Rating: 4.5 stars
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Cillian is an operative with a top secret British black ops agency who is used to working alone and under cover. Part of his current assignment has involved getting to know U.S. agent Prophet and Prophet’s former Navy SEAL team, keeping tabs on their activities and how they overlap with his own mission. Mal is one of those team members working with Prophet, and he too is used to working alone. After having his throat slit and almost dying years before, Mal can’t speak, but that doesn’t make him any less effective or deadly at his job.
Cillian and Prophet live in the same building and share an odd sort of friendship and camaraderie as two men with similar jobs. When Mal starts chatting with Cillian through Prophet’s computer, Mal and Cillian also find an unusual connection. They have both a sexual spark, as well as an enjoyment of challenging one another. As the men settle in to some heavy duty sexting however, they also begin to find a tentative emotional connection. Each man recognizes similarities in the other, finding a fledgling relationship in the middle of their very solitary jobs.
At the same time, both Cillian and Mal are continuing their respective investigations, which begin to overlap. Each man thinks he is in control without realizing the full extent of what the other is doing. Meanwhile, things are falling apart for Cillian as one informant after the other turns up dead, compromising the case that is years in the making. With two such solitary men doing dangerous jobs, each looking to come out on top, is there any hope for a real relationship between them?
Dirty Deeds is the first book in a new series by S.E. Jakes, but it is also another installment in the larger Extreme Escapes, Ltd universe. Specifically, this story is sort of a spin off from the Hell and High Water series, as both Cillian and Mal are prominent side characters there. This book definitely focuses primarily on these two men, but the overarching plot line from the original series still plays a prominent role, as both Cillian and Mal’s team are involved in investigating the disappearance of John Morse (Prophet’s former lover and SEAL teammate). So while this book isn’t directly connected to that series, the characters and larger story arc are definitely closely related and this book may be confusing if you aren’t familiar with at least the first in that series, Catch a Ghost.
So as I said, despite the connection, this is definitely Mal and Cillian’s story. They are both such fascinating characters, I was thrilled to see them not only get their story, but end up together. These two guys are sort of on the darker fringes. We know a little about them, but there is a lot of mystery surrounding them in Hell or High Water. Here we get to know both men better, learn about their pasts, learn about the buried emotions they keep hidden, and see their strengths and weaknesses. These guys are so well matched, similar in many ways and always pushing and challenging one another.
The story is told in sort of a unique way, in that Mal and Cillian interact largely through instant messaging. So while they have met (though Cillian doesn’t realize it), most of the interaction takes place remotely. Now don’t let that make you think things stay tame. Because this book definitely had Jakes’ trademark super hot scenes. In fact, watching it all play out online adds a lot to the sexual tension. But it is a really interesting device to see these men get to know one another only through IM. What adds an even more fascinating element is that neither one knows exactly what is going on. Both men are seasoned operatives and both are playing games with one another. There is a level of spy maneuvers happening at the same time as there is a real emotional connection. So there are a lot of twists and turns here as each man misdirects and works his case, while at the same time opening himself up in surprising ways to the other. Even as readers we don’t always know exactly what is happening and exactly what the truth is. And when it wraps up at the end, it all comes together just explosively.
My only real hitch here is that this story doesn’t totally feel like a stand alone. It is not only a continuation of the larger story arc from Hell and High Water, but it also is just barely getting us started on Mal and Cillian’s relationship. I think it works perfectly in terms of being a connector story. And I don’t think two men like Mal and Cillian would realistically fall in love and have an HEA quickly anyway. So I understand why the story is written as it is, but I did leave me hanging and feel a little incomplete. That said, this book does bring us some big advances in the larger story arc, including giving out some major information about John and what really happened with him (though there is clearly much more in store).
So even if I was left feeling like things were a little incomplete, I wouldn’t have missed this story for anything. And if you are a fan of this amazing world Jakes has created, neither should you. I really am so impressed with the way she is keeping so many balls spinning, with two series plus a free standing book set in this world (the fabulous Free Falling). All the story arcs work so well together, the characters move wonderfully between the series and books, and everything is really building so nicely. And Cillian and Mal’s story was another great installment. Sexy and crazy hot, twisty and clever, and overall a lot of fun. I just can’t wait for more.
P.S. I love this cover. Totally captures Mal for me. Love it!