Nothing to Fear by Juno Rushdan
Series: Final Hour #2
Also in this series: Every Last Breath
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Genres: Romantic Suspense
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The clock is ticking
Fearsome Gray Box operative Gideon Stone is devoted to his work and his team. He's never given reason to doubt his loyalty...until he's tasked with investigating Willow Harper, a beguiling cryptologist suspected of selling deadly bio-agents on the black market.
He knows she's innocent. He knows she's being framed. And he knows that without him, Willow will be dead before sunrise.
Thrust into the crossfire of an insidious international conspiracy, Gideon will do anything to keep Willow safe...even if that means waging war against his own. With time running out, an unlikely bond pushes limits―and forges loyalties. Every move they make counts. And the real traitor is always watching...
Hands down my favorite new series and author this year has been the Final Hour series by Juno Rushdan. I enjoyed Book 1 a lot, and that trend continued with Book 2 (with one caveat I’ll explain later).
Gideon Stone works with Maddox from Book 1 at the Gray Box, an off-the-books agency of the US Government. In Book 1 we learned that there is a traitor in the organization, and in Book 2 that traitor is ramping up their efforts. The pressure is on to find the traitor as soon as possible, so the inner circle starts investigating suspects. One potential suspect is Willow Harper, the team’s cryptologist. Gideon volunteers to investigate her, mostly because he’s always admired her from afar. He immediately realizes she couldn’t be the traitor, but when it’s clear she’s being set up to take the fall Gideon goes rogue to save her. He has to keep Willow alive and find the real traitor to clear her name.
This book is just as action packed as the first one, and I had a great time reading it. Unlike Maddox, the heroine from Book 1, Willow is not a shoot-em-up operative. Instead, she is a genius with technology. She does need Gideon for physical defense and some strategy–he’s the one who knows how this world works and has the skills to keep them alive. She isn’t weak or stupid, however. She contributes to the chase using her own skills, and she keeps up with Gideon.
The relationship between Gideon and Willow is lovely too. Both truly see and appreciate the other for their own strengths. Gideon sees Willow’s talent and spine of steel and values it, even though she isn’t able to kick ass in the same way he does. One of the problems Gideon had in past relationships was that he couldn’t be honest about his job or what it entails. Because Willow already knows the details, though, he is able to be free with her in a way he has never been before. Even better, Willow isn’t scared away by what he does, though it takes Gideon too long to realize that. He spends way too much time assuming he’s not good enough for her, and he does a lot of flip flopping as he gives in to his need to be with her but then pushes her away. He hurt her every time he did that, even though he thinks he’s helping her. I wanted more consistency from him and for him to acknowledge that Willow knows who he is but loves him anyway.
Now on to a spoiler that I feel is important to mention: Willow is autistic, a fact that is explicitly stated near the beginning of the book. While there is some discussion of her autism, particularly early in the book, it is not a defining characteristic of Willow’s, nor is it a major plot point. There are a few instances where it impacts the story, but for the most part Willow is able to keep up with the action as well as any other civilian suddenly dropped into an action movie would. There’s no fetishizing I could see, either. There is one deeply uncomfortable scene with an ignorant police officer near the beginning of the book. To me it read as a condemnation of the kind of idiotic views people hold about autism, but I don’t know how it would read as someone more familiar with ASD. In general, I am unqualified to pass judgment on how this book handles Willow’s autism, so I can’t say whether this portrayal is appropriate or not. If anyone with more experience in this area reads the book and has a different take, please do comment here!
Aside from the above concerns, I really liked this book. It’s got so much of my catnip–traitor in our midst, a couple on the run, secret government agency, and smart characters who bring out the best in each other. I am hooked on this series!
Grade: 4 out of 5