Rating: 4.5 stars
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Tobias is a psychologist whose client list consists of killers. He is fascinated by them, trying to understand that impulse that moves them from murderous thoughts to actions. The question has particular significance for Tobias, as he himself has those same impulses to kill, yet he has so far managed to hold himself back. Tobias keeps himself rigidly controlled in all areas of his life, seeking to project a sense of normalcy and keep enough structure and routine to hold himself in check. But after meeting a pair of assassins who seem otherwise normal and adjusted, a pair that are essentially a married couple no less, Tobias is beginning to wonder if he can in fact give into his homicidal impulses and still keep control over his life. In fact, he has decided to take out a mob enforcer who is also a client, a despicable man who shows no remorse for his killings.
Soren is a skilled assassin who is mostly retired these days. But he has come into town to help some friends with a job and it turns out Soren’s mark is the same man Tobias is looking to take out. Soren and Tobias are both vying for the kill, but once the job is done, they form a truce and a mentor/mentee connection of sorts, as Soren agrees to provide Tobias some pointers for his newly embarked foray into assassination.
Tobias is a man not used to letting anyone in. He does his best to feign normalcy, but he has no close relationships and, in fact, few relationships at all. Having Soren in his space, in his home no less, is shocking for Tobias at first. But even more surprising is the way it feels so natural. Soren accepts Tobias for exactly who he is, and Tobias does the same for Soren. Tobias also finds himself intensely attracted to Soren, another experience that is totally new for him. Soon, the men have formed an unexpected bond, as well as a fiercely hot sexual connection. But both men live dangerous lives, and not everyone is happy about Tobias’ attempts to root out evil among his client list. When his life is on the line, both and he and Soren will have to fight with all they have to make sure Tobias comes out alive.
Head Games is the third book in Onley James and Neve Wilder’s Wages of Sin series and I am completely loving these books. Make no mistake, the characters here are remorseless killers, and while we generally see them taking out bad guys, we are still talking about assassins. But somehow rather than the books having a darker edge, the authors make them fun, playful, and sexy. I find myself totally falling for these characters, despite their less than upstanding profession.
This book is particularly engaging as Tobias is a totally fascinating character. He is a man who is well aware of his own dark impulses — he is a psychologist after all. He has known all his life he has a drive to kill, but has kept it reined in through intense control over every facet of his life. He also knows that his natural inclinations would shock people, and so he puts up this facade of normalcy. He has a coffee maker despite not drinking coffee, because people would expect to see one in his house. The way he dresses, decorates, and behaves is all calculated to make others see him as normal and average. He keeps rigid routines, controls his indulgences, and holds himself tightly wound in an attempt to stop his murderous impulses. So when he meets two assassins who seem to be living a normal life, to be normal people, it throws Tobias. Suddenly he decides he can give in to those dark impulses and still function and he is thrilled. He delights in killing, loves the feeling of taking a life (like I said, these aren’t necessarily good guys). And even more, he loves the way that Soren accepts all of this about him without reservation. Soren, who has his own long career as a killer, has no problem with Tobias’ fascination with death. In fact, he wants to teach him all he knows. So this is a twisted dynamic, but one that I found really interesting. It all leads into some excitement as Tobias tries his hand at murder and then even more as he gets in the sights of a killer himself.
The relationship here is particularly fun as Tobias falls for Soren almost despite himself. Soren is easy going, mellow, and just super low key. Then we have Tobias, who is a bundle of tension, a genius who can’t help but overthink everything. Soren sort of moves himself into Tobias’ life, and as much as part of Tobias wants to push him away, he also just completely loves being with Soren. Soren accepts Tobias and helps soften those prickly edges. He supports Tobias and teaches him. He also brings out a sexual passion in Tobias that he didn’t even know was inside him. These guys are hot together and they have a wonderful dynamic.
As I mentioned, this is the third book in the Wages of Sin series and the characters do cross over into each other’s books. We met Tobias in Play Dirty as the psychologist who helps Madigan and Azrael (after they kidnapped his beloved teacup Yorkie, Mantis). Mad and Az are also the ones who inadvertently impact Tobias and get him thinking about giving in to his killer impulses. That said, I think this book could stand alone if you wanted to jump in here, as the storyline is pretty discrete and the real focus is on Soren and Tobias.
So overall, I really enjoyed this latest installment. I found Tobias to be a fascinating character and the authors give us such a clever look into his mind here. I loved him and Soren together and found the sexy, playful vibe a nice contrast to the darker subject matter. If you like some bad boys mixed with a lighter-toned story, plus a lot of heat, definitely check out this series.