by Juno Rushdan
Series: Final Hour #1
Also in this series: Nothing to Fear
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
2 covert operatives
1 chance to get it right
Maddox Kinkade is an expert at managing the impossible. Tasked with neutralizing a lethal bioweapon, she turns to the one person capable of helping her stop the threat of pandemic in time: the love of her life, back from the dead and mad as hell at her supposed betrayal. Recruiting Cole to save millions of lives may be harder than resisting the attraction still burning between them, but Maddox will do whatever it takes...even if it destroys her.
When Maddox crashes back into Cole Matthews' life, he wants to fight back. He wants to hate her. But the crisis is too strong to ignore, and soon the two former lovers find themselves working side-by-side in a breakneck race to stop a world-class killer with a secret that could end everything.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »late miscarriage (not in book but character recollects it), discussion of past episode of depression and suicidal ideation, description of woman and child killed in a bombing « Hide Spoiler
This is simultaneously an angsty second chance romance and a fast-paced thriller, and, oh boy, did that work for me!
“Why?” After all this time of playing dead and pretending she didn’t exist—nine years of not giving two shits about her. “What do you want in return?”
He cupped her neck with a familiar and fierce tenderness, bringing their bodies flush, their gazes clashing. A quiver danced in her chest and waltzed to her thighs. For one insane and reckless moment, she thought he’d kiss her. Even more insane and reckless, she hoped he would.
“I want closure. To be free of you.”
Nine years ago, Maddox betrayed the love of her life, resulting in his death and eventually leading to her job as an operative at a government agency so secret that even its name is classified – or so she thinks. On the heels of a failed mission, she’s ordered to collect an asset that can help them gain access to an auction of a bioweapon. Problem is – that asset just happens to be Cole, the man Maddox still loves. Cole is just as surprised to see her, and is still hurting from her betrayal. Forced together by this mission, can they put aside their hurts – and still electric attraction – long enough to stop the terrorists from releasing a bioweapon?
“Cole,” she said, lowering her voice, “this thing between us is a distraction. You’ve no idea how hard I work to measure up. I’ve sacrificed, suffered, bled to be here. I’m good at what I do, but out there, I need to be objective. Not emotional.” An operative. Not a woman. “You have to back off.”
If she wasn’t a good operative, she was nothing.”
I loved Maddox, and I loved how well Cole fit with her. They both had such complicated backgrounds. Maddox grew up around the world as he dad worked for a state department – or so she thought. Cole grew up as the son of Russian mobsters (and his brother still carries that on), and as his family was constantly harassed by the feds, he takes a dim view of them now. Seeing the woman he still loves deeply embedded in that environment is a shock and almost an additional betrayal to him. While Cole lays the blame for his father’s death at her feet, Maddox blames him for letting her believe he was dead. Both of them are scarred – emotionally and physically – from previous events, but once the lines of communication are open, they’re able to start working through their resentments and mistakes. At times, Cole got a bit overprotective, but he also accepted that Maddox was a badass secret government agent in her own right. Cole found his own way of dealing with the results of Maddox’s mistake, but Maddox suffered, too, and basically poured all her pain into being the best operative possible, and she isn’t willing to let anything district her from that – even Cole. I also liked that he was the one to pursue rekindling their relationship, because I generally agreed with Maddox that he more more in the wrong than her. Both of them alternately blew hot and cold on the relationship, and while that’s normally an annoyance for me, in this case I felt like there was so many issues between them that it would be unrealistic for them not to have conflicting emotions.
I loved meeting the other characters on her team, including her brother, Castle, but there was a lot of obvious setup of other couples for later in the series. It was a little too overt and heavy handed and took away from learning more about each character individually. I thought the identity of the mole was pretty obvious, but I’m still very interested in what happens next in terms of the thriller plot. And I think that was definitely one of the best parts of the book – the romance is layered in with a very compelling thriller plot, and I felt like both were given equal attention and played well off each other. I’m not a terribly big fan of romantic suspense, especially not this government spy/terrorist type, but I had a hard time putting this down. I also normally don’t like reading the POV from the bad guy’s point of view, but I found it very well done and almost sympathetic. I was also relieved that, partially because of the bad guy’s particular ethos, even when the heroine is under attack by the bad guy, there’s no hint of sexual assault. It seems that that’s a common way for a bad guy to threaten a heroine, and I thought what the bad guy did in this case was much more chilling.
Overall, I enjoyed this much more than I expected, and I’m very grateful that Stefani from Sourcebooks recommended this book. I will definitely be looking for the next book in this series. If you love angsty second chance romances, I’d recommend this to you even if you’re not usually a fan of thrillers. And if you’re a fan of thrillers, you are absolutely going to love this!