Rating: 5 stars
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Length: Novel

Leland and Jackson are trying to live a quiet life as private investigators now that Leland has given up being an assassin. That doesn’t mean that Leland doesn’t try to liven up the more “boring” cases (who says you can’t chase a cheating spouse with a rubber axe?). But the guys are settling into a life together, or as settled as they can be with a guy like Leland around.

Things are going relatively smoothly until they get called in to investigate a murder and find that someone claiming to be the Sandman has taken credit for the hit. Given that Leland has (mostly) given up his murderous ways, the guys know that this is a copycat, but they don’t know who is out there impersonating Leland.

As Jackson and Leland delve into who is behind the hit, things get even more complicated. The threats from the bad guys increase, putting Jackson’s family at risk. No one involved is quite as they seem. And danger is around every corner. Leland and Jackson have finally found happiness with each other, and both men are determined to protect each other with all they have. But with a slew of hitmen on their tails, it is going to take everything they have to stay alive.

The Hitman’s Guide to Staying Alive Despite Past Mistakes is the second book in Alice Winters’ fabulous Hitman’s Guide series. It follows soon after the first book in the series and has everything wonderful from that first story and then some. Most of Winters’ books (and in particular this series) merge humor, romance, and suspense all together in great ways. But what really makes this story stand out even more is the way all these elements are infused with so much warmth and heart, making it all just come together perfectly for me.

If you are a fan of Winters’ style of outrageous humor, great banter, and insane interactions among her characters, this book is going to be for you. It is basically Alice Winters dialed up to 11. And I am all here for that because her style just completely works for me. I mean yes, Leland is basically insane and in real life he would probably make me nuts. But I absolutely adore him, and even more, I love the way Jackson adores him. What I think really sells their interactions is that Jackson is pretty much constantly delighted by Leland. Even as he is rolling his eyes or exasperated at yet another crazy thing Leland does, you can tell Jackson is charmed by him. He happily goes along with all of Leland’s outrageous demands and requests because he just can’t resist the man. It takes the humor and adds that layer of love on top of it that makes their interactions so fun and sweet, despite the crazy.

I am being a little vague on the plot here, because SO much happens, but most of it is spoilerific after things get started with the faux Sandman. So I don’t want to tell you much about what these guys get involved in, but they are in danger right from the start and the story is exciting and has a few nice surprises. The suspense keeps up for the entire book and I really liked how the plot unfolds. I particularly enjoyed how their cop friend, Henry, has now become part of their little scooby gang, and even Mason gets off his chair and joins in. Plus, we get a new side character that adds a lot to the story, both from the suspense end, and giving us a glimpse into more of Leland’s background and what has shaped him.

I just really loved these guys together and this story is very rewarding as we both learn more about Leland’s past, as well as see how he is finding love and acceptance with Jackson’s family and their friends. Ok, maybe not quite with Jackson’s mom yet. But those little moments when Leland feels loved and included and part of a family and a team are just so rewarding when you know how long he has been alone and feeling unloved. This story really takes things up a level from the first book as the bond strengthens between Jackson and Leland, and we can see how committed to each other they are and how much they would risk to keep the other safe. Leland begins to open up more, to share his emotions with Jackson, despite how hard it is for him. And Jackson is so solid, always there for him when Leland needs support.

So I really just adored this story. As much as I loved the first book, I feel like the warmth and love that suffuses every aspect of the story just takes things up a notch here. I just adore Jackson and Leland and loved following along on their crazy adventure!