Rating: 4.5 stars
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August and Landon are living together and happier than ever. Despite growing up as a villain, Landon can’t help but adore his sweet, sexy, do-gooder boyfriend. And in Landon, August has someone to show him that he doesn’t have to be perfect all the time, that the weight of responsibility doesn’t have to rest solely on his (admittedly large) shoulders. August is finally having a little fun in his life and even breaking a few rules, much to Landon’s delight. Plus, any chance to irritate August’s handler, Valerie, by misbehaving is always good in Landon’s book. The guys may not be perfectly behaved anymore, but they are happy and in love.
Things take a turn, however, when they fall victim to an illusionist, someone who makes it appear things are happening that are really not. It means that August and Landon are acting on non-existent threats, which is bringing them negative public attention. It seems no matter how much of himself August sacrifices to help the people of the city, they are quick to turn on him when things aren’t perfect. But it soon becomes clear the situation is worse than some bad press or hostile comments. Someone wants August and Landon dead and the superheroes destroyed, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get their way.
A Hero in Hiding is the second book in Alice Winters’ Vexing Villains series. The first book, A Villain for Christmas, was originally published as part of the multi-author Snow Globe Christmas series, but has now been re-covered and re-released to start this new series. The books follow the same main characters in Landon and August, so it is helpful to start with book one so you see the beginning of their relationship, as well as get some background on the world building. I am a huge superhero fan, so I love this series and think Winters does an amazing job with this trope. The world building is fun and clever. I love the play on heroes and villains, the idea that it is not all so perfectly black and white. We get some fun super abilities, interesting political dynamics, and just an overall engaging set up for the series.
The mystery/suspense side of this is exciting, as we learn more about this illusionist and what they hope to achieve. As with most of Winters’ work, there are some serious, intense moments, as well as lots of comic relief. I particularly like how the bad guy storyline really serves to showcase so much about Landon and August and their own journey. While the first book had a little more focus on Landon’s backstory, this one gives a chance to delve more into August. We have already seen how August has this pressure from all fronts to be this perfect hero and he is just drowning in the responsibility and obligation to do everything right all the time. But here we see even more of that darker side — the wanna-be heroes who put lives at risk, the way the gawking crowds make things even more dangerous, how many from law enforcement sit back and let August solve the problems and shoulder the burdens himself. Even more, we get to learn about some of August’s true pain about events from his past that end up tying into the current situation and it is just so well explored. I felt like I came out of this one really having a better understanding of August and his character.
I just love Landon and August together and they have such a lovely partnership. These guys would do anything for one another and are fiercely protective of each other. I love how Landon can help loosen up August, and the way August keeps Landon a little more on the straight and narrow. They have a fun banter and really joyful dynamic that I like a lot. This book expands their partnership to include a few more in their team, including Landon’s incredibly stupid brother, a wild hitman turned strange friend, an out of control fire starter, and an uptight rule follower with a bit of a wild side. Deus, the hitman, is sort of “Leland light,” for those of you who have read the Hitman’s series. He provides a lot of comic relief and he has an interesting backstory that we just start to learn.
Overall, I am really enjoying this series and think Winters has done a great job mixing the fun and occasional silliness of this trope with some more weighty character development that balances things out well. I am excited to see that the series is developing further and I am looking forward to what is to come.