Cassel was raised from his teens to be a hitman, controlled by a man who left him feeling like he had nowhere else to turn. When Cassel finally got free of that life, he took a job as a private investigator with fellow former hitman, Leland, and Leland’s husband, Jackson. For the first time, Cassel feels like he has a family of sorts with people who care about him, and he loves his job, even if Leland’s craziness can sometimes make him nuts. Cassel is also crushing on local cop, Jeremy, who unfortunately seems to not recognize his interest.
Jeremy has a complicated past and it’s one that he can’t reveal to anyone. But it has come back to haunt him and now someone wants Jeremy dead. He is going to have to track down some of the folks from his past to try to find out who is after him and why, and hopefully put a stop to it all. It turns out that Cassel has some information that Jeremy needs and wrangles himself along for the ride.
Cassel is determined to help Jeremy, particularly as he knows some things about what is going on that Jeremy doesn’t. Not to mention that Jeremy has no idea that Cassel is a skilled former assassin and can more than hold his own against the bad guys and that Cassel will do whatever it takes to protect Jeremy from any harm. As the men get closer to tracking down the bad guys, the connection between them also begins to build. However, both men have some serious secrets, ones they fear could derail their growing relationship. But when the bullets start flying and the truth comes out, Jeremy and Cassel may just find they are perfect for each other after all.
The Former Assassin’s Guide to Snagging a Reluctant Boyfriend is a spin-off of sorts from Alice Winters’ Hitman’s Guide series. The gang’s all here for this one, however, and while it may not technically be a continuation of Leland and Jackson’s adventures, in reality this feels like the fourth series book rather than a standalone, so you really do want to read this in conjunction with the other books.
We know Cassel has had a crush on Jeremy for a while, so it was fun to see the two of them get their story. There is a nice road trip feel to this one, as Cassel and Jeremy set off together to track down an informant, and in true Alice Winter’s fashion, hijinks ensue along the way. There are a lot of silly, outrageous, and fun moments here as the guys get in and out of trouble. If you have read the Hitman’s Guide books, expect a similar tone and sense of humor. I love this series and so I found this one right up my alley. There is also some nice suspense, with a twisty case that develops in some interesting ways. I love the fact that Leland, Jackson, and even Henry get involved, so this is a big adventure and with lots of gun-loving former assassins and their partners trying to keep them in line.
What I enjoy so much about Winters’ books is the way she combines the heart with the humor. There is a nice found family element here for Cassel, who grew up in the same awful circumstances as Leland, and who has found his place with this group. We also get some interesting parallels between Jeremy and Cassel, both men with pasts for which they are ashamed and secrets they fear will chase the other man off. So the story explores some nice redemption elements for both men.
There is also some recurring humor surrounding the fact that Jeremy thinks Cassel is just a regular PI and assumes he needs Jeremy’s protection, since he is a cop. He has no idea that Cassel can not only take care of himself, but pretty much run rings around everyone but Leland. So I found this a fun element that worked nicely with the secrets these guys were keeping from each other. The problem for me, however, and my main issue with the book, is that it plays out to make Jeremy look kind of clueless and inept. I honestly kept forgetting Jeremy was supposed to be a police officer because he seems to have no idea what he is doing much of the time and rarely does or says anything to suggest law enforcement is his job. Honestly, I think the story would have made much more sense if Jeremy was a regular civilian, though he appears in earlier books so his profession was set. Instead, we see time and again how Jeremy thinks he knows what is going on, but behind the scenes Cassel is fixing everything for him. Jeremy thinks he has shot the bad guys, but really, he missed them all and Cassel is the one who hit them. Jeremy tells Cassel to stay behind while he scopes out where the bad guys are, but he makes such a mess of it that Cassel has to go behind him and shoot everyone before they kill Jeremy and Jeremy has no idea. They get information because Cassel interrogates the bad guys without Jeremy realizing it. It is so much of this stuff, which like I said, makes a nice humorous thread to the story, as Jeremy thinks he is the one protecting Cassel, but really it’s the other way around. But it also ended up leaving me feel like Jeremy is so clueless about what is happening, as well as kind of incompetent as a cop, which I don’t necessarily think is what the story was going for.
Despite this, I found this one a lot of fun and a great chance to reconnect with these characters. I love Leland and Jackson, but with their romance tied up, this was a nice way to revisit the group and get them all involved, but take things a slightly different direction. If you have read the other Hitman books, you are definitely going to want to give Cassel and Jeremy’s story a try. And if not, the whole series is worth the read.