Length: Novel, 7304 Locations
Rating: 5 Stars
A World of Wow in Hell Bent
If you're unfamiliar with Heather Killough-Walden, you may be missing some of the best reading available on Kindle. I stumbled across her paranormal romance The Third Kiss: Dorian's Dream and was so blown away by her style and imagination, that I quickly downloaded all her other available titles. And believe me when I say, it didn't break the bank, because The Third Kiss: Dorian's Dream was all of $1 and Hell Bent a whopping $1.99.
Seriously great reading combined with a stunningly low price...can I just say WOO HOO!
In Hell Bent, we meet Annabelle Drake. She works for a graphics design company and her boss, Max Anderson, is both a friend...and maybe more. He's finally asked her to dinner on a night when his teenage son wouldn't be home. As Annabelle heads to lunch with her friend Cassie, feeling a little glowy from the invitation, the glow turn to confusion and then fear when an odd text message from Max urges her back to the office - the locked and completely dark office.
The shock from the grimmest of discoveries rocks Annabelle's world and she desperately reaches out to her best friend, Jack Thane, a man she's known for ten years. Jack's not a normal friend. He's not a normal anything, really. He's also intensely in love with Annabelle and has been from the moment he laid eyes on her on her birthday almost ten years ago. He'd do anything for her - has done...everything for her. And as an assassin, he's well aware of everything he needs to keep doing. When the call from his Bella comes in on the phone that he keeps strictly for her to contact him, he knows something's wrong - she's never called it before. He drops everything and rushes to her side, quickly sweeping Annabelle away from the scene of a horrific crime, but he only starts to get the gist of just how bad things are when Annabelle tells him in no uncertain terms that Max didn't kill himself as the scene suggests. He was murdered.
Soon Jack is racing to keep the woman he loves safe from assassins just as deadly as he is while he shelters a growing number of people on the kill list with her. Annabelle's friend Cassie, Max's son Dylan, Jack's ex-wife and daughter...soon it's all Jack can do to keep everyone safe and keep Annabelle from the clutches of a very determined billionaire who is exceedingly intent on staying a billionaire - no matter how many people he needs to kill to keep his secrets safe.
Hell Bent is a roller coaster thrill ride and Annabelle and Jack are a fantastic pair of characters. Their relationship is complicated, complex, and difficult for both of them at times, but it's also immutable and intensely strong. Annabelle trusts Jack like no other, even knowing what he does for a living, but when Jack's secrets start to unravel as they're forced to evade danger again and again, so does their close friendship and soon their relationship is fraught with just as many perils as the situation they're in.
Killough-Walden has plotted this book perfectly, balancing the external danger and the plot of a brutal cover up with delicate emotional angst in a way that many authors can't even begin to comprehend, let along pull off. The characters struggle desperately to not get dead, racing across the country and then across the pond in a valiant effort while buildings are being blown up and bullets are flying and friendships are being tested. It's an exciting, dangerous thrill ride and an odd but utterly unique romance filled with genuine characters with human foils and foibles...and a bit of murder and mayhem.
Annabelle is a gem of a character, quirky, bright, dedicated, with a spine of steel and a core of determination that makes her a formidable heroine. Jack is fantastic as the lead male. A cold blooded killer by trade, it's clear his heart belongs to Annabelle, and the dichotomy, while perplexing, is also uniquely appealing and ultimately sympathetic. He's a bad guy...just not totally a bad guy...and some of his frets about keeping his Bella from hating him are actually cute and provide some humor to the situation.
The plot is fast-moving, the book long, and there's plenty of room given to develop the story and characters and do it well. Maybe just a wee bit too much room in one or two places that could have benefited from a bit of tightening and trimming. There were one or two times that I thought the constant attacks on Annabelle, Jack, and company felt a little like overkill, but they were passing thoughts, not true complaints, and the scope of the story never stopped developing alongside the action. There was only one part at just over halfway that I felt the action slowed a little and the story dragged a bit, but it was over before I got annoyed and another totally unexpected layer to the plot was added. From that point on, the book was right back at breakneck pace.
I loved it. I absolutely loved it. It was definitely one of the best action adventure books I've ever read, and I became so fond of the characters that I know they will stick with me. I would love a sequel or a series with Annabelle and Jack...even Sam, Cassie, or Dylan, and especially Adam - they're all unique enough and the relationships fresh and complex enough to support much more from any or all of them. Even if there's never a sequel, the impact that the story has guarantees that I'll be reading it again and again. Hell Bent is a story that quite literally has everything: rip-roaring action, bullets and bombs and beatings, a race against time, and danger, mystery, and suspense - and romance! It's fantastic!!
Other Titles by Heather Killough-Walden: