Series: Black Knights, Inc., Book 3
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 352 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Sourcebooks Casablanca publisher Sourcebooks via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Almost the Charm
Four years ago, Navy SEAL Jake Sommers made the biggest mistake of his life. He's been paying for it ever since. He pushed away the woman he loved, lost her to his best friend, and held that much better man in his arms as he bled out in a hostile desert halfway around the world.
But that was then, and after working hard to get himself into a better head space, Jake "Snake" Sommers has finally come back to Chicago. He came for one reason: Michelle Carter, the only woman he has ever or will ever love.
His friend and former CO Frank Knight now runs a special ops unit fronted by a custom motorcycle shop. As far as Jake is concerned, Boss is just going to have to deal with him coming back for his sister Chelle. After all this time, Jake isn't going to be taking no for an answer, not from Chelle and certainly not from an overprotective big brother. Michelle is his.
She can't deny seeing Jake again after four long years is a shock that she hadn't expected. And if Michelle were honest, there's more there than just surprise. She's not, however, the same inexperienced woman she had been the night he broke her heart. She's a mother now, first of all, and absolutely nothing is more important to her than her son. Jake Sommers is not to be trusted.
When her brother gets word that his Black Knights are being targeted by a mobster with a grudge, the unit mobilizes and Jake steps up to the plate, offering his help in guarding Michelle - over her protests. As grimly certain as Jake is that no one is getting past him and threatening Michelle and her son, Michelle is equally convinced that having Jake in her home, her sanctuary, is a breach that will make keeping him out of her heart almost impossible.
And that's a fear that goes far beyond anything a potentially psychotic crime lord can dish out.
After three books of Walker's series, I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it. One one hand, it's got a lot of elements that I enjoy in romantic suspense: sexy alpha men on kick-ass motorcycles, lots of action and danger for all, and lusty, humor-laden romance. On the other hand, I continue to struggle with the dichotomy between the humor and the often brutal violence or serious themes, the only heroine I've liked is Becky from the previous book, and I haven't been completely sold on the plotlines of the external, non-relationship conflicts in any of the books.
It's a conundrum.
I have to admit, the appeal of this book was further hampered by a couple of personal reading preferences of mine. I'm not crazy about second chance romances and if children are involved in the story, I find single fathers far, far more palatable than single mothers. As this story features both a second chance romance and a single mother, it started at a disadvantage for me that is in no way related to the strength of the story.
Other issues were, however. I wasn't crazy about Michelle at any point in the story, but there is a fairly significant reveal late in the book that made me actively dislike her. Throughout the book, though, she seemed just a little too...sheltered, too cautious maybe. And in her environment, with the men as contrast, caution looks like weakness. I couldn't shake that feeling while I was reading. She also had some seriously skewed decision-making skills. Or lack thereof.
Jake was fine as the hero. He didn't wow me, exactly. His character was perhaps a bit too similar to every other alpha male warrior in the genre for that, but I did like him well enough. I understood his flaws and had sympathy for his pain and insecurities. I had quite a lot of sympathy for him towards the end of the book, when his world was spun on its axis, and I wish he'd held out a little longer on granting forgiveness over all that. I'm petty that way.
The threat posed by the Bad Guy was better balanced in the narrative than it has been in previous books. It's still not as fleshed out as I would have preferred, and there were a couple of questionable elements in the arc, but it provided a foundation for the plot that I did enjoy. And then there was the ancillary plot thread that focused on Vanessa and Rock.
I loved them! I loved everything about them both. Their plot thread, while not a complete secondary romance, was still more entertaining to me than the main characters' arc in a lot of ways. Vanessa made me chuckle and Rock melted my heart a little. They fit well together, and their chemistry was rock-solid. I'd love to see them in their own book and wish their roles had been expanded in this one. Without them, this would have been a much less entertaining read.
I really want to be able to connect to this series. So much of it is everything I like in romantic suspense. For one reason or another, though, something always seems to hold me back. In this book, one of the biggest "somethings" came with the big reveal that set up the relationship conflict towards the end of the book. Just thinking about it still makes my eyes cross. Plausibility did not seem to be a consideration for that one.
Normally, three books are more than enough to let me know if a series is going to be a good fit for me. Not so here, but I keep hoping for that one book to make everything click. So far it hasn't quite happened, though there are definitely series and story elements that totally work for me. Work so well, in fact, that it keeps me reading. I guess I'll continue to do so.
The Black Knights, Inc. Series: