucky finally realized that he loved Bo but he had  problems vocalizing his need as well as his love, while Bo was able to tell Lucky he loved him.  That emotional change and uneven state of affairs brought about new issues for Lucky, a man unsure of his position and ability to give Bo what he needs, including a stable relationship and a home.  Bo also  seemed to realize the many challenges ahead if he wanted Lucky in his life.  Corruption begins with both men questioning the relationship and their ability to go forward with a future together.

I love the complexities that Eden Winters continues to build into this series as well as her main characters.  In each new book, she adds new layers and textures to their relationship while revealing more of the depths to each man’s character and past.  Lucky has to be one of the most unusual main characters in  recent m/m romance or any romance for that matter.  A former drug lord’s boy toy and thief, he now works for the same agency that put him away.  But Lucky’s past is only as far away as the next emotional crisis of which there are many these days.  As Walter, his boss and father figure, presses Lucky to take on new responsibilities within the agency, Lucky fights to keep everything the same in his life, both his career and his romance with Bo.  Lucky likes the stasis he had achieved with Bo and his job at the SNB and any change throws Lucky off guard, bringing up old and new insecurities as well as painful instances from his past life.  Bo is pressing for changes as well.  Bo wants a commitment and not just a verbal one. He wants a very specific physical acknowledgement that they are on the same mental and emotional page with each other and Lucky is reluctant to give Bo what he wants.

As the story is told from Lucky’s pov, the reader has an intimate knowledge of Lucky’s thoughts and feelings as Bo presses for more than Lucky is able to give him at the moment.  We understand that Lucky can’t figure out why he is having problems moving forward while knowing exactly what is behind  Lucky’s refusal to change his relationship with Bo because Eden Winters has crafted a man whose motives are elusive only to himself and not those around him.   Equal in complexity to Lucky is the character of Bo Schollenberger.  His depths are still forthcoming as is the pain he continues to carry around with him from his past.  Bo’s position within the SNB has been changing with each book.  Bo has been steadily acquiring new skills and respect within the agency to Lucky’s consternation and pride.  One issue Bo has had in the past has been his emotional involvement with the people he has met undercover and this new case will test everything about Bo, from his character to his ability to continue to work for the SNB.

When Bo goes undercover as Cyrus Cooper, Winters creates yet another fully realized character, only this persona lays overtop a character we already know and love.  Cyrus Cooper is Bo’s complete opposite and yet he is Cyrus Cooper, a fact that not only the reader has to recognize but Lucky as well.  This is quite an achievement by Eden Winter.  She gives us two completely real yet opposing characters inhabiting the same body and makes us believe in both of them.  And then she elevates this aspect of the story by having Lucky relate in different ways to Bo and Cyrus, changing his approach to each man emotionally and sexually.

And as if all this is not enough, Winters throws in multiple plot threads, a charismatic and scary motorcycle gang lord, and a drug bust that ends in a shocking revelation that changes everything for Lucky, Bo, Walter and the SNB.  It is a bit of a cliffhanger and still this is an incredibly satisfying book.

Eden Winters introduced us to the regulations and corporate structures of the pharmaceutical industry and made them seem as foreign and obtuse as any business that has been twisted for criminal means.  It has been a real revelation and a remarkable foundation for this romance action series or whatever you want to label it.  I find myself hesitating, not wanting to put the  limitations of a label on such a unique and revelatory series and cast of characters.  I only know that I want and need more of them and the dubious path that Winters has laid out before them.  It’s an amazing journey and I know you will want to be here with me every step of the way.

If you are new to the series, don’t start here.  Go back to Diversion and start at the beginning of this marvelous series.  Here are the books in the Diversion series in the order they were written and should be read:

Diversion (Diversion #1)
Collusion (Diversion #2)
Corruption (Diversion #3)

Book Details:

ebook, First, 195 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Rocky Ridge Books
edition languageEnglish
url http://rockyridgebooks.com/2013/10/01/corruption/
series: Diversion #3

Review: Burden by Annmarie McKenna

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Burden coverIt’s Detective Keegan Monroe’s first day off after a long undercover assignment and all he wants to do is relax and enjoy his coffee.  But his day is shattered when a  man dives in front of him throwing them both to the ground.  Then a gunshot goes past them as a murder attempt fails.  The man laying on top of him is stuttering that he couldn’t let him kill Keegan.  Suspicious of his savior, Keegan takes the man into custody for questioning.  But at the precinct some astonishing facts are revealed. The suspect is a former I.A . police detective.

Detective Brennan McGuire has been struggling to adjust to the brain damage he incurred when his car went over a cliff during an investigation.  Along with stuttering and the massive physical scarring caused by the accident, Brennan also has long and short term memory problems which make it almost impossible to cope with the requirements of every day life.  Brennan can’t remember the accident or much else about his life as a police officer.  But something sparked in the depths of his traumatized memory when he saw someone aiming a gun at the man at the table and he reacted.

During the investigation into the shooting, Keegan and Brennan find themselves falling first into bed and then into a relationship.  But their romance triggers Brennan’s repressed memories of his accident with startling results.  Now Keegan and Brennan find themselves with not one mystery but two to solve and some very determined people who want to make sure that Brennan never remember.  Can Keegan and Brennan find love while keeping each other alive?

I think Annmarie McKenna has the makings of a terrific story here but several issues, including the ending, leave it at that – just the ingredients and nothing more.  I loved the idea of a brain injured detective whose traumatized brain holds the key to his injury and much more.  It’s a great plot tactic because it pulls in those readers who love the hurt/comfort element while upping the tension and anticipation in the story for the moment when the character remembers the past and pulls it all together in a satisfying denouement.   And it works for most of the story. Right up until the author throws it all away.

Detective Brennan McGuire’s life’s a mess.  He can barely remember the social niceties that get people through the day, let alone  pay for a cup of coffee. As created by McKenna, he is an object of sympathy and engages our affections immediately.  I liked her treatment of his brain trauma.  He is still touchy and snarky even if he can’t remember the simplest thing like a pepperoni pizza or to shake the hand offered to him.   His is a beautifully layered portrait of a man coping with brain trauma and not always succeeding.

Keegan Monroe is a somewhat less effective character.  As a detective who immediately gets sexually involved with a suspect, and a brain damaged suspect at that, Keegan appears to have a less than solid grasp on police ethics, not to mention the appearances of taking advantage of someone in recovery.  I got that the sparks flew between them.  McKenna does a more than credible job making us believe the men can’t keep their hands off each other.  But the facts about their relationship and Brennan’s physical and mental state kept me from throughly investing myself in their affair.

The author does a good job in plotting out the mystery for the readers.  She slowly gears up the anxiety over the safety of the men as more and more facts about  Brennan are revealed. But all the suspense and anticipation is demolished in an ending that is rushed and incomplete in terms of motives and facts.  I was, in fact, astonished when I came to the end.  All that build up and the reader gets nothing for their time and effort spent on this story.  It pretty much just stops with no real explanation, no satisfactory reveal of  all the criminals, and certainly no resolution to the relationship of a detective and a still brain damaged individual.

And that is a shame because this book could have been so much more.  With a longer, more fully developed ending and perhaps even an epilogue, this could have been one of my “must read” recommendations.  But as it is, I will say that if you are a fan of Annmarie McKenna, then pick this up.  But if you are looking for romance, a terrific mystery and an ending that will leave you satisfied, then head elsewhere.

Cover by Angela Waters.  This is just a generic cover that has nothing really to do with the story.  Grade C for effort.

Book Details:

ebook, 117 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
ISBN 1619218291 (ISBN13: 9781619218291)
edition language English

Review: The Journal of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary #6) by RJ Scott

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Rating: 5 stars

The Journal of Sanctuary OneJake Callahan was looking forward to spending time with his brother, Hayden and his boyfriend up at their cabin for Christmas.  It had been an extremely tough year for everyone who worked at Sanctuary, the secret organization devoted to keeping witnesses  and other “vulnerables” safe when the alphabet organizations (CIA, FBI etc) couldn’t.  Sanctuary operatives were still trying to close down the Bullen case as there were files still to be encrypted and a few criminals left to round up.  Still, this time of year was special to Jake and he needs it now more than ever as the betrayal by exFBI agent Sean Hanson was as painful as the day he first learned that Sean was working for Bullen. Now all Jake wants is some peace and time with his brother but Mother Nature is making that impossible.  The northeast corridor is being blanketed by a snow storm, Hayden is stuck in New York  City with his boyfriend Beckett. and Jake is facing Christmas alone at the cabin.  That is until a bloody and injured Sean Hansen appears on his doorstep and faints into the snow.

Sean Hansen is being hunted and by several factions, all of whom want him dead.  The gunshot wound in his side attests to that and between the pain and the snow Sean is being to despair of ever making his destination.  The cabin called Sanctuary One was no longer used for official business but Sean figured it would just be off the grid enough for him to be safe there until the last of his mission is finished. And then all Sean wants to do is find the man he had started to love, so he could explain and apologize. The last person he expects to see just before passing out from pain and blood loss is Jake Callahan, the man he has been thinking about.

As the snow storm turns into a blizzard that seals the cabin off from everyone around them, Jake and Sean are left to deal with their memories, emotions and the fact that the killers are still on Sean’s trail, putting them  both in danger.

RJ Scott’s Sanctuary series remains one of my top series for 2012 and this latest edition just cements it firmly in place.  The Journal of Sanctuary One picks up where Full Circle (Sanctuary #5) left off, with members of the Bullen family in custody, the Bullen case coming to a close and Sean Hansen escaping from a prison van and on the loose.  Now only a short time later, all the operatives are in recovery mode in one way or another. Manny and Josh (Full Circle) are at a safe house in Canada, working on the encryption of the files, Hayden and Beckett are in New York, Dale is waiting for Joseph to come back from a mission and Jake is feeling alone and hurting from Sean’s betrayal. And you are there with him, feeling his pain and loneliness.

And that is one of the real joys of this series. RJ Scott has created a cast of characters, so complex, so real and from a variety of backgrounds that they are memorable from the very start.  In some books and series, I have to think hard to bring up names and associate them with their personas, not so with the Sanctuary series.  Mention Morgan and I can picture him in detail.  Joseph and Dale, two of the hottest characters (Navy Seal and ex Seal) in the series, and I feel as though I know them intimately.  Over the course of the series, we meet one unforgettable character after another and watch as they bond with each other, and find love. And through it all, the thread that ties the books together along with the Sanctuary organization is the Bullen crime family, which extends from Congress to the many family businesses.  The Bullens have destroyed families, tortured and murdered  their way to the accumulation of wealth and power.  And Scott managed to make the investigation as thrilling as her love stories.  Each book moved the investigation forward (and sometimes back, depending upon the double cross) and always a new criminal element presented itself by the end of the book as well as a new couple. How I loved every minute they continued to investigate the Bullen crime family, a most heinous group of thugs and the wild pathways they took to get evidence and witnesses.

And The Journal of Sanctuary One brings the investigation back to its very beginnings,  including something I didn’t see coming and back to Jake Callahan whose father started the Sanctuary organization and who built Sanctuary One.  The author really pulls together all the elements from each book, including some I didn’t realize were important, to finish off the Bullens once and for all.  We get a closer understanding not only of who Jake is, and what has driven him all these years but that of Sean Hansen, an enigma whose story we have been waiting to hear.  RJ Scott has included most of the characters we love from the other stories, even if we only see and hear  them over the phones and Skype.

And there is nothing like a snowbound cabin to bring out the emotional explosions and stress that have been building for these characters and the author delivers the required scenes in painful detail and authentically loud conversations.  Just what you would expect from these men who are so much each others equal in every way, just perfect.

So have we heard the last from Sanctuary and its operatives?  I hope not.  I get the feeling that we will be hearing from Dale and Joseph soon.  Remember Dale was expecting Joseph back from his mission and we never heard that he made it.  Hmmmm….funny that.  It brings me hope that this outstanding series will continue and that I will meet up once more with all my favorite couples as they investigate, hack, protect, and love. So if you haven’t made the acquaintance of Sanctuary and their operatives, start at the beginning with Guarding Morgan and work your way through the stories in the order they were written.  That way you won’t miss a double cross, new witness or new crime and or course, new couple.  You will love them as much as I do.

Sanctuary Series in the order they should be read in order to fully understand the Bullen Family conspiracy and the characters involved:

Guarding Morgan, Sanctuary Series #1 – rating 4.25 stars

The Only Easy Day, Sanctuary Series, #2 – my review here

Face Value, Sanctuary Series #3 – my review here

Still Water, Sanctuary Series #4 – my review here

Full Circle, Sanctuary Series, #5 – my review here

The Journal of Sanctuary One, #6

Buy link here LoveLaneBooks.co.uk

All the Sanctuary books can be bought at the link above.