Elusive Relations (Valor and Doyle #2) by Nicky James

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Life was easier when rival detectives, Quaid Valor and Aslan Doyle, kept to their own sides of the building. They could forget the one glorious night they’d shared and move on.

But when Aslan is called to a homicide and discovers one of the victims has a personal history with Quaid, he knows a confrontation is inevitable.

When news about the case spreads, Quaid can’t help but get involved. He wants answers; if not for himself, then for the families of the victims.

Joining Aslan and his partner, Quaid uncovers more than he bargained for—too many secrets and lies in a case that is dangerously personal.

Plus, the more time he spends with Aslan, the harder it is for Quaid to ignore his attraction to the playboy detective.

Aslan, who doesn’t believe in repeats, can’t seem to stop flirting with the grumpy MPU detective, and his rules go out the window as they’re drawn deeper into the case.

But what happens when one more night turns to two, and two turns into three?

Does Quaid want to risk his heart again?

Has Aslan developed feelings?

Can they put a stop to their fun and walk away?

Do they want to?

Rating: A

Detectives Quaid Valor and Aslan Doyle return in this second book in Nicky James’ latest series of romantic suspense novels, this time teaming up to investigate a homicide that hits very close to home for Quaid. Elusive Relations is every bit as compelling a read as Temporary Partner, with a cleverly constructed, twisty plot and some very welcome forward momentum in the slow-burn relationshiph between the two leads.

Note: As Elusive Relations is a direct sequel, it’s advisable to read Temporary Partner first. There are spoilers for that book in this review.

It’s been six weeks since Aslan Doyle and Quaid Valor solved the case of a missing infant – and since the explosive night they spent together. Despite the intensity of the sexual attraction sparking between them, it was a poor decision in so many ways – they’re like chalk and cheese in practically every respect. Aslan is a player who never does repeats while Quaid has never been into the hook-up scene and prefers to have a connection with his partners; Quaid prides himself on his self-control and logicality, Aslan is more of a go-with-the-flow type who does what he has to do to get the job done. Added to that, the detectives in homicide and the missing persons unit really don’t get on – which is another in a long list of complications neither man wants or needs.

During those six weeks, Aslan and Quaid have seen each other only in passing and are both telling themselves it’s for the best, even though they’re finding it really difficult to put that night behind them. At work though, it’s business as usual for Aslan, while Quaid and his partner are on a temporary re-assignment to cold cases, affording Quaid a bit of time to continue looking into the disappearance of his older sister some two decades earlier.

Aslan and his partner Torin Fox are called to the scene of the brutal murder of a young man who was so badly beaten as to be practically unrecognisable. The victim was in bed with a partner at the time; the other man was also very badly beaten but is still alive – just barely – and has been taken to hospital. The detectives learn that he’s the owner of the house, Jack Pilkey, and that according to the neighbours, he regularly brings guys home, but rarely the same one twice. As Aslan and Torin are looking around, a distant memory nags at the back of Aslan’s mind; seeing a photo of Pilkey crystallises his suspicions. Jack Pilkey is Quaid’s cheating, manipulative douchebag of an ex-boyfriend.

Quaid is at the courthouse when he gets a call from Jack’s distraught parents who tell him what’s happened. After visiting the hospital to find out what he can, he goes back to HQ, intent on talking to Aslan and Torin. Quaid knows he’s not thinking rationally, but it’s the only thing that makes any sense to him right now. He’d told Aslan he wasn’t going to go back to Jack after their latest break-up, and he hasn’t, but no longer being Jack’s boyfriend doesn’t negate the fact that someone he’d once been close to has been hurt or stop him wanting to find the person responsible.

Aslan is surprised to see Quaid approaching him – homicide and MPU keep to their own parts of the building and the demarcation lines are clear – and for just an instant the sight of Quaid sends a spark of excitement flashing through him. He can’t afford to show it, however, and falls back on his usual cockiness as deflection, but Quaid doesn’t rise to the bait this time. Instead he asks to be allowed to help with the investigation; he dated Jack for over a year and might be able to provide is useful insight into things others might overlook. Aslan is sceptical – he thinks Quaid is too close to be objective – but in the end, agrees to keep him updated and for him to act as a kind of consultant on the case, provided their superiors are on board.

Nicky James has once again penned a tightly-plotted mystery that takes some unexpected twists and turns as Aslan, Quaid – and Torin (who is a fantastic secondary character and side-kick) – work through interviews and evidence to piece together the bigger picture. I was impressed with the way she’s found such a plausible way for Valor and Doyle to work together again, with Quaid acting as a consultant rather than being able to partner Aslan, as well with the fact that I had no idea whodunnit until the reveal.

Also impressive is the way she balances the romance and the suspense parts of the story. With Quaid and Aslan in close proximity once again, it becomes more and more difficult for either of them to ignore their mutual attraction, or the fact that there’s something deeper growing between them. Aslan has been out of sorts ever since their last hook-up, for reasons he can’t – or won’t – admit to himself, and Quaid is still struggling with his tendency to attach greater importance to sex than he should and knows he’s setting himself up for a world of hurt should he take up Aslan’s invitation for a repeat. Yet they’re drawn to each other despite their differences, and there’s some fantastic relationship development going on here; the two men open up to each other about some deeply personal issues and have some really heartfelt conversations that further cement the connection between them. Quaid is still downright prickly at times, and Aslan hasn’t lost his ability to be an arsehole, and watching them allow themselves to be vulnerable around each other and starting on that road towards falling in love is very satisfying. The flirty banter and humour I enjoyed in the first book is still very much in evidence, and I loved those little moments when Aslan works hard to make Quaid smile in spite of himself, and how proud he is when he succeeds – it’s wonderfully, ridiculously cute.

These two still have a huge number of issues to work on between them, but by the end of this book there’s every indication that they’ll get there – together with a big hint as to the direction the next in the series is going to take.

Fun, sexy, clever and romantic Elusive Relations is an enthralling read featuring two complex and engaging leads, a superbly drawn secondary cast and a thoroughly intruguing plot that had me glued to it from start to finish. I’m eagerly awaiting more from Valor and Doyle some time later this year.

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