The Secret She Keeps (Whitaker Island #2) by HelenKay Dimon

This title may be purchased from Amazon

No matter where you run to…

Connor Rye seeks solace on remote Whitaker Island. When his first quiet evening ends with a blow to the head, it’s clear that nothing—and no one—is as it seems. Still haunted by his sister’s murder, he’s buried himself in work while trying to hold his family together. Now, when he has a minute to breathe, he knows better than to get involved with a stranger, but it might be too late to keep his distance.

Desire will find you…

For years she’s pretended to be someone else, but Maddie Rhine is done living in the shadows. Old habits are hard to kick however, and when her past follows her to Whitaker she’s forced to hide once more. Except with Connor. Effortlessly sexy Connor makes it difficult to ignore him. He sees right through her…and senses her fear.

Someone is watching her. And waiting for the right moment to strike. This time Connor vows to be ready.

Rating: B

The Secret She Keeps is the second book in HelenKay Dimon’s new series of romantic suspense novels set on the small, privately owned Whitaker Island, located somewhere off the Washington coast.  It’s an entertaining, and intriguing read featuring a couple of appealing protagonists and a well-drawn secondary cast, and although I hadn’t read the previous book, I didn’t feel as though I’d missed anything, so this one works perfectly well as a standalone.

When Connor Rye’s family fell apart after his sister was murdered, it was Connor who picked up the pieces and held the family and their business together;  and in doing so, was deprived of the chance to grieve properly.  He threw himself into work and learned to wall off his emotions in order to get through each day; and he’s been doing that for so long that it’s become second nature to him. Now, two years later, Connor, who has been working himself so hard that it’s started to affect his health, has been pretty much ordered to take some vacation time by his family. He has borrowed the cabin belonging to his brother Hansen (hero of book one, Her Other Secret) and taken himself off to Whitaker Island for a few weeks.

Maddie Rhine has lived on the island for a couple of years and keeps a low profile.  She works as an answering service for the (until recently) one-man police department and other local business, and counts police officer Ben Clifford and hotel owner Sylvia Sussex as friends, but she doesn’t socialise and generally keeps herself to herself.  It becomes clear quickly that Maddie is in hiding – but from what or whom isn’t made clear right away – and that something from her past has come back to haunt her.

Maddie makes one hell of an impact – in more ways than one! – on Connor at their first (rather improbable) encounter, and he becomes more and more intrigued by her as he learns bits and pieces of her story. But Maddie has spent so long looking over her shoulder, so long keeping her secrets buried deep – for her own protection and that of others – that refusing to allow anyone to get close has become her default position. Even when she realises she wants to trust Connor with the truth it’s difficult for her to break that conditioning; but she comes to see that Connor’s patience and understanding make her feel safe in a way she’s rarely experienced, and that also that she needs to be upfront with him if she’s to have a chance of keeping him safe, getting her life back and making a future for herself.

The suspense plot in The Secret She Keeps is generally well-paced, although I did have a few issues with the way Maddie’s backstory was revealed. She’s so dead set against allowing anyone to help her that she can’t see that by keeping her secrets, she risks putting others – namely Ben and Connor – in danger. On the one hand, I could completely understand her not wanting to involve others in her problems (this made a lot more sense later in the book once readers become aware that Maddie was in Witness Protection and how she has been trained to look out for herself), but on the other, it was really irritating to watch her reach a point of confession and then retreat, and my frustration on this score did take me out of the story a few times.

The romance between Connor and Maddie is nicely done and the author builds a genuine emotional connection between the pair as well as writing them some nicely steamy scenes. Connor is a terrific hero; sexy, compassionate and protective without being suffocating or overbearing, with a good sense of humour and fun, and I really enjoyed the relationship that developed between him and Ben as well; it was clear they came to respect each other beneath the snark. I found Maddie more difficult to warm to however; she’s clever and intuitive, and she’s been through things that would have broken someone with less gumption, but although I understood her reluctance to reveal her secrets, this disrupted the flow of the story and went on for too long. The identity of the villain is also fairly easy to work out, but I liked the fact that the author didn’t go for the obvious in terms of their reasons for doing what they did.

In spite of my reservations about some aspects of the story, I did enjoy The Secret She Keeps. The author has set up Whitaker Island as something of a safe haven for those who need it, and has peopled it with a group of colourful and engaging characters I wouldn’t mind visiting again, so I’ll probably read the next book in the series.

The Protector (Games People Play #4) by HelenKay Dimon (audiobook) – Narrated by Jeremy York

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Salvation, Pennsylvania. The commune located in the small town was advertised as a modern Utopia: a place to live, share, and learn with other like-minded young people. Cate Pendleton’s sister was one of them. Now she’s dead – and Cate won’t rest until she finds out who killed her. Stonewalled at every turn, she approaches a DC Fixer for help and ends up with Damon Knox, a mysterious man with a secretive past. But Cate soon discovers that she not only needs Damon, she wants him, which isn’t good – for the attraction brewing between them will only lead to complications that can turn into danger….

Damon has tried to erase the hellish memories and the evil that happened in Salvation ever since he left a long time ago. Still, he can’t turn his back on Cate. As Damon works with Cate to uncover her sister’s killer, he finds himself drawn to her more and more. But how will she feel about him when she learns about his connection to the place?

Joining forces to uncover the truth, they must stay one step ahead of a cunning killer who’s bent on not being exposed.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – B-

The Protector is the fourth full-length novel in HelenKay Dimon’s series of romantic suspense tales, Games People Play. The other three aren’t available in audio (yet?) but fortunately, while there are some characters who recur in each book, each story is self-contained, so there’s no need to be familiar with the earlier instalments in order to be able to follow this one. It might help to have a rough idea of the premise – the hero of each story is a member of a mysterious group that operates under the radar (and sometimes outside the law) in order to fix the seemingly unfixable – but the author includes enough basic information about the enigmatic Wren and his organisation for the newbie to be able to work it out easily enough. Jeremy York is another of those narrators I’ve been aware of for some time but haven’t yet listened to, so as I’ve read some of the earlier books, this seemed like a good opportunity to give him a try.

Cate Pendleton has been trying for years to find the truth about the circumstances surrounding her sister’s death at a place known as Salvation, a commune in South Pennsylvania that advertises itself as the ideal place to live, work, share and learn among other like-minded people. But Cate suspects it to be something more sinister, and past events involving the place would seem to bear that out. Around fourteen years earlier, an FBI investigation into Salvation ended in violence, and Cate is convinced the place is more akin to a cult than a harmless Utopian community. Having come to dead end after dead end, Cate has only one place left to turn for help in her search for the truth about her sister, and reaches out to Wren in the hope that he’ll be able to help her to get the answers she’s looking for.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Dirty Games (Dirty #2) by HelenKay Dimon

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Sometimes, to get what you want in business or in love, you have to get your hands dirty. Luckily for Finn and Justin, dirty comes naturally.

Finn Drummond is the baby in a family of sharks—which means he’s worked twice as hard to make a name for himself. After learning the tricks of the trade from his brothers, Finn’s just as ruthless and dominant. Out in the field, his appetites are legendary: for success, for money, for women and men. But when supplies from Drummond Charities go missing, Finn has to partner up with the smoldering ex–Army grunt who’s always challenging his authority—or giving him mixed signals.

Justin Miller wanted his attraction to Finn to be mutual, but the cocky brat always had a girlfriend. Who could blame Justin for trying to move on? Despite their history, they’ve got to work together to figure out who’s been derailing their humanitarian work. But after Justin and Finn are thrown together against gunrunners and kidnappers, their simmering chemistry turns explosive. Turns out, Finn knows how to handle himself in a crisis—and in the sack. Justin only hopes that hot sex is enough to persuade this spoiled pretty boy to do the right thing.

Rating: C+

I’ve read and enjoyed a handful of HelenKay Dimon’s romantic suspense novels, some of them m/f, and some m/m, so I know pretty much what to expect from her;  a fast-paced, energetic and steamy story that is perhaps longer on action than it is on romance – which is exactly what I got.  Dirty Games is the second book in her current Dirty series of m/m novels, and like the others in this series, it reads like the written-down version of an action movie or TV show; the leads are gorgeous, the action is almost non-stop, the scene changes are snappy, and there’s little time for introspection – and I suspect the degree to which you enjoy it will depend largely on what your expectations are at the outset.

Justin Miller is in charge of the on-the-ground operations of one of the charitable organisations run by Drummond Enterprises, the multi-billion dollar agricultural business run by Alec Drummond and his brothers, Griff and Finn.  Justin, a former soldier, is ferociously driven and dedicated – nothing goes on at Drummond Charities’ Morocco camp without his knowledge, and he has recently noticed a series of irregularities in shipments in and out which have become a major source of concern.  He has his suspicions as to what might be going on, but it’s not something he can – or should – deal with alone, so he has asked Alec to travel to Morocco from his base in Germany so they can work out how to tackle the issue.  Unfortunately for Justin, however, it’s the wrongDrummond brother who steps out of the black sedan that arrives at the camp. Alec has sent his youngest brother, Finn, in his stead, and that’s something Justin is most definitely not prepared for.

Ever since he first set eyes on Finn Drummond six years earlier, Justin has been unable to get him out of his mind.  Good-looking, sexy, funny and warm, Finn  is six foot one of walking sex – except that he’s straight, and in spite of that one brief time years earlier when Justin wondered if Finn was flirting with him, Justin knows nothing can happen between them.  Even so, having the object of his deepest desires and oldest fantasies within touching distance is likely to drive Justin up the wall and distract him from the big picture – trying to get to the bottom of the missing shipments, incorrect manifests and incomplete deliveries of food and supplies.

Finn – who is actually bisexual – hasn’t exactly been unaware of Justin over the past few years either, but the guy radiates such dislike whenever they’ve met that Finn has kind of consigned his attraction to the other man to the ‘never gonna happen’ pile. Still, it’s not long before Finn realises that at least part of Justin’s antagonistic behaviour towards him is due to his attempts to mask an attraction Finn is only too happy to reciprocate and act upon.

I love a good enemies-to-lovers story and this certainly had the potential to be a good one, but while Ms. Dimon has crafted an intriguing and suspenseful plot, the romance is less successful. The author has chosen an interesting setting for her story; the small strip of land close to the border between Morocco and Spain is rife with political and humanitarian problems and Justin has to walk an often precarious line to maintain the status quo. So when it becomes apparent that the missing shipments are most likely being sold/exchanged for arms, there’s a danger that the whole operation could be asked to leave the country. Justin and Finn are desperate to prevent that – so many people in the area need help and have nowhere else to go – so they must work together to find out who is behind the scheme. And with Finn being targeted by those running the arms trafficking ring, time isn’t on their side.

With Justin and Finn thrown so much together, it gives them time and opportunity to indulge in plenty of steamy sex (although they have to be careful as they’re in a country where committing homosexual acts carries a heavy penalty), but while Finn is ready to let Justin into his life and commit, Justin is carrying a chip on his shoulder the size of Wales, and instead picks fights with Finn at almost every available opportunity. Whenever it seems as though a conversation he doesn’t want to have is approaching, Justin retreats behind his emotional shields and throws Finn’s privileged upbringing and status as a member of one of the world’s wealthiest families in his face – and quite honestly, I wouldn’t have blamed Finn for telling Justin where he could stick it.

The suspense plot is the most successful part of the book – it’s interesting and fast-paced (although I did have to ask myself how many times Finn could be attacked and injured and still keep walking!) but unfortunately the romance is not well developed and I found it really hard to believe their relationship went any deeper than the physical. Justin’s pissy attitude continues until almost the very end of the book when he finally, FINALLY realises he’s been an arsehole, apologies to Finn and asks for another chance. Lucky for him Finn is such a great guy, but Finn’s warmth and generosity are such a contrast to Justin’s bad-temper and tendency to lash out when his emotions threaten to become involved that it’s difficult to believe their relationship will go the distance.

I did enjoy reading Dirty Games and it delivered what I expected for the most part; a suspenseful plot, action and steam – but it didn’t convince in the romance department. If you’re following the series, you might want to pick it up, but the lack of a believable romance means I can’t quite recommend it to romantic suspense fans in general.

The Negotiator (Games People Play #2.5) by HelenKay Dimon

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Lauren Gallagher’s life changed almost three years ago. After her husband disappeared at sea, she was left with a failing pleasure boat company and more than a few secrets. Now, after years spent rebuilding the business and paying off the pile of debts, she finally feels in control. But when she finds her husband, actually dead, on the floor, she becomes the leading suspect in his murder investigation.

Garrett McGrath wants Lauren in his bed, not his heart. He doesn’t do emotions, but every time he sees her, holding himself back gets harder and harder. When Lauren comes under suspicion for killing her previously presumed-dead husband, he knows he has to help her, any way he can.

But as the danger becomes more intense and Garret and Lauren grow closer than either planned, they’re in danger of losing everything…including their hearts.

Rating: C+

In HelenKay Dimon’s Games People Play series, the heroes are all men who bonded in their youth when they were taken under the wing of someone named Quint, who saved them from the downward spirals they were in, helped all of them learn to utilise their unique skill-sets and set them on the straight and narrow.

Years later, the ‘Quint Five’ are all well-placed and powerful individuals who are often called upon by government departments and law enforcement to undertake missions and cases that they can’t touch.  In book one, The Fixer, we met Wren – an enigmatic man whose speciality is making problems go away – and his second-in-command, former Black Ops, professional negotiator, Garrett McGrath.

In The Enforcer (book two) Garrett was sent along to ride shotgun on the mission undertaken by Matthias Clarke, another of the five, whose private security firm is often used by Wren in the course of his business.  Garrett immediately captured my attention; his gregarious, wise-cracking ways were such a contrast to the gruff, taciturn Matthias (I do love a smart-mouthed charmer!) and so many tough-guy heroes are dark, brooding and almost miserable that it was a refreshing change to come across one who knew how to lighten up.   I’ve been looking forward to his book, but I confess that I’d hoped for a full-length novel rather than a novella.  I’m not the greatest fan of novellas anyway (few authors really know how to get them right) and Garrett is such a great character that he deserved more page time.

The Negotiator picks up a few months after the events of The Enforcer, which took place in the small, seafront town in Annapolis where Matthias was searching for a woman named Kayla Roy who was suspected of murder.   One of the secondary characters in the book was Kayla’s friend, Lauren Gallagher, who runs a pleasure boat and fishing tour business; and for the past few months, a rather smitten Garrett has travelled regularly to Annapolis to spend time with Lauren, who adamantly refuses to go on a date with him.  She tries to tell him it’s because she’s older than he is (by five years) or because she was a mess and … he could do better.  But Garrett is a shrewd man and knows there’s more to it than that – and he has his theories as to what that ‘more’ is.  Still, the one thing Lauren hasn’t said is that she’s not interested, so he continues to hope that she will eventually open up and let him in.

Lauren’s husband, Carl, died in a boating accident three years earlier, after he ran off with a younger woman and left their business on the verge of bankruptcy, but Lauren has never really believed he’s dead.  She had to keep her suspicions to herself so that she could fight her way through all the legal red-tape that would enable her to take control of her tour company and home, and she has worked tirelessly to rebuild her business and put it back into the black.  So when Carl shows up at her door one day, she’s not completely surprised – but she IS furious at the fact that he expects to just waltz back into her life as if nothing has happened.  Lauren’s usual self-contained detachment deserts her, and for the first time in her life, she finds herself asking someone for help.

When Garrett receives Lauren’s message, he’s about to board a plane to San Francisco where he’s due to make a pre-Christmas visit to see his aunt and cousin.  Garrett’s parents died on Christmas Eve when he was nineteen, so he doesn’t celebrate, preferring to spend Christmas holed up alone somewhere, but Lauren needs him and he doesn’t hesitate; with apologies to his family, he makes his way to Annapolis, where he finds a clearly shaken Lauren even more reserved and evasive than he is used to.

But her problems have only just begun.  Returning from a trip to collect take-out, Lauren and Garrett return to her cottage to find a once-and-for-all, very dead Carl lying on her kitchen floor… and Lauren at the top of the list of suspects.

What we’ve got here is basically a whodunnit with a fairly short list of suspects; the girlfriend, the brother (who is carrying a torch for Lauren) and the shady business partner.  It’s not difficult to guess where to point the finger, and although the author does try to throw readers off the scent, it doesn’t really work.  I enjoyed meeting Garrett again and the snarky back-and-forth between him and Matthias that was so great in the previous book was just as good here, but I can’t help feeling that Garrett was wasted in this story; for a book in a romantic suspense series, there is little suspense and not much action of the sort I’ve come to expect from the genre.  The romance fares a little better, however, the fact that Lauren and Garrett have known each other for a while and have been seeing each other in a friendly, non-dating way for months helping to make their progression to a sexual relationship more believable.  There is a clear mutual respect and understanding that indicates they have a strong basis for a relationship, but still, I’d have liked to see those non-dates and watch their relationship unfold over time.  I’ve seen a few reviews suggesting that Garrett and Lauren’s romance must have begun in the previous book, but I checked and it doesn’t; there are suggestions that maybe Garrett is attracted to Lauren, but that’s about it.

Can I recommend The Negotiator?  I think readers who are following the series will probably enjoy it, but I can’t honestly say it’s a good place for a newcomer to start or is a particularly strong example of a romantic suspense story.  The pacing is fairly pedestrian and the mystery isn’t very mysterious or suspenseful.  I read it for Garrett – sarcastic, charming, sinfully handsome Garrett – who is every bit as attractive here as he was in the last book. I just wish he’d been showcased in a more interesting story.

Dirty Deeds (Dirty #1) by HelenKay Dimon

This title may be purchased from Amazon

No dirty deed goes unnoticed in a seductive game of cat and mouse. But for Alec and Gaige, the wrong move could get them killed.

Alec Drummond didn’t make his billions by playing nice—or by playing much at all. When it comes to pleasure, Alec only has time for whatever’s quick and easy, which is exactly what he gets from his company’s hot new computer genius. But Gaige Owens isn’t some pushover. He pushes back, and it’s giving Alec a rush. The question is, could Gaige be the one who’s leaking trade secrets? Just to be safe, Alec keeps him close at hand . . . night and day.

Gaige never thought he’d roll over for a man like Alec again, but who could resist sex this mind-blowing? Then there’s the draw of Alec’s mysterious side: his cutthroat ambition, his covert CIA connections, and the murder in his past. For Gaige, a deeper look proves an irresistible temptation. But when Gaige and Alec are stripped of their defenses by an unseen danger, everything they don’t know could bring them closer together—or tear them apart. Only one thing is certain: Before it’s all over, someone’s going down.

Rating: B-

Dirty Deeds is a fast-paced, action-packed story that begins when billionaire businessman and all-round hardass Alec Drummond catches Gaige Owens breaking into his company’s vault.  It transpires that Gaige has been ’employed’ (or rather, had his arm twisted) by the enigmatic, equally hardass Seth Lang (Guarding Mr. Fine) to deliberately trigger Drummond Enterprises security systems  and thereby force Alec to sit up and take notice of Seth’s requests for a meeting.

Alec’s company is one of the world’s leading food/food-hybrid manufacture/bio-research companies that also dabbles in research into alternate fuel sources – and Seth thinks that someone is setting it up for a fall, most likely terrorists or regimes who want to be able to control people by means of controlling the food supply.  It’s all very cloak-and-dagger, and Seth is reluctant to say any more than he has to.  It’s clear that he and Alec have locked horns before and the testosterone flies liberally as they face-off against each other while a puzzled and not too pleased Gaige looks on.

While all this is happening, Gaige and Alec are sizing each other up in a different way and very much liking what they see.  It’s an odd moment, perhaps, for insta-lust to strike, but strike it does, with a very large ‘clang!!’  Seth wants Gaige to pose as an external security expert at Drummond to see if he can trace who is setting them up – but Alec isn’t happy; he doesn’t want a total stranger poking his nose into his company.  Still, he also needs to find out who’s trying to sabotage him and agrees to Seth’s plan, intending to keep Gaige on a firm leash and keep an eye on him 24/7.

Alec installs Gaige in his Munich home and pretty soon the intense attraction the two men feel for each other is impossible to resist.  Alec is a workaholic, Gaige – a hot nerd with a wry sense of humour – was badly burned by his previous lover, so neither is looking for anything long-term.  They agree to keep it to casual, no-strings-sex, but it’s not long before they find it impossible to remain detached, and start to share confidences.

The insta-lust from practically the first page is a bit much although the author does it well, and keeps it running into the sex scenes, which are frequent and nicely steamy.  I liked how she showed Alec and Gaige gradually lowering their defences, although given the story takes place over about a week, this is perhaps somewhat unbelievable, especially for Alec, who doesn’t trust easily and whose privacy is intensely important to him.

I’m not sure I completely bought into the plot and the characterisation isn’t especially deep, but Dirty Deeds is an enjoyable, undemanding read that kept me entertained for the couple of hours or so it took me to read it.  If hot nerds and hard-ass billionaires wrapped up in industrial espionage and each other are your thing, I imagine you could do worse than pick this one up!

The Enforcer (Games People Play #2) by HelenKay Dimon

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Security expert Matthias Clarke hunts down people who don’t want to be found. His latest prey: the sole survivor of a massacre that killed his brother years ago. Kayla Roy claimed she was a victim of the carnage. Then she disappeared. Matthias thinks Kayla may have actually been the killer—and he wants justice.

Kayla Roy never stays in one place too long and never lets a man get too close. But keeping Matthias at arm’s length may be impossible. Dark and enigmatic, Matthias draws Kayla in from the start. She knows nothing about his connection to her dark past, or his thirst for vengeance. She only knows their attraction feels overpowering—and very dangerous.

Matthias’s suspicions about the sensual Kayla clash with his instinct to protect her, especially when he realizes her life is in danger. But Kayla’s not looking for a savior—especially one who seems hell-bent on tempting her down a lethal path.

Rating: B

The Enforcer is the second book in HelenKay Dimon’s Games People Play series of romantic suspense novels, which feature heroes who supply skills and services that are perhaps not available from typical law-enforcement organisations; finding people who don’t want to be found, obtaining and using sensitive information and providing security and protection to those who are unable – or don’t want – to go through normal channels. As such, they often operate in that shady area outside the law, doing what needs to be done even though they might need to cross lines in order to do it.

In The Fixer, book one in the series, we met the enigmatic Wren, head of a company specialising in intelligence and information gathering, and who, years earlier, was one of a group of young men who looked to be headed in completely the wrong direction until they were ‘rescued’ by a man named Quint who insisted they accomplish something with their lives. In the course of his business, Wren often has occasion to call upon the services provided by Quint Enterprises, the security firm run by the gruff, taciturn Matthias Clarke. The men are friends – as far as men like them can ever be friends – and more importantly, Wren is one of the very few people that Matthias trusts absolutely.

Matthias had a troubled childhood, growing up in a series of foster homes which ranged from okay to terrible. He’s a loner, and his work is his life; he does his job, eats when he’s hungry, has sex when he has the urge – and he’s content with that. But some months earlier, and completely out of the blue, he was contacted by the birth mother who abandoned him, Mary Patterson, who also told him that he’d had a younger half-brother, Nick, who had been murdered seven years earlier and the case has never been solved. While Matthias is fully aware of Mary’s attempt to manipulate him by trying to send him on a guilt-trip, he nonetheless feels some sort of responsibility to the brother he never knew, and agrees to see what he can find out.

Seven years earlier, Kayla Roy was the sole survivor of a brutal multiple murder. She became a prime suspect in the killings in the early stages of the investigation, but in the absence of any real evidence, she was never charged. Still, she disappeared not long afterwards and has spent the last seven years on the run, never putting down roots or staying too long in any one place. Now, however, she is the closest thing to settled she’s been in all that time, in the small, seafront town of Annapolis, where she waits tables at the local café.

When a man she later describes as “the walking definition of tall, dark and smoldering” enters her café and calmly orders lunch, Kayla’s instinct is to run.  But even though she’s suspicious of his motives, there’s something oddly charming and reassuring about the guy, and she can’t deny that she finds him very attractive.

To start with, Matthias suspects that Kayla may have been responsible for the murders and is determined to secure some sort of justice for his brother.  But as the days pass and they get to know each other a little more, he revises his opinion, realising that although there is something haunting her, it’s not the guilt of a killer.

Ms. Dimon crafts an intriguing plot that unfolds at a pace that satisfies the reader’s need for forward motion while allowing time for the romance between Matthias and Kayla to develop and also for some insight into the relationships between Matthias, Wren and Garrett, Wren’s right-hand man, who has been detailed to provide help and back-up on this job.  The banter between them is fabulous; Wren and Matthias are obviously men who are naturally tight-lipped and very literal, whereas Garrett is chatty and funny, taking the opportunities afforded him to poke affectionate fun at them both.  It’s obvious though, that they’d do anything for each other, and the good-natured grousing and teasing between Garrett and Matthias especially, is a highlight of the book.

I liked the way that both Matthias and Kayla have to learn how to be part of a couple.  Kayla doesn’t do relationships given her need for privacy and her reluctance to put down roots, so she is naturally wary of the strength of the attraction she feels towards Matthias.   Like Wren in the previous book, Matthias is rather lacking in people skills; he’s blunt to the point of abrasiveness, a master of evasion when it comes to questions he doesn’t want to answer and doesn’t do small talk.  People consider him a straight shooter, and he’s proud of that; he’s good at his job and so far that’s been the most important thing in his adult life.  But with Kayla he finds he actually wants to be part of something else, although he has no idea to go about it and not being in complete control of the situation is something he finds difficult to deal with.

And he is keeping a long-buried secret of his own, one that Kayla’s situation brings to the surface in a way that eventually makes it impossible to ignore any longer. With both Matthias and Kayla somehow sensing the other is keeping secrets, their relationship is a continual push-pull as they take a step closer emotionally only for something to happen that causes them to step back.

This is the first time I’ve read a book by HelenKay Dimon, and I definitely enjoyed The Enforcer enough to want to read more of her work. The balance between thriller and romance is just about right, and while there were moments I wanted to tell Kayla, Matthias or both of them to “just talk about it already!” those moments were few and far between and their reticence does generally make sense in terms of their characters as established.  The romance is sexy and rather sweet, and the verbal back-and-forth between Matthias and Kayla is laden with wry humour and affection, with plenty of sparks flying between them.

Although this is the second book in a series, it works perfectly well as a standalone and I will definitely be looking out for future instalments.