by Juno Rushdan
Series: Fugitive Heroes: Topaz Unit #2
Also in this series: Rogue Christmas Operation, Disavowed in Wyoming, An Operative's Last Stand
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Publication Date: November 30, 2021
Source: the author
I received an advance review copy of this book from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
With a death squad in pursuit…
A fugitive needs the help of a wounded warrior.
An elite CIA kill squad has located hacker Zenobia Hanley’s Alaska wilderness hideout. With commandos hot on Zee’s heels, she’s saved from capture by her neighbor John Lowry. Zee has kept her yearning for the SEAL, who has a disability, in check to shield him. But, despite her secrets, John’s determined to protect Zee regardless of the risks. Because there’s more at stake this Christmas than just their lives.
I very much liked the first book in this series, so I was very excited that the second was coming out so soon. Plus, it features a Black hacker and an ex-Navy SEAL, lots of time spent on the run, and, of course, all the action and chemistry you could want! While this is the second in the series, I think it could easily be read as a standalone.
After a mission gone sideways, Zee’s team was disavowed by the CIA and put on a kill list. Hiding in rural Alaska, Zee keeps herself busy carefully hacking into files to try to figure out what happened and spending time with her neighbor, John. John assumes Zee’s cautious nature is because she’s hiding out from an abusive ex, but when a military team appears in the woods in the middle of the night, it becomes clear that something else is going on. But whatever it is, John doesn’t want to abandon the woman he’s come to care deeply for, even if Zee’s against putting him in any more danger. Zee has even more secrets, and the kill team on her trail has a personal vendetta against Zee – and they’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on her. On the run, Zee knows her only chance is to follow the leads she’s uncovered.
“She liked the way he looked at her and she loved the way he made her feel.
At ease. Safe.
Yes, both of those beautiful things just looking in his eyes.”
I adored Zee. I have a thing for extremely competent heroines, and she fits the bill completely. She’s got contingency plans for everything – except for when her her friend and neighbor insists on going on the run with her to protect her. John’s forty, retired, and, well, miserable. His PTSD after his own mission gone wrong made it impossible for him to continue as a SEAL, but his life was boring and unfulfilling until he met his new neighbor. Playing board games with her, sharing dinner, is the highlight of his week, and while he hopes his feelings for her are reciprocated, he hasn’t worked up the courage to tell her yet. It’s those feelings that drive him to insist on staying with Zee, even when she’s doing her best to push him away. Because even though Zee wants more than friendship with John, the last thing he needs is to get mixed up in her trouble. But once it’s clear that he won’t be driven away, they form a tight partnership where they each protect the other. Their chemistry is electric and immediate, even when they’re on the run for their lives
This book is tightly paced and absolutely full of non-stop thrills. It was nearly impossible for me to put the book down because I was so engrossed in the twists and turns and what would happen with Zee and John. There’s a good balance between the romance and the action, and we get a little more info about the mission that led to Zee’s team’s disavowal. Things are starting to fall into place and it’s clear it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the team gets flushed out. One of the other things I liked was how carefully and well the characters’ past traumas were handled. Both are dealing with issues that have shaped them, for better or worse, and both support the other in every way possible.
“I understand the trouble you’re in and I’m choosing to stand with you. All you have to do is let me.”
Overall, this is easily a 4.5 star read and definitely one of my favorites by this author. I’m glad the next book will be out in not too long because I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Content notes: View Spoiler »violence (including lots of gun violence, death), near-drowning (on-page), intimate partner violence (in the past, including compromising birth control), PSTD, panic attacks (on-page), ableism, mention of torture (in the past, and threatened to MC) « Hide Spoiler