Rating: 4.5 stars
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Collusion reunites us with Bo Schollenberger and Lucky Lucklighter who we first met in Diversion. A short time has passed since the guys finished their first case together for the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau. Though they have continued seeing each other since that case ended, being on different assignments and Lucky’s time being “dead” means that their time actually together has been limited. But despite the fact that Lucky never imagined himself serious about anyone, he and Bo definitely have something between them, even of Lucky is hesitant to call it a relationship.
Soon after the guys reunite from their separate assignments, they are both placed together on the same new case. The U.S. is facing a severe shortage of critical prescription drugs and grey market wholesalers have jumped into the void. Basically they are exploiting the shortage by reselling the critical drugs at outrageous prices. Even though it is not yet illegal, despite pending legislation, it is at least highly immoral. Bo and Lucky are assigned undercover jobs at a children’s cancer hospital, Bo to pose as a assistant pharmacy buyer and Lucky to work in shipping. They hope to uncover more details about these wholesalers, catch some illegal dealings, and put the bad guys out of commission.
The case turns out to be emotionally difficult on both men. Bo is faced every day with a shortage of desperately needed drugs, forced to sit in on meetings as doctors must decide which children to save with their limited supply of medications and which will be left out. He begins to work long hours and is full of stress and clearly hiding something from Lucky. With Bo’s history of drug abuse, Lucky worries that Bo may be falling back off the wagon. And even of he is clean, the stress and exhaustion still weigh on him. And even Lucky, who manages to give off the vibe of constant indifference, finds himself emotionally drawn into the case, especially after he meets a young patient and realizes how precarious her situation is.
At the same time as they are working the case, Bo and Lucky’s relationship is growing. Lucky is finally starting to accept that there is something real between them and that he has begun to really need this man in his life. He goes from someone who isn’t all that interested in other people, to realizing that Bo’s happiness is all tied up in his own. Bo becomes one of three people, after his sister and his boss, who Lucky would do anything for. He realizes that he is sometimes selfish, and wonders what Bo even sees in him. But Bo loves Lucky’s honesty and his dedication to things he believes in, and has no interest in changing him. And Bo begins to share more of himself, opening up to Lucky and giving him more of his trust. But even as they grow closer, the case pulls them apart. Not only are they facing stress and high emotions, but things soon turn dangerous and both their lives are at risk. Now that Lucky is realizing he really wants to be with Bo, he must hope it is not too late.
So I really enjoyed Diversion and was thrilled to hear that Winters was turning it into a series. In fact, I think I like this book even more than the first as we get to see Bo and Lucky after they are already a couple. The early parts of the book where they guys have been reunited after working on different cases were both sweet and super hot (hello Bo’s kinky toy box!). I love that these guys are so different and on the surface should never work. Lucky is hardened and cynical, sarcastic and a loner. And Bo is friendly and open and always seeing the good. But both men are haunted by their pasts and have overcome hardships and mistakes to be the men they are today. And so they have a shared bond and an understanding with one another that few others share. I love that Lucky is a bit of a pain and constantly provoking Bo, and that Bo somehow knows just how to manage Lucky when no one else can. And I love that Bo cares for Lucky despite all that, and that the two men can truly count on one another. They are a fun couple and I love all their quirks.
As with Diversion, this story focuses on pharmaceutical drugs rather than street drugs, and how they are often used in illegal ways. Winters shares in the forward that the drug shortage she describes in this book is very real and knowing that this can be happening in real life makes the story all the more intense. Once again we get a great insider look into prescription drug trafficking, law enforcement, and the ways people figure out how to get around the law. Following along with the case is exciting and interesting, as well as heartbreaking. I wish we got a little more gratification in terms of seeing the bad guys pay, but that too is all too real in this type of situation.
So I really enjoyed Collusion and thought it was a great addition to the series. The two books do follow one another pretty closely, and although I think you can understand this plot without reading the first, you will miss a lot of Bo and Lucky’s back story that really lends gravity to their relationship. So I would definitely recommend starting with Diversion (especially because it is excellent) and then picking this one up. It is a really great book in a really enjoyable series and I definitely recommend it.