play dirty coverRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Madigan and Azrael are both elite assassins and frequent competitors. Over the years, the two have clashed multiple times over jobs…and ended up in bed together multiple times as well. There is something about the other man that each finds too compelling and they can’t quite stay away. Now, both Madigan and Azrael are working on the Red Queen’s hit list, a list of high-profile targets that are involved in the worst of sins. The jobs bring big money and big prestige, and both men are after the targets. And if it means they can steal a kill from the other, all the better.

Despite themselves, Madigan and Azrael are falling for one another, though trust is hard to come by and feelings are difficult to admit. Theirs is not a profession that lends itself easily to working together. But when a hit goes wrong and the men stumble upon a huge human trafficking ring, they realize that they are better off working the job together. However, the enemy is dangerous and the job is near impossible to complete. And now that Azrael and Madigan have finally shared their feelings for each other, it makes them all the more vulnerable. But facing danger together is better than alone, and now the men must fight with all they have to make it out alive and back into each other’s arms.

Play Dirty is the second book in Onley James and Neve Wilder’s excellent romantic suspense series, Wages of Sin. After a prologue where we get a bit of history on Madigan and Azrael’s relationship, this story picks up right where Bad Habits ends, with the Red Queen sharing news of the hit list. We met Madigan in that first book, and Jonah and Caspian appear here multiple times. So while the relationship stands alone fine, I think you will enjoy this book much more if you have read the first story and have some background on the set up and the characters.

I absolutely loved Bad Habits and both Jonah and Caspian, so I was a little unsure how I felt about moving on to a new couple with this book, but I have to say, Madigan and Azrael were just perfect. As with the first story, these men are clearly bad boys, both making their living as assassins. They are hard and intense and don’t play particularly well with others. When they are together, much of their interaction is aggressive and rough. Expect lots of throwing each other around and biting necks and fights for dominance. But we do also see that both men have a soft side, particularly with each other. When they let down their walls and really share how they are feeling, it is all the more rewarding because it feels so unexpected. And while they are pretty much remorseless killers, they do have a code — never the dog! In addition, here we see when the men stumble upon a particularly awful situation involving one of their targets, they get involved trying to break the trafficking ring rather than turning the other way. So if you like your heroes super prickly, but also with a soft side, you are going to love this story. I really enjoyed these guys together. They are super sexy and, while they might fight a lot, the authors do a great job making me believe that there is a real connection between them that could really work long term.

The story has a lot of intensity and excitement as the guys battle to one up each other on the assassination front. And then things get even crazier when the situation goes awry and they find themselves in danger. Again, you have to be able to go with the fact that these are not “good guys,” but there is still a lot of fun to be had watching Madigan and Azrael go head to head with each other. I also really like the found family side of this series. Hired killers (and hackers in Caspian’s case) are pretty much solo professions, but somehow they have made a little family of sorts between Madigan, Azrael, Jonah, Caspian, Sadie, and a few others that show up here. When one of them is in need, the whole cavalry arrives, and I enjoy how they are determined to protect one another (but also maybe will kill each other). These moments really soften the story, showing the humanity behind these killers and letting them open up to the bonds of love and friendship and family.

I really am a fan of this series and just love the tone and the style here. These books are fun, exciting, suspenseful, and feature some great (and super sexy) bad boy heroes. The authors give a glimpse as to the next couple featured at the end of this book and I am really excited and intrigued to see how it all plays out. If you are a fan of romantic suspense with some bad boy heroes, definitely check these out.

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