A MelanieM Review: Manipulation (Diversion #4) by Eden Winters

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Lucky Lucklighter has a new life. His old life wants him back.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]From the jail cell courtesy of a life of crime, complete with drug lord lover, Lucky Lucklighter surfaced with a new life,  a new name and a new career as an agent for the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau.  Now Simon “Lucky” Harrison, Lucky even has a new boyfriend and partner,Bo Schollenberger.  Bo Schollenberger arrived at the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau in much the same way as Lucky.  As a pharmaceutical chemist, Bo ended up with a drug addiction and his  illegal deeds brought him to the attention of the head of the Bureau looking for just the right  or wrong type of men for his narcotics team.

Through perseverance and charm, Bo worked his way under Lucky’s defenses and his “I-Get-Along-Fine-Alone” mindset until Lucky starts thinking the unthinkable…that they might just have a future together.

But now Bo is missing.  Their last case involved unexpected ties to bigger crime syndicates, and a voice from Lucky’s past who whispers ““Did you miss me?”

Now Lucky must figure out who is lying and who he can trust?  The voice belonged to someone he was told was dead and now seems very alive.  And there is more to Bo’s absence than people are telling Lucky.  Is Bo missing by choice or by abduction? Every clue, every trail Lucky follows leads him back to the drug Corruption and the syndicate flooding the US markets full of this dangerously addictive drug.   With temptation all around, what won’t Lucky do to find the man he loves and bring him safely home?

Eden Winter’s Diversion series captured my heart from the moment I met Lucky Lucklighter and Bo Schollenberger in Diversion (Diversion #1).  I love complicated wounded men and here were two that not only fell into that category but did so in a way I had never seen before.  There are so many layers to these men.  Lucky’s background is a patchwork of hot cars, adrenaline rushes, and poor choices that led from boosting cars for drag racing to major involvement with a crime lord as employee and lover.  Lucky is  highly intelligent, walled off, and confident, while still leaving space in his heart for his sister, her children, and finally Bo.

Bo Schollenberger. Where to start?  Each book reveals more complications and dimensions to this already convoluted personality.  At first glance and meeting, Bo came across as extremely affable and gentle, a victim of his addiction and circumstances.  A far cry from Lucky and his unrepentant outlook who when given a choice between continuing life behind bars or freedom as an agent chose freedom.  Certainly a choice made from expediency instead of a need to “do right”.  But nothing is as it seems, and the more that Lucky (and the reader) got to know Bo,  the more we realized that Bo has depths and pain to him and his past then he was ready to reveal or deal with.

Oh the joy of discovery.  Each new story and case has uncovered new insights into each man and their past.  Bo and Lucky’s interpersonal dynamics has deepened and expanded along with their relationship.  It’s hot, sexy, at times tender and rough.  You never know from moment to moment what to expect when they get together.  And to their chagrin and our delight, neither do they.  Uncertainty, hesitation, an emotional neediness…all that is new to Lucky and it has contributed to his inability to commit to just about anything.  I love it when a reader can’t predict what the main characters will do in any given situation.  It keeps us on the edge of our seats as the plot swivels and swoops through dangerous highs and deceptively deadly lows.  This is a E Ticket ride in every way.

Eden Winters has also chosen a highly unusual subject and law enforcement agency, in this case the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau,  as the foundation for this series and as professions for Lucky and Bo.  Think hard, how many series and books are developed around pharmaceutical corporations, over/under the counter drugs, and the criminals associated with the shipping and stocking of known medications?  I can only think of one.  Eden Winter’s Diversion series.  That aspect of  this series has been an eye-opener about the giant pharmaceutical corporations, and not in a good way.  More than once it has sent me running to research different elements that have popped up during Lucky and Bo’s cases, ones that left this reader thinking about new issues far into the night.  This series world building is as quirky, complex, and believable as the characters living out their messy lives within it.  I obsess over the characters relationships, the plots, the surprises and then go back and start them over again to see what clues and secrets I missed out the first reading.  And then wait for the next book to arrive.

This story contains quite a few stunning revelations, more layers of deception than ever before and angst by the boatload.  Once started I couldn’t put it down until it was finished…right around 2:45am.  And could I sleep after that? Uh no. Manipulation contains shocks that will shake the foundations of Lucky, and Bo, and even Walter their boss.  Where there had been certainty, now is left nothing but fog and questions.  The narrative is concisely told, the tension and suspense increasingly exponentially until the plot feels as tightly wound as a coiled spring.  It explodes with all the dangerous impact one might expect and the ramifications will still be unfolding right into the  next book in the series, Redemption (which is being written now).

Each year a book from this series has found its way,  deservedly so, onto the Best of lists for Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words and others.  This year is no different.  Manipulation will be high on my Best of 2014 lists, just as I expect Redemption to be there on the list for 2015.  All are highly recommended and Must Reads that should be on everyone’s TBR stack of stories.

If you haven’t discovered this series yet, please, please, don’t start here.  The pleasures and joys that come from the character growth and relationship dynamics is best enjoyed if you start at the beginning and Lucky and Bo’s first meeting in Diversion.  I have a list for you below.  Make it your check list of stories to read. Eden Winters is a remarkable author, and the creator of Lucky and Bo is certain to find her way onto your automatic buy list if she is not there already.

Tag this story and series one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Highly Recommended Must Reads!  Happy Reading!

Cover artist: L.C. Chase.  Terrific cover perfect for the character and story inside.

Sales Links:  Rocky Ridge Books     All Romance (ARe)         amazon           buy it here

Book Details:

ebook,
First Published November 1st 2014 by Rocky Ridge Books
seriesDiversion #4

Books in the Diversion series in the order they were written and should be read:

Diversion (Diversion, #1)
Collusion (Diversion #2)
Corruption (Diversion #3)
Manipulation (Diversion, #4)
Redemption (Diversion, #5) coming in 2015

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