By Heather A.
3.5 out of 5 stars ★★★★☆
Joe Peluso has blood on his hands. But lawyer and psychologist Neha Ahluwalia is determined to help him craft a solid defense…even if she can’t defend her own obsession. Because Joe took out those Russian mobsters for good reason–they were responsible for the death of his beloved foster brother. Those six bad guys were part of the ruthless clan of bear shifters who control Brooklyn’s Russian mafia, so his vigilante justice has earned him countless enemies in New York’s supernatural-controlled underworld, and no friends in a government that now bends to Russia at every turn.
Joe knows that creatures like him only deserve the worst. Darkness. Solitude. Punishment. But meeting Neha makes him feel human for the first time in forever. He’s never wanted anything in his life like he wants Neha, and he’ll break almost any rule to spend a minute alone with her. But when the Russian mob attacks the jail for payback, Joe and Neha are forced to escape. Before long they’re on the run–from monsters who want him dead and from their own traitorous hearts.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Firstly, I want to acknowledge how political this book is. Set in a time where the president enacts more and more discriminatory orders in place, shifters and magical people are constantly being tracked, and their humanity questioned. But even Neha worried for her Indian family that the order of the land is based on white supremacy. I found this part of the world building the most compelling part of reading because of so many parallels to our own timeline (cages at the border, sanctuary cities).
This book is a departure from the contemporary romance, Tikka Chance on Me, which I read previously, and I really loved it. It’s darker and grittier (sex against a brick wall, notwithstanding), and every character is complex. Similarly to Tikka, the heroine is Indian-American and devoted to her family. The hero is a tough, but loyal guy who doesn’t think he deserves love.
The part I struggled with the most was the insta-love between Neha and Joe. I know Neha was attracted to him, but I didn’t understand her motivation for throwing everything away to be with him. She was doing a psychological profile on Joe, but I don’t think any deep feelings were shared that would have led her to make the choices she did. It could be that I’m not a fan of the trope, but when Joe is pushing her away, the “why are you with me?” kind of conversation, I didn’t really find satisfaction in her answers.
By mid-way, they run off together and their connection grows stronger, so at least we have that as a way to build up their relationship, together with the subsequent fallout that happens near the climax kind of makes for a nice balance of emotions.
(But maybe none of that matters because they have super hot sex all the time and Joe loves to pleasure women with his tongue!)
So, A+ sex scenes, action, and set in NYC makes for some pretty great reading. There are a plethora of Twilight and other pop culture references, which is fun and solidifies the setting as shifters in our current timeline. I am interested in getting to know more of the third shift folks, since it seems that’s where the series is heading. Maybe we can get some Finn/Grace drama next??