Under the Wire by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Bad Boys Undercover #4
Published by HarperCollins, Avon Romance
Publication Date: June 28th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Suspense, Contemporary, General
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The Bad Boys of the Alliance—a top-secret military security agency—are back for more in HelenKay Dimon’s sexy, action-packed series.
Only one thing could pull Reid Armstrong away from a vacation he’s earned with every muscle in his finely honed body—learning that his former fiancée has disappeared on a top-secret science expedition in the middle of nowhere. Second chances don’t come often in Reid’s business, and he needs to prove his worth to Cara Layne or die trying.
Waking up to find her camp destroyed and her colleagues missing, Cara is a walking target. She can’t trust anyone, least of all Reid. Even if his skills get them out alive, he’s a heartache waiting to strike twice. Yet being in close proximity proves their connection burns hotter than ever.
The body count is rising, the enemy is getting closer, and soon Reid will be right back in the position that cost him everything—forced to choose between the woman he loves, and the job that’s his only hope of saving them both . . .
I’ve been dragging my feet on reading the rest of the books in this series after how much I really disliked Book #1. (It’s the kind of dislike that has only grown over time the more I have thought about that story and how much that hero pissed me off. Grrr.) Something about the blurb on this one grabbed me though, and I generally like Dimon’s voice, so I gave it a shot. Woo, it was awesome!
This is a second chance love story, between Reid Armstrong and Cara Layne. Reid is a member of the top secret Alliance agency. He heads to the Russian wilderness because Cara, a geologist and his ex-fiance, failed to check in with her brother while on an expedition. (Yes, Reid literally flies around the world and illegally sneaks into Russia, dragging his colleague Parker along, to see if she’s ok. It’s a bit flimsy, but just go with it!) When he gets there he finds her (absurdly easily), but the rest of her team has disappeared. When she comes clean about the fact that their expedition was about more than just science, Reid, Cara, and Parker get embroiled in something, though they can’t quite figure out what happened to the science team, who is after them, or why. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, Reid and Cara have some massive baggage between them after Cara abruptly broke off their short engagement a year ago and smashed Reid’s heart to pieces. They have to stay alive long enough to solve the puzzle of what is going on as well as work through their personal issues.
The thing I loved most about this book is the way it balanced the action with the relationship development. Though I love them, romantic suspenses/adventures are not always great at tackling emotional development and character growth, but Dimon does it beautifully in this book. Cara and Reid have so much hurt and mistrust between them. At first, I was 100% team Reid. He obviously loved Cara deeply. They were only together during a short and stressful time, but he never doubted his love for her, which is why he proposed so quickly. As the reader, it was so clear that it wasn’t a whim to him; he was in it for the long haul. He simply grabbed what he wanted immediately because, given his dangerous job and terrible childhood, he knew you have to take your happiness when you find it. When she dumps him, it shatters him, and that didn’t endear Cara to me. But little by little, we get to hear more about Cara’s side of the story, and her reasons for leaving were valid, too. Both of them made mistakes and let their own insecurities and hang ups get in the way of their relationship, but they don’t magically fix it with just one conversation. The two of them slowly chip away at the pain and misunderstandings through the course of the book, and seeing them come to a place of love and forgiveness at the end was a great payoff.
The plot is exciting and kept me guessing too. There are so many players involved, and untangling their motivations kept Reid, Cara, and Parker on their toes. There are tons of dead bodies (but not tons of gore), some explosions, hiding in caves, spies and secret agents, and a doomsday bomb. Certainly Reid and his colleagues are larger than life and do the action-movie heroics, but nothing felt so crazy or unbelievable that it yanked me out of the story. Plus, we spend a lot of time with Tasha in this book. (She’s the head of Alliance and the heroine from Running Hot, the prequel to the series.) To be honest, I’d be happy to read an entire series just of her kicking ass and taking names, so I was thrilled to get so much time with her in this book. Smart and lethal woman who can lead a group of the toughest men on the planet–what’s not to love?
I know this book has some small flaws, but it hit so many of my favorites in one story: a brilliant scientist heroine, a hero madly in love, international intrigue, funny dialog, a snarky friend for the hero, adventure through a remote countryside, and some very steamy moments. It’s definitely the best adventure romance I’ve read in a while, and I’m so happy I decided to give the series another chance.
Grade: 5 out of 5
*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.