Story Rating: 3.25 stars
Audio Rating: 3.5 stars
Narrator: Philip Alces and Joel Leslie
Length: 6 hours, 8 minutes
On his own, Jones is a deadly assassin. Quick, brutal, efficient. When he’s paired with Lee, things only get better — or worse, depending on whose side you’re on — as the two of them make a killer team. However, as good as they are on the job, they’re even better together in bed… until they’re not. Like fire and oil, Jones and Lee create a lot of heat, but sometimes people get burned. Lately, Lee has noticed that Jones is paying more than a little attention to the new man on the scene, a redhead called Ginger, and Lee isn’t happy about it.
When Lee finally makes headway on a human trafficking ring, their boss calls in Ginger and Jones to help him. After all, the boy they’re buying, in the hopes of gaining intel on the ring of criminals and their clients, is Ginger’s own little brother. The clock is ticking and lives are on the line, but so are hearts.
Forced together on the roadtrip from hell, Jones, Lee, and Ginger have to decide if they can work together, and if what they feel for each other is worth fighting for.
Triple Threat is the sixth book in the Haven Hart series, and it references characters and events from previous books. While I have read books one and two in the series, I haven’t read the others in between and had no trouble following along as the focus of the story is on the three men and their rescue mission.
This story is more of a fantasy about assassins than anything based in gritty, unhappy reality. The kills are all clean, the bad guys are all caught, and the good guys always win. Which, to be honest, is sometimes what I’m in the mood for. I like quick, sharp action books with an emphasis on fun rather than angst, and this author usually delivers just that. However, this book didn’t really work for me. The plot is solid, and while the pace drags, it’s for in-world reason. But, the characters just really didn’t do it for me.
Jones is a beer drinking, dick swinging alpha male who knows that what he and Lee have is special, but he can’t quite bring himself to say the L word. Because while Jones does care for Lee, they fight more than they fuck, and while Jones can’t see his life without Lee in it, it’s hard work when the two of them are together. There’s an easiness when he’s with Ginger; the kid is easy on the eyes, but he’s also easy company. They can talk, they can relax, they can simply have fun without having to make a thing of it.
Lee is cold, clinical, and half the time he’s lost in his computers. His kills are always from a distance, much like the distance he keeps between him and Jones. Lee loves Jones and wants to be with him, even as his jealousy and grudge holding push him away. Ginger is pretty, yes, but he gets in the way of what Lee wants, which is Jones. But when the chance to have Jones and Ginger at the same time is offered, Lee isn’t certain he wants to say no.
Ginger is an odd duck in the world of assassins. He’s a better pickpocket and a charmer and … he doesn’t really know if he can kill anyone. He’s got a crush on Jones — because who wouldn’t? — but he knows Jones and Lee are together. He also has a bit of a crush on Lee, but the man keeps rebuffing him. It’s not enough to make Ginger go away; there’s too much emotion in Lee’s eyes when he’s glaring at him for Ginger to lose hope. He just has to convince Lee not to see him as a threat, and instead see him as a possibility.
I believed Lee had feelings for Jones. I believed Jones had feelings for Ginger. And I believed that Ginger was more than happy to take both men to bed, but I never really bought Jones as having romantic feelings for Lee. Lust, yes, but not love. Jones wants to protect Ginger, to take care of him. There are moments where he tries to take care of Lee, but those moments never land and the characters keep going along as friends and co-workers rather than lovers.
I hate to say it, but I think one of the reasons I had difficulty fully buying into the characters and their respective relationships was due the narration. Normally, I love Philip Alces and Joel Leslie together; the two of them have read for previous books in this series and done wonderful jobs, but here they really didn’t seem to be working together. Alces reads for Jones, and his interpretation of Jones and his version of Ginger were vastly different from Leslie’s take. Leslie gave Ginger a younger, questioning tone — almost with a valley girl lilt — that was so different from Alces’ reading where Ginger just felt like a calmer, older man (not old, just older than Leslie’s version).
Each chapter felt like it began with a different tone, and at times I found it disconcerting, not to mention confusing. In one chapter Lee is cold in clinical, but in the next he’s being portrayed as emotional and angry. Considering how much I had enjoyed the previous books, this one was disappointing and I can’t say I enjoyed it.
Another issue in this was the story of Ginger’s brother. Joey somehow ended up being kidnapped into a human trafficking ring, but he didn’t really seem phased at all, and while Dinah — a young girl who ended up being inadvertently rescued — had a bit more reaction to her kidnap and rape, it wasn’t as much as I expected, given the recent events of her life. I’m not sure how much of that was the narration, because both Joey and Dinah were being voiced as just older teenagers, and how much was the writing, because the author didn’t dwell on the unhappiness of their lives, only on the fact that they were rescued.
Again, these books aren’t gritty, rolling around in the grimdark muck. They’re stories about love and found families, friendships and happy endings. But when dealing with such a delicate subject of kidnapping, human trafficking, and sexual slavery, I think it’s a bit disingenuous to coat it with such a sweet and fluffy wave of the hand. Of the three Haven Hart books I’ve reviewed, this one is my least favorite and one I will most likely not be listening to again, but I do highly recommend the first book.