Rating: 4 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Dr. Liam Bexley is the in-house doctor for the Menagerie, a hotel that caters to assassins, gangsters, and other dangerous criminals. Liam’s job is to patch up anyone who comes through his doors without asking questions. Liam keeps his work fiercely separate from his private life; it is the only way to avoid getting himself dragged into the dangerous world. But he can admit an attraction to one of his occasional patients, assassin Francisco Delgado.
When Cisco ends up in the middle of a conflict between assassin guilds, he knows he is in trouble. Someone is setting him up and he has no way to prove his innocence. When Liam gets inadvertently drawn into the fight, he finds himself in the crosshairs as well. Cisco wants to protect Liam while he sorts things out, but Liam is determined not to be sidelined. With his life on the line as well, Liam wants to help Cisco untangle what is going on. But the situation is incredibly dangerous and both men seem to be in over their heads. However, if Liam and Cisco stick together, they may just make it out alive.
Bullets & Butterflies is a fun, suspenseful story pairing a smooth and sexy assassin with a slightly surly doctor who has a bit of a kink for danger. I found Liam and Cisco an entertaining pair as they work together to find their way out of trouble. Liam’s default tends to be on the grumpy end and he mostly just keeps his head down and does his job. Cisco is a charmer, a man trained in seduction and smooth talking to help lure in his targets. Both men are isolated and lonely and both take a chance on opening up with one another. It takes a bit to be sure they can trust each other, but the intensity of their situation quickly brings them close. In this case, I’d say maybe a little too quickly, as the story takes place over a few days and the men are already in love by the end. We know they had an attraction from before the start of the story, having met during previous times Liam patched Cisco up. But it doesn’t appear they had any kind of connection or even real conversation, and if the story is going to rely on past events as a foundation for their relationship, it would have helped to have more insight into what happened previously.
Maddox sets up an interesting world here and a nice suspense story. This isn’t a very long novel and I think the pacing is done well. After the initial set up, we are really thrust into the action. I enjoyed following along as Cisco and Liam try to work backwards and get some evidence of the set up. There are some exciting and suspenseful moments that work well. I also liked how the dual POV allows us insight into both men, and at times to learn about things from one person’s viewpoint that the other man may not know. Maddox also neatly steps around the fact that the men are having sex while in life or death situations by making Liam have a bit of a danger kink that leads to some hot encounters.
This story is part of the multi-author Elite series and the books are intended to stand alone, which I think this one does perfectly well. My understanding is that the series is tied together by the presence of a club called Anonymous that caters to the unlawful of the city. The club itself is pretty irrelevant to the story, honestly. The guys go there a couple of times, but nothing happens there that couldn’t be the same as at any bar or restaurant. I am not sure if the larger world building elements, such as the hotel or the assassin guilds, or even which city they are in, carry over across books or just the club. Either way, I did feel like a lot of things weren’t fully developed. For example, I would have loved to know how Liam ended up in this job as doctor to the criminal elite. We know he has a pretty solid moral code, yet he is working patching up assassins and gangsters. I wanted to know how he even ended up working at that hotel in the first place. I was also unsure about whether the rest of the world knows about these assassins and the private hotel just for bad guys, or if Liam just knows about this stuff due to his job. If it’s not public knowledge, how are they hiding this hotel where people walk around bloody and there is a doctor on staff for bullet wounds from the rest of the city? I also wanted to know more about Cisco. We are told he started training to be an assassin at age 10, but nothing about how a child ended up in this world. I needed some backstory here to explain how he ended up in this assassin guild as a little kid. So I think that while the storyline is interesting and well developed, a lot is left out in terms of some of the more specific details about the world.
In the end, I found this one a lot of fun despite missing some key world building elements. I liked Cisco and Liam together and found the story exciting, sexy, and with a really creative set up. Maddox also gives the story a nice dose of dry humor that works well with the tone. This is a good choice for a shorter suspense story with nice intensity, an opposites-attract vibe, and some nice heat.