Author: Karin Harlow
Page Count: 405 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star
Genre: romantic suspense, paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
50 words or less: Angela Giacomelli is dead. Out of the ashes comes Jax Cassidy, operative for LOST who figures she's about seen and done it all. Enter Marcus Cross, her target, who's an assassin....and a vampire...
I've always felt that saying I was surprised that a book was a debut novel was kind of a backhanded compliment. Usually that thought comes to mind when I read a book that's an author's first published work that reads like the work of someone who's been there and done that and has the backlist to prove it. This thought popped into my head within the first fifty pages of Enemy Lover. Remember in cartoons how the eyeballs will just bug out of the characters head and then snap back in? That sums up my experience with this book pretty efficiently.
Enemy Lover is a neat fusion of paranormal romance and romantic suspense. The first part of the book is devoted to Jax and how she came to be Jax (and not Angela), introduces the ancillary characters on Jax's side of the proverbial tree, and explains what LOST is and what it's all about. We don't even meet Marcus Cross, the vampire hero of the story, until almost 5o pages in. The author makes this strategy work; normally a massive infodump that delays introducing one of the main players wouldn't work for me in the slightest; the author's writing style and inclusion of the perfect level of detail put me squarely in Jax's corner and sucked me in to the rest of the story.
Jax is a heroine I couldn't help but like. She had been through hell prior to where this story starts. Her backstory is graphic, gruesome, earns a Scandalous Books mark easily, but is integrated throughout the rest of the book and is critical to understanding the story. She has a tough job and is the only female in a world that takes male-dominated to a whole new level. The author isn't afraid to bring that issue up, or to have the characters deal with their hangups as a part of the story. The guys on Jax's team all have very strong opinions about her hooking up with Marcus; they have to deal with her potentially sleeping with the enemy, but also deal with the fact that when Jax overcame her past and moved on, it wasn't with one of them. I found the dynamics between the players on the LOST team extremely interesting.
Marcus works for The Solution, another free-lance group that takes yucky jobs and gets them done when legal, publicly declared options can't or won't work. He thinks he's one of the good guys, so to speak, and so it's distressing for him when he's so attracted to Jax. His back story is as bleak and gruesome as Jax's, and underneath all their tough rhetoric and posturing and danger-baiting, they're both very lonely, vulnerable people who'd like to rely on someone and have it actually pan out for a change.
This book is not for the faint of heart- there's violence, torture, emotional pain, drama, political intrigue, and the sad lesson that justice doesn't always prevail and that sometimes, might does indeed make right. This serves as a contrast to the relationship that blooms between Marcus and Jax, and definitely made me root for them as a couple, as bleak as the situation looked sometimes.
My only quibble- the ending was way rushed. It was like we were all riding the adrenaline high of the climax of the story and then BAM were pushed off a cliff. Who are Rurik and Aelia? What are they doing in the story? Will we actually get to the meet them in the next story? I certainly hope so, and I hope that we get to know the other members of LOST better as well.
The action in this book is nonstop; the good guys aren't always totally easy to identify; there were parts where I had to remind myself to blink so my eyeballs wouldn't fall out. I was depressed at the end of the book because now I'm going to have to wait for the next one.
Overall Grade: A