Honestly, I have to say that this novel was very well-written. The beginning of the novel gave the reader a relatively thorough explanation of past events that led to the current situation arising within the story. We have Derek DiMarzio (Marz), who was in Special Forces along with his fellow soldiers Beckett, Shane, Nick, and Easy. After their team was ambushed in Afghanistan, they also received less than honorable discharges. Unfortunately, their former commander Colonel Frank Merrit, was illegally transporting and dealing heroin. Furthermore, their lives were destroyed because of their commanders’ illegal activities being connected to them. What is worse, however, is that their ambush was orchestrated as a way to get to their former commander. During this ambush, seven brothers died, while a few others were injured like Marz who lost half his leg when he saved Beckett from a grenade.
So, naturally the men want to not only clear their name, but find justice. When Charlie Merrit (the late Colonel’s son) is kidnapped, his sister Becca brings the team together to save him, and carry out their new mission. In the process, they come across a name: Manny Garza. A few of them know him from a prior encounter in Afghanistan, and it becomes clear that he played some part in their ambush, as well as the current issue surrounding their commander’s activities. There is a lot going on in this book, and the story is set in Baltimore where the Church Gang (the most known illicit gang dealing in guns and drugs all up the east coast) is a major player as well as a private security company named Seneka. I’ll just come out and say wow! There are so many twists in this plot that one does not see coming!
I was completely engaged in this book for many reasons including the way Laura brought illegal activities to light. Anyone who has military friends is aware of issues that some soldiers face regarding illegal contraband and smuggling. Not to mention, corruption (it is just that many don’t talk about it) and the potential problems involving private security companies, as well as their funding. Then, she threw in the harsh reality of our soldiers and their sustained injuries during combat that they may face. It cannot be said enough that this book really hits home in many ways whether you are connected to the military personally or not. The glimpse she provides into the troubles that Marz faces with intimacy and personal strength is undeniably amazing. Plus, she gives us a substantial and realistic connection between every character. I cannot even stress just how much I loved the camaraderie between the brothers of this SF team because it is truly on point. I appreciated the look into the problematic individuals in the militaristic world, and the truly honorable side of the soldiers as well.
I just loved Beckett and Nick (I would say these are my favorite two). I thought the dynamic between Marz and Beckett as they learned to cope with the past, and not let guilt destroy their friendship was beautiful. Laura really captured the hearts of these characters and held them wide open for us to see inside. I could really feel the love and guilt Beckett had for Marz, despite his cold attitude as a way to deal with Marz losing his leg by saving him. Nick, I just genuinely liked for his quick mind, leadership skills, and warmth. Shane and Easy were just nice guys and Shane was easy to like with his obvious hatred for the abuse of women. I also liked that Laura acknowledged the problem that our soldiers face with depression after experiencing trauma, like Easy did. As an individual who has researched PTSD and studied some psychology, as well as someone who has friends with PTSD, I feel inclined to praise Laura for touching on such issues.
Then, there is our main gal, Emilie Garza. Marz has to engage in conversation with her to find information on her brother Manny Garza. Of course, they become involved romantically, as expected. However, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this couple is their chemistry, not romantically, but as partners. The two of them of course bring unbelievable sexual heat to the story during the right times, but what I really enjoyed is the strength they found with one another. Emilie is just tough, though she doesn’t seem to realize it at first. She is a psychologist, she is a recent divorcee, and she comes to realize that her brother is completely unhinged mentally. After a time, she discerns just how troubled her brother Manny is, and accepts the monster he has become through facts. To say that I liked her character would not be accurate because she is just a stunning individual. I loved how she always did the right thing even when it would hurt Manny. She knew she Manny had to face his fate, but it did not change her love for him; this ability to be compassionate and see the good in people is a very endearing quality.
Perhaps this is why Marz and Emilie work so well together. They not only provide comfort for one another, but they are strong, loyal individuals. They have an openly raw relationship. I love how honest they were with each other. As an example, I relished the details of Marz and his prosthetic limb, while reveling in Emilie’s acceptance of it. Marz, who was just lovable for his loyalty and sense of humor, threw me as a character. Laura made him into an earnest, loyal, fun man who rolls with the punches and always lives for himself (the fact that he is sexy is also a plus). To say that they have an exciting relationship is an understatement (the sexual encounters….wow; one particular aspect I have not encountered prior to this, and I have read a lot of romance). So, this novel is very hot indeed with electrically charged action as well!
Ultimately, throughout the story love is found, truths are exposed, lies are derailed, epic shootouts occur, and a few deaths come to light. Then, there is the involvement of Jeremy, Nick’s younger brother, a tattoo artist and friend who keeps the guys safe by opening his home to them. Plus, the Raven’s (a rival motorcycle gang) help out as well! Goodness, there are so many facets to this story one cannot possibly give acknowledgement to all. However, it is important to note that Manny Garza is only but a small piece of the puzzle, and when you find out all of the details you will be chomping at the bit for more! Oh, and I certainly must say that I am beyond excited to read about Beckett and his potential involvement with Nick’s sister Katherine at a later time!
**ARC provided by Publisher**
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