Queen's ransom coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Helena Madigan and her brothers have been putting the final pieces in place to run their assassin business on their terms. That means checking out all targets, no guns, and no collateral damage. She has been away for a while working, meeting with contacts and smoothing ruffled feathers. Her time away has also kept her apart from Celia Perri, the gorgeous mechanic whose brother, Chris, is marrying Helena’s brother, Hawes. When Helena gets back in town, the first place she wants to go is Celia’s shop. Now that things are slowing down with the business, it could be a chance for the women to explore the attraction between them. But when a shooter attacks the garage, things are thrown into chaos.

The Madigans are determined to protect Celia and her family, so they move them into their house for a few days while they try to sort out the threat. It’s not clear if the danger is coming from Celia’s violent ex, or from someone who is unhappy with the Madigans and their new business plan. While keeping Celia close is important to keep her safe, it also makes Helena nervous. She doesn’t want to expose Celia and her kids to danger, nor does Celia know about the true nature of the Madigan business. It may be safer for Celia if Helena just keeps her distance. But Celia is stronger than people think and she is not willing to be pushed aside for her protection. Now they have to track down who is behind the shooting and what they are after so that Helena and Celia can explore the feelings between them.

Queen’s Ransom is the fourth book in Layla’ Reyne’s exciting Fog City series. While the first three books form a trilogy focused on Hawes and Chris, this newest story brings together a new couple in Celia and Helena. While this book isn’t quite as connected to the main series arc, Helena and Celia do appear in the earlier books, and all the series characters show up here as well. There is also a lot of assumed knowledge about past events, so this one is really best read by those familiar with the other books.

Celia and Helena have a great connection and I enjoyed seeing them together. Helena comes across a little icy and reserved in the original trilogy and so I liked seeing her softer side here. She is still tough as nails and could kill you 50 different ways, but she has a bit of vulnerability, as well as a sweetness that comes through to round out her character. Celia is caretaker, but also with a tough side. She is strong and independent and there is a nice balance to her character as well. So the two women are a great fit and there is a nice sensuality to their connection, as well as the pairing of two strong, intense women. Celia is coming into this world somewhat blind. She knows bits and pieces, and has been exposed to some darker things with her brother being in law enforcement. But here she is learning the true nature of the Madigans’ business, which is obviously outside of the law, along with many of the tactics they use. I think Reyne does a nice job developing Celia as a woman who can accept these realities and who can live on the fringes of this world in a believable way. There is also a nice sense of family here, particularly for Celia, who was so isolated as part of her abusive relationship with Dex. So I really enjoyed the scenes where we see the Perris and the Madigans come together, particularly as they will now be family due to Hawes and Chris’ upcoming marriage.

This book starts with the two women already having a friendship and an attraction to one another, so they sort of slide into something more serious fairly quickly. I wished for a bit more of that early development to be shown here, however. Because they fall together so easily, the conflict has to come from a lot of getting together and pulling back on Helena’s part, as she worries about things being too much for Celia. So I think showing more of things developing would have given them more personal story, instead of resting so much on this part of the conflict.

The suspense story here presents an interesting situation in that they start off not even sure who is the target of the shooting (both women are at the garage at the time). So they need to dig through all the potential threats to try to figure out what is going on and the origin of the threat. We get to see all the assorted Madigan skills in play, from working contacts, to fighting bad guys, to doing high-tech mojo. The siblings are so much fun, especially when they are working together. And here we get Chris and Celia along for the ride too. While the case is a new one, it does bring in characters and some story elements from earlier books. I did find myself at times a bit lost with all the contacts and all the various threads, and I don’t think the case keeps up as many thrills and as much suspense as the storylines from earlier books. But we do get a nice discrete case that gives the women a chance to bond and find their way to one another.

The story also brings in a bit about Holt and Brax, who will be the focus of the final book coming out in May. At times I think they stole some of the focus from Celia and Helena, since both men are so clearly in such a bad way right now. But it also made me really excited for their story, as there has been a strong connection between these guys all along.

So if you are fan of this series, definitely check out Helena and Celia’s story. It ties together nicely with the first three books, while still giving a great journey of their own for the women.

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