Buy Link: In the Red
Author: Kari Gregg
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: Novel

Rating: 4.75 stars

Brian Foster is a genius forensic accountant specializing in tracking terrorist funds.  He used to work for the government’s Terrorist Financing Operations Section (TFOS) until he was kidnapped and tortured last year by terrorists seeking information he held.  Brian was recovered barely alive after the authorities were tipped off, and now lives in seclusion in the mountains of western Maryland.  Brian is just barely hanging on to his sanity, suffering from PTSD, a severe fear of the dark, and an obsessive need to arm himself with an arsenal.

Special Agent Zachary Murdoch has been tasked with bringing Brian back to work for the TFOS.  Brian is the best at what he does and they want him back desperately.  At first all Zachary sees when he looks at Brian is the stubborn geek who has a smart mouth and refuses to give in.  Yet as they get to know each other, Zachary begins to see more, both a growing attraction, as well as the realization that Brian is still way too mentally fragile to return to work. Zachary is unprepared for the lengths the TFOS will go to get Brian back, including sending Zachary in the first place, knowing he would tempt Brian and perhaps be able to get closer to him than other agents.  As the feelings grow between the men, however, Zachary is determined to protect Brian, whether it is from a potential terrorist threat, or from the TFOS itself.

Oh, I just love a good geeky hero and Brian is such a great character. He is totally adorable with his floppy bangs, glasses, and rock concert t-shirts.  And he has such a great combination of stubborness, intelligence, and vulnerability.  His mental state is shaky and his grip on sanity sometimes weak, but he has an underlying strength that carries through everything, even when he needs Zachary to take care of him.  And I loved Zachary’s unwavering commitment to care for and protect Brian at any cost.

One of the ways this is shown beautifully is through their sexual relationship.  Prior to the kidnapping, Brian was in a long-term partnership with a dom/sub dynamic.  Ever since the aftermath of the kidnapping took its toll on that relationship, Brian hasn’t really been able to nurture that submissive side of himself.  He has an internal struggle between his fears and memories of his captivity, and his need to find someone he can trust enough to let out his submissive side and help him mentally heal.  Although Zachary has never had experience in a dom/sub relationship, he takes to it quickly when Brian begins exploring with him. Zachary helps Brian get back the control he desperately needs and slowly begin to heal.

I think this aspect of the book is really well done. Although I don’t think anyone needs to justify or explain why they are into a BDSM lifestyle, I did really appreciate how clearly Gregg shows how Brian’s submission is so critical to his feelings of strength and his recovery by giving him the control that he needs in the midst of his mental chaos.

Control was real.

And no matter how prettily Brian begged or how often he called Zachary Sir, Brian had all of it. Brian controlled the scene–and Zachary–by virtue of every response and cue Zachary read, by Brian’s shivers and moans. By which lick, bite, and caress would reduce Brian to pleading and what rude pinch would rob him of the ability to communicate what he felt and needed beyond senseless groans.

Zachary gave up that control gladly. Whatever it took to enflame Brian’s lust.

While the submission is integral to Brian’s psyche and his healing, this is not a 24/7 type of dom/sub relationship and Brian is very clear that while he is submissive during sex, he is in charge of the rest of his life.  The relationship between the guys is super hot as Zachary learns what Brian needs and how to please them both.  An early scene during target practice leads to an amazing encounter with crazy sexual tension.  I just loved the dynamic between them and the way each challenges and pushes the other, each man with his own strengths.  (I’ll also point out that while Zachary is clearly pushing boundaries by getting involved with Brian–although he has been set up to do just that–he is very clear to keep their physical relationship strictly when he is off duty.)

The book is also quite suspenseful and exciting.  We get the sense of foreboding throughout the story, knowing there is a threat out there but never quite sure where.  The threats seem to come both internally, from the TFOS and their need to recruit Brian even at harm to him, as well as externally from the terrorists.  The pacing is fast and exciting and I was on the edge of my seat through much of the second half.

If I had a quibble with the story it would be that at times Landis, Zachary’s boss at the TFOS, came across as a bit over the top in his zeal to recruit Brian.  Honestly, I have no idea how realistic the government’s relentless pursuit of a civilian worker like Brian would really be, so maybe it is completely on target.  But at times I did find myself thinking his behavior was a bit unrealistically extreme. It never descends into cartoon villainy however, and as other bad guys start to emerge this sense lessened for me.

I will point out that while In the Red gives us a HEA for Brian and Zachary, it is clear that the suspense part of their story is not over.  The book ends with some new revelations and promises of more to come for the men as they handle the new and continued threats against Brian. So a bit of a cliffhanger ending there.

The story was so good and exciting I could hardly stand that it was over, and I am eagerly awaiting the next installment.   In the Red was a great story that explores fascinating characters, a hot relationship, and lots of excitement and suspense. Highly recommended.