by Layla Reyne
Series: Perfect Play #1
Publication Date: June 7, 2022
Reading Challenges: 2022 Ripped Bodice Summer Romance Bingo
Source: Valentine PR
I received an advance review copy of this book from Valentine PR. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
When a marriage of convenience is the only play left…
Special Agent Emmitt Marshall knows how to:
Wear a cowboy hat.
Win at chess.
Fall in love with emotionally unavailable men.
He even knows the perfect play to catch the terrorists who killed his mentor.
Special Agent Levi Bishop doesn’t know how to:
Move on after his wife’s death.
Help his grieving son.
Pay off his mountain of debt.
Fix the mess some cowboy cyber agent made of his case.
The same cowboy who proposes a marriage of convenience to stop a common enemy.
Marsh is either the answer to Levi’s prayers—or a handsome nightmare in a Stetson.Levi doesn’t know.But both men do know their cases and lives are at a dead draw.There’s only one play left…I do.
Layla Reyne returns with an all-new m/m romantic suspense series featuring a cocky hacker with a heart of gold, a widowed father who needs so much help, and a plan only a cowboy could cook up. Grab your hat, hold tight to the reins, beware of the cliffs, and enjoy the ride!
I remembered Marsh from What We May Be as the sweet hacker cowboy, so when I found out he’d get his own trilogy? With a marriage of convenience plot? Woohoo! As a side note, I wish there was some sort of Whiskeyverse guide for which books a character has appeared in, as at this point, I look like the conspiracy guy in front of a paper and string covered wall. And also, it’s good to go into this realizing it’s the start of a new trilogy, and it appears to be following the same beats. That is an unsubtle warning that, yes, this does end on a bit of a cliffhanger.
“So there’s this other agent, Marsh, whose case is sort of connected to mine, but he fucked up, and he’s off his case, and now I’m his best bet for catching the bad guys we’re both after, but we can’t team up officially, so he’s proposed marriage.”
After his wife’s death, all Levi has left is his son and his job. So when some hotshot hacker inadvertently ruins one of his ops, he’s understandably pissed. Until that hacker shows up in San Diego with a proposition: Marsh needs Levi’s help to track down the higher ups behind Levi’s case, and the only way to stay on that case now that he’s screwed up is to, uh, marry him. In return, Marsh will lend his hacker expertise to the case and his boatload of money to keeping Levi’s house from foreclosure. But the criminals have them in their sights now, and Marsh may have just brought a whole lot of trouble right to Levi’s front step.
“Levi didn’t care overly much about awards or commendations; he didn’t hang them in his office or on his walls at home. He cared more about the respect of his peers, the approval of his bosses, and the love of his family. But the praise from Marsh made him preen more than a little, made him want to roll around in the security Marsh’s words and arms offered.”
Levi is still grieving the death of his wife from cancer, but his family seems to think he should move on after two years. But between her medical debt and his teen son David, he has no space for anything other than his job. And then in rides Marsh to the rescue with his cowboy hats and charm. The criminals behind Levi’s case killed someone very close to him, and attaching himself to Levi’s case is his best shot of bringing them to justice. Now, I was skeptical of how exactly a marriage of convenience makes that possible, though it was explained, but whatever, I’m mainly here for the firecracker chemistry between them. Marsh, you see, has a habit (or a curse as he calls it) for falling for emotionally unavailable men…. just like Levi. Levi feels the pull towards the other man, but is scared of losing someone he cares about again, while Marsh is worried about risking Levi’s job and life. While the relationship is very slowburn, the chemistry is immediate and it ratcheted up the tension with every conversation between the two men.
“Nothing so beautiful, nothing so intimate, so good and warm and safe could be a betrayal.”
Fast pacing and great banter are a trademark of Layla Reyne’s work, and there’s plenty of that here. There’s also a good balance between the investigation and the burgeoning romance. The main investigation is intriguing, though how freely Marsh hacks anything and everything is eyebrow-raising at times. It is the first book in a trilogy, though, which means that I was left wanting more about their relationship and each individual man.
Overall, a good start to a new series, and it’s so great to be back in the Whiskeyverse. I can’t wait for the second book!
Content notes: View Spoiler »death of a spouse from cancer (before book starts), death of a friend from a bombing (relived on page), grief, PTSD, discussion of human trafficking, mentions of homophobia and racism, alcohol « Hide Spoiler
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: