Rating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novel

Prophet has always known the time would come when he would have to face down his old friend and teammate, John Morse. John has turned into a very dangerous man and he has been clear that he is not done with Prophet. In fact, he has been taunting Prophet, spying on him, and trying to make Prophet take action for a long time now and finally it’s time for Prophet to respond.

Prophet’s instincts are to go it alone, but there is no way Tom is letting that happen. The men have become partners in life, as well as on the job, and Tom is definitely going to be there for Prophet. When they get Prophet’s old team together, they are all determined to take out John once and for all. But John has become a powerful madman and stopping him isn’t going to be easy. And even if they can make it past John, there are still ghosts from Prophet’s past that can come back to haunt him. Tom is there with his love and support, however, as is most of Prophet’s former team. Together they will face down their enemies and hope that they can make it out alive and to a new future when it is all over.

If I Ever is the fourth and final full book in S.E. Jakes’ fabulous Hell and High Water series. I fell hard for this series, and the whole Extreme Escapes universe, so I was really excited to see that after an almost five-year hiatus, Jakes had released the final book. The books in this series are definitely connected, so you for sure need to be familiar with past stories for this one to work (and I’ll delve more into that in a bit).

First off, as exciting as this series is, the real heart of it is the relationship between Tom and Prophet. These guys are both strong, tough men who aren’t used to showing their feelings or having the vulnerabilities that come with this kind of partnership. Jakes is so good at writing hard men who have a soft center and Tommy and Prophet are a great example of that throughout the series. I love the way they can open up to one another and their love is very apparent. In this story, things are a little rough for them as a couple as much of the time they are struggling as they face some difficult situations. I wish we had gotten to see more of these guys happy in love, not just their conflicts, as it felt a little out of balance. We get a lot of angry sex that smooths things over, but not as much of the tenderness and real openness with each other we have seen in other books. But I still really love Tom and Prophet together and I think they are both great, complex characters who you can really root for to find their happiness.

As I said, this is the fourth book in the series, but the last one was released back in May 2014, so it is has been quite a long time in between books. I’ll be honest and say that while I remembered broad outlines of the plot, I definitely didn’t feel caught up on the overarching storyline. I debated rereading the first three books, but reviewing time constraints just made that impossible. I did, however, reread my reviews and the book blurbs and I assumed that between that and whatever recap this story contained, I would be good to go. The reality is that with any series, some of the readers read all the books at once and others read as they are released, and particularly with the big time gap in release dates here, I figured this story would get us up to speed on past events. However, that really wasn’t the case and I’ll admit that I felt very lost and confused in the early part of this book.

The story opens essentially where the last one left off, to the point where we have Prophet running down the icy street barefoot. So this is picking up a story thread from the end of the previous book, but beyond a broad mention that Prophet has realized John was spying on him and breaking into his apartment, we never get any reminder of why he is out there barefoot. Characters and events are mentioned with little to no explanation of who they are or what happened in the past books, when even a few sentences of recap could have made a huge difference. For example, we hear about a person named Remy, and from context I could tell it was a child they were taking care of, but at first I had no memory of who he was or even if he was a baby or a teen. We get a little bit more information later on, which did remind me of the basics from when he is introduced in a prior book. But we get no real explanation of Remy’s connection to the men here, nor why they are taking him in, what happened to his father, etc. A few sentences could have clarified all of this, but we get virtually nothing to orient us. As another example, two men join with Prophet’s team who seem to have been in a relationship, but one thought the other was dead. Again, we get no explanation of who these people are, why their relationship is important to this story, the significance of the fact that one was thought dead, etc. I just felt like the book assumes the reader is caught up on not only the major plot points, but all the minor details as well, and no real attempt is made to catch folks up after the long gap between stories.

At first, I figured that things would get clearer once I got into this story and there was less focus on past events, but I will say I struggled a lot following what was going on here much of the time. This is a complicated story with lots of players and even when I knew who folks were, I didn’t always understand the significance of their actions or how all the pieces were coming together. For example, at one point all the guys seem to be kidnapped (maybe?) and are taken by various agencies and then they all get out, but some seem to have been let go and others escape. I never understood who took them or why, why some seemed to be in danger and others didn’t, or anything about this plot point. And unfortunately, I felt like that a lot as I was reading. I can explain away my earlier confusion by the time between books, but I think that my overall confusion here is just that things are not explained as clearly as they could have been (or at least, as clearly as I needed). I felt like the storylines in earlier books were complex, but still I could follow along, but a lot of the small elements here just went past me.

This book does have a lot of exciting things going on, however, and Jakes does so well with the military/espionage type maneuvers. I particularly enjoyed seeing Prophet’s team come together, as well as the group of older military men who get involved. The plot wasn’t as fast-paced as some of the others. There is a lot of time spent sitting around and talking and less actual action. I also think that the John plot line felt like it resolved a little anti-climacticly, especially because they then move on to another conflict with some side characters as the focus almost right away. While it does sort of relate back to John, it felt like Tom and Prophet’s big moment is put aside to focus on some side characters I had no investment in. The story also shifts to Cillian and Mal in the epilogue. They had their own book and have been major side characters here (as well as appearing to have more books coming), so I could kind of understand why Jakes might want to bring the focus to them. But I also felt like Prophet and Tommy’s big moment gets overshadowed in their finale book.

So I did have some issues with this one, but I still am a huge fan of this series and my love for these books and these men helped to really carry it for me. I just loved seeing them again and watching them interact. I didn’t love this final book as much as the others, but overall this series is amazing and well worth the read. Just definitely be sure you are all caught up before you pick this one up.