After years as an escort and more selling himself on the streets, Cole Jacobs has made a new life for himself as a mechanic working on high end cars and bikes. He hasn’t forgotten his past, especially since he has no real interest in sex anymore after making that his business for so long. But he is trying to move past it and start a new life. However, someone is determined not to let Cole move on, leaving threatening notes for him at work.
Marcus Lowry has also put his past behind him. In Marcus’ case, it is his time with the CIA that still leaves him haunted about lives lost. Now he works for Phoenix, Inc. Investigations, and when Marcus is assigned the job of protecting Cole and looking into his stalker, at first he isn’t sure whether to believe him. Cole is clearly hiding something and Marcus has trouble trusting anyone after a betrayal in his past. But it becomes clear that the threat against Cole is very real, and soon they are escalating to Marcus and to the men he works for as well.
The men all work together to protect Cole and figure out who his stalker is and try to help him. In the meantime, Cole and Marcus begin to find a bond, and soon a sexual and romantic connection that is heightened by the intense situation. But Marcus is still slow to trust and Cole is still not being forthcoming about everything in his past. Even if they can move past that, Cole’s stalker is being increasingly dangerous and all their lives are at risk.
No Boundaries is the first book in S.E. Jake’s new Phoenix series, and I think it is off to a good start. I love Jakes’ writing and as usual she does a great job combining some super alpha men with complicated pasts, along with great suspense and thriller elements.
This story is on the simpler end from the suspense side, which I think makes sense as we set the foundation for the series. The aren’t a lot of twists and turns to the case; we know from the start someone from Cole’s past is stalking him and the story follows along as Marcus, and then soon his bosses Law, Styx, and Paulo, try to figure out who is after Cole and to stop him before he gets too close. I thought the case was well done and interesting. Again, it is not super twisty and I think the ending was a little anticlimactic, but it is a nice framework to set up the relationship between Cole and Marcus.
These guys start out at odds because Marcus does not trust easily and he is immediately suspicious of Cole’s story about the stalker. I found Marcus a little cold here at first, especially because he is told to handle Cole with kid gloves and instead he is sneering and judgmental. But I like that we see him quickly realize he is letting his past experience color his judgement here and the guys are able to move forward. The relationship progresses very quickly as the men are in close quarters so Marcus can protect Cole. So they fall for each other pretty fast, though I didn’t have too much trouble buying that the extreme situation would heighten their feelings. I just didn’t quite feel as much of a connection as I was hoping to between these guys. Even if I can accept how fast they fall for one another, they seem to know each other and how to care for each comfort one another in a way that seemed unrealistic given their time together. I also found that things go racing forward at the end. One minute they are figuring out where things stand once the case closes, then they are fighting, and suddenly making huge commitments in the blink of an eye. I just needed more time to see this all play out to really make this feel realistic. Still, I enjoyed both of these guys and found them a likable couple.
Although this is the start of a new series, this book connects directly with Jakes’ Men of Honor series, in that it features Law, Styx, and Paulo, a triad who star in Bound by Law and also appear in some of the other stories in that series. The men are the owners of Phoenix and play very strong supporting roles in here. In fact, in addition to getting POVs from Marcus and Cole, these men also get POV chapters throughout the book. In some cases, these sections are focused on the investigation and what is going on with Marcus and Cole, but in others their focus is on their own relationship. I really liked this actually because I adore this threesome and I was really excited to see them again here. It makes sense to bring them into this story as they own the company that presumably will be the foundation of this new series and it connects the Men of Honor and Phoenix worlds. We also get a great connection here between Law and Cole, who have similar backgrounds. Law is able to reach Cole in a way that the other men can’t and his understanding of Cole’s background goes a long way to helping Cole move on from his past. So I really liked their involvement in the story and would love to see them continue to be a part of the series. On the downside, for me they stole the show a little bit as I found their relationship more compelling than the fledgling one of Cole and Marcus. I also think this book assumes a basic knowledge of these men and their backgrounds that you would only get from reading their book. Coming in cold, I am not sure I would have fully gotten the depth behind their relationship or the one between Law and Cole.
Overall though I found this enjoyable start to a new series by Jakes. As I said, I love her writing and she does alpha men oh so well. Whenever I start one of her books I know it will be filled with heat, intensity, and great suspense, and this was no exception. So I am really looking forward to seeing where this new series takes us.