Author: Ashe Barker
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 200 Pages
Category: Erotic Romance, Mystery/Suspense
At a Glance: I tried to like this book, but unfortunately, my intense dislike of both the MCs and the lack of relationship development overshadowed everything else.
Reviewed By: Lindsey
Blurb: Gideon Maybury enjoys a life of wealth and privilege, not to mention the advantages his position offers him in his career as a merchant banker and his less public life as a high-class, skilled, and very well-paid assassin for Her Majesty’s government. When his brother dies unexpectedly, he becomes the Duke of Westmoreland.
Michael Mathison has hated Gideon since they were at university together. He’s convinced Gideon had a hand in the death of Michael’s college lover, Christopher, and that he had something to do with the death of his own brother. So he gets a job as Gideon’s driver, enabling him to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of the elder Maybury sibling. At first his suspicions seem to be confirmed, but clues emerge that suggest all is not as it appears at Maybury Hall.
As the mystery deepens, so does the attraction between the two implacable enemies, as does the feeling that they have met before—under dark and terrible circumstances. Each has reasons not to trust the other, but neither is averse to a bit of kinky play. Gideon and Michael end up owing each other their lives, and it results in consequences neither could have imagined.
Review: Have you ever read a book, and continued to read it, because you were curious and wanted to see how it played out, and the concept was intriguing even if you have major issues with the characters that seemed to taint the rest of the book? That is me with this book. I do not like reviews like this. I find it hard to articulate exactly what it was that left me feeling unsatisfied, but I’ll do my best.
First, let me start with what had me engrossed and what I thought was well done. I thoroughly enjoyed the premise, and the supernatural element at play, which the reader gets in the prologue. The Order of the Black Knights is a series which has the same basic supernatural component (at least, from what I was able to discern) but each book will be written by a different author and have a different set of MCs. Though it is a supernatural element that seems to drive the series, it wasn’t necessarily present the majority of this particular book. But, understanding the background explains several events and behaviors of the MCs, and I found it fascinating. Even though I didn’t particularly enjoy this story as a whole, I am still fascinated enough by the background to read the other novels when they are released.
There are some seriously dark elements at play, and although I don’t generally have a problem with darker stories, I need to at least sympathize or become invested with the characters to counteract the darkness. That is what this book failed to do.
The characters were well-crafted; they were definitely dimensional and evoked a lot of feelings. Unfortunately, none of those feelings were good. I really could not ever come to like Gideon, and truly wasn’t even a fan of Michael. Both MCs had some serious morality issues, and Gideon, in particular, is a pretty much a sociopath. I won’t go into too many details, but some of his behavior and thoughts had my skin crawling. Although the explanation for this behavior ties into the paranormal aspect introduced in the prologue, it wasn’t enough to make me like him—at all. Michael, who I assume was supposed to be the catalyst for the change in Gideon, had just as many problems with his moral compass. I have read plenty of books where both MCs have dubious morals, and could even be considered “bad guys,” but their relationship development and how the characters were together still had me invested.
This book could have worked if the romance was more developed. It wasn’t. So instead, I was left with two characters who shared scorching scenes between the sheets but lacked an emotional connection that was believable. I didn’t sense any real in depth emotions between the characters, other than Michael’s intense dislike and anger towards Gideon, and Gideon’s distrust and irritation towards his new driver; their “relationship” pretty much appeared to be about the sex, which admittedly was hot, but it wasn’t enough. It isn’t that I need tenderness or gentleness in a relationship, or romance—sometimes characters aren’t tender or gentle and it works, but what I do need is an emotional connection between my protagonists, something tangible between the two MCs that explains how their relationship works and the feelings they have for each other. The lack of anything between the two outside of the sheets left me feeling slighted, and ultimately, the romantic aspect of the story was unbelievable.
The murder mystery was, for the most part, interesting, and I found myself wanting to know what was happening, but when it all comes to a head, it fell apart. I figured out the who but couldn’t figure out they why. So I was definitely intrigued, and I had hoped that this aspect of the story would have helped tip the scales in my overall enjoyment. Then the climax hit, and it was so far over the top it fell apart.
This book had a lot of potential, with an interesting premise driving the story; unfortunately, the lack of relationship development and my intense dislike of the main characters overshadowed everything else and could not counteract the darker elements present to make it an enjoyable read.
You can buy Gideon here: