Drake has dedicated his life to stopping the Bordega cartel. His purpose is singular and focused and there isn’t time for romance. Especially with an employee. His ownership of the club Semblance allows him direct access to the lower levels of the cartel and the club serves as a hub for Bordega’s criminal activities. Drake means well, but he finds his tips to the cops have started resulting in a body count and Drake realizes things are spiraling out of his control.
In the midst of this chaos, Drake is drawn to his bartender, Scotty. He does everything to try and drive Scotty away, knowing his life is in danger just by associating with Drake. But love is always worth the risk. Both men have their secrets and learning to trust one another won’t be easy. But doing so might just end up saving their lives.
Semblance was a gritty, action-packed book that rarely gives the reader a chance to take a breath. The writing is crisp and strong and captured my interest from the opening chapter. One of the biggest things I enjoyed about this book was the realism of it. I’m not talking about the plot, because that’s borderline absurd, but rather the violence and bloody nature of the characters and their actions. Drake tries to be the good guy here and for the most part he is, but he’s caught in a gory business and his horrified response to it feels believable and relatable. When I read a book about the mafia or drug cartels, I expect violence and too often the author sugar coats things or tries to soften the truth of it. But with Semblance, we see the cost of dealing with the bad guys and the blood comes fast and furious. This might not be for everyone, but it made the book for me. It gave the characters purpose and their experiences were laden with risk and anticipation as a result. Also the violence never felt gratuitous to me and I felt there was intent to the actions on the page.
As I said, the plot or at least part of it, comes off as rather silly and in any other book it could have caused a problem. But thanks to all that realistic violence and the engaging characters, I could quickly forget about the why and how of Drake came to be a part of the Bordega cartel. Instead, it’s almost impossible not become absorbed in the story and the life and death stakes on the table for Drake and Scotty. There is a section of Semblance that seems to stumble ever so slightly and it occurs about two thirds of the way through. The action grinds to a halt and the characters don’t really fit into the background anymore. I think it’s supposed to be the calm before the storm, but it instead it feels somewhat forced and a little uneven. It isn’t enough to derail the book and reads as little more than a blip. It just happened to be a small section that failed to integrate itself with the rest of the narrative.
On the whole, Semblance was an exceptionally enjoyable book, replete with excellent pacing and strong, immersive action. The characters work well nearly all of the time and the book’s strength is its dark realism. Consider this one recommended, especially for anyone who appreciates a book with edginess to it.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.