I think it was Axel in the book who commented about the brotherhood going international, but he’s right. Darya brought in a new twist before the Men of Haven novels could fall too much into a pattern. Some elements were the same in both the brothers helping Darya out and the relationship cementing about half way in to leave more room to devote to the external crisis, but if the broad strokes were similar, the specific story is brand new.
She’s on the run and living under an assumed name when she crosses paths with Knox. Sure, his mind drew her first, but she struggles with a crush on him that’s both physical and mental when she decides to ask for a programming mentorship. She’s got persistence where she doesn’t think she has talent, and he’s the best programmer she knows of. Her attraction is more of an inconvenience than anything else, but when it’s obvious Knox returns the sexual interest, she is determined to indulge in another of her fantasies.
It may be because Knox has specific sexual hang-ups (or rather relationship ones), but while this book is just as explicit as the others, it felt as if more time was spent on the sex…a little too much for my preference…and once again it pushed the boundaries. That said, while I did feel one scene in particular went on too long, each scene served to break away the barriers that had made Knox into a welcome lover but never a boyfriend despite his half-suppressed dreams of finding someone he could trust enough to tear down those walls.
Trust made up a huge theme in the story, in both the personal and suspense threads especially considering everything about Darya, even the name she first gives, is a lie. Knox has a lot to lose, though he’s worried more for his heart than his life despite Darya’s fears. Darya holds her secrets close because she thinks revealing them will put the man she loves and his whole family at risk, but Knox isn’t going to let her go without a fight, no matter who he has to face.
I loved seeing their relationship come together, especially with how the other brothers tease and push Knox into setting his fears aside. Darya’s trying to live up to the sacrifices made in her name, but she feels it as a debt until Knox’s family of the heart makes her one of their own.
While a Russian is her enemy, not only is Darya Russian, but she tells them about others who have helped her, some living in the same gray area of honor and violence the Brotherhood seems to find itself in all too often. I liked how the portrayals were not one-sided, but rather showed different cultures with similar rules, and some bad eggs.
I can’t give specifics without spoiling, but there’s one point when I thought Darya would run, and the story would spring from that point. Instead, she did something much better, and yes, the story did hinge on that choice, but in a way that felt more original than many suspense novels.
Ultimately, despite my quibbles about the amount of sex, this is a true addition to the series with characters that have depth; the same balance of alpha male meaning support and protect rather than cage (critical in this book); and a focus on chosen family standing up for each other no matter what. I also very much appreciated how Darya worked with Knox rather than letting him take over for her, not just in the major crises but always. It’s a strong series with a real sense of honor that flows throughout.
P.S. I received this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.