Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars
Narrator: John Solo
Length: 8 hours, 41 minutes
Despite surviving a horrifying attack on his Marines platoon in Romania, no one listens to Atlas Kinkaid’s insistence about paranormal enemies. Discharged and living with the trauma, Atlas is grateful for his job at Whitethorn Security Agency—even if his assignments of late have revolved around self-centered clients who expect more than they pay for. But when the agency boss gives him details for a new assignment that promises not only to pay well, but mesh with his inverted circadian cycles, Atlas jumps at the chance. He only regrets it a little when his new charge decides to test Atlas’ ability to keep tabs on a moving target. When Atlas proves he’s got the chops, the real work begins.
As the son of one of the city’s wealthiest developers, Cristian Slava has not wanted for much. He is stunningly attractive, rich, and acts as his father’s business surrogate when the family patriarch is otherwise engaged. He is also heir to the massive family fortune and power, which makes him a target worthy of a bodyguard. Atlas manages to prove himself to the members of Cristian’s in-group and all is going well. That is, until Cristian is forced to reveal his true nature to Atlas as not totally human. The act inadvertently delves into the paranormal attack Atlas suffered, dredging up all the pain and hatred along with it. Atlas feels so betrayed at being tasked with protecting similar beings to those that attacked him, that he reaches out to a mysterious man who offers a chance to put an end to Cristian and his family.
Revenge, however, is never easy. Now, Atlas has to continue to cement his position within Cristian’s inner circle, while also feeding information to his new contacts. If all goes well, then Cristian will be used as leverage to take down his father’s empire. But the more Atlas gains Cristian’s trust, the less sure he is that he’s doing the right thing. By the time all the cards are on the table, Atlas is sure he’s made the wrong decision…just like he’s convinced that if the truth gets out, he’d be in mortal danger.
Rare Vigilance is the first book in the Whitethorn Agency series by M.A. Grant. The audiobook has been narrated by John Solo and clocks in at 8 hours 41 minutes. Solo has nice pacing and does a fair job of differentiating spoken dialogue. Overall, I thought Atlas sounded like he’s got a bit of a Southern drawl compared to his prim-sounding sister. Cristian’s voice was less pleasing to my ear, but that may have been a stylistic choice to make him sound aloof. He and his father, as well as his father’s aid, all hail from Romania, so they have distinct accents. And these latter two, whenever they spoke, always made me think of Hector Elizondo from The Princess Diaries; a voice I loved, but felt distracting in this thriller-romance. By far the best bit of narrating came towards the end when Atlas and Cristian share an intimate moment and Atlas is whispering. I thought it reflected just how at peace Atlas had become with his charge and with his desire for the man.
As for the story, it starts off pretty low-key. I prefer starting stories “blind,” so generally don’t read the blurbs before I begin. This is probably why the build up felt particularly slow at first. Grant seems to focus on showcasing Atlas and how he interacts with the world now that he’s been discharged. If nothing else, it really set the stage for how deeply he was affected by having been attacked during his time in the Marines. It also allows us to get a taste of the social systems at work in the book. His sister is the one who runs Whitethorn Security Agency and that always tickled my fancy.
When it comes to conflict, there are bucketloads to enjoy in this book. First, there’s the way Cristian writes off Atlas as the new bodyguard. Then, there’s the tension between Atlas’ true boss being Cristian’s father (the one that hired Atlas), but his job is to protect Cristian from any and all threats…so his loyalties get tested a time or two. When Atlas learns the true nature of Cristian and his family, he reluctantly sticks with the job and immediately jumps at the chance to work with a mysterious man who offers Atlas a way to take the family down…only to discover Cristian and his family aren’t the evil beings he thinks they are. I enjoyed the constant feeling of being on edge in some respect, while still being able to feel confident that I should root for Atlas and Cristian to overcome their differences and get it on.
The romance aspect of this story is fairly tame. Both Atlas and Cristian seem to acknowledge their mutual appreciation of the other. Naturally, however, Atlas is not only contractually obligated not to fraternize with the client, it’s a matter of duty to refrain as well. That said, there is a small thread of attraction that develops from Atlas towards Cristian that grows steadily. I think the slow pacing helped lend a level of credibility to the way they eventually at least acknowledge the potential they have for something more. It was almost sweet for these hardened men to discover something tender between them, especially since Atlas starts off fully convinced that anything paranormal is nothing but evil incarnate.
Finally, I personally liked how this first installment in the series comes to a close with a surprise appearance from a supporting character at the end. I even didn’t mind the cliffhanger, as it creates a key development that I feel like I’ll get to savor in the next installment.
Overall, I thought Rare Vigilance was tremendously entertaining. If you like paranormal stories, slow burns, and (quasi) enemies-to-lovers themes, I think you’ll really enjoy this. The slow start helps build up the patterns the characters rely on and, for me at least, helped mark just how stunning the final battle scenes are. And the ending cliffhanger is a double whammy of “look who’s come to help” and “we need to talk.”