under the radar coverRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

 

When Jared met Logan at a club, he was immediately drawn to the shiny ray of sunshine, and the two had an instant attraction and connection. Their night together was intense and the men could hardly keep their hands off each other. However, Jared has been keeping it a secret from Logan that he is an FBI agent, though he isn’t really sure why. But now it has been six months and Jared is afraid to reveal the truth for fear that he will lose Logan. Logan is everything bright and beautiful and he adds such happiness to Jared’s life that he doesn’t want to risk Logan’s disappointment when he learns that Jared has been hiding the truth about what he does for a living.

Logan is madly and happily in love with his boyfriend, Jay. He makes Logan feel so safe and protected, and Logan has known Jay is “the one” since almost the day they met. However, Logan’s friends all think it’s weird that Logan seems to know so little about Jay’s background. Logan never really noticed that he’s never been to Jay’s house, and doesn’t know much about his job or anything about his family. But when Jay’s job once again requires a last minute cancellation of their plans, Logan lets himself be persuaded by his friends to follow Jay and see where he goes. At first, it all seems like a joke, something to appease his friends that Jay is not a serial killer or something. But when Logan follows Jay, what he sees shakes him up and he has no idea what to think.

Before meeting Logan, Jared spent years undercover and he has done some things he is not proud of in the name of bringing criminals to justice. When Jared’s past catches up with him, it not only puts his life on the line, but Logan’s as well. The two face unimaginable danger, and Jared is determined to do whatever it takes to protect the man he loves. But Logan surprises him with an inner strength and, now, Logan and Jared must work together to stop the threat to both of their lives so they can move forward to happiness together.

Under the Radar by Linden Bell is part of the multi-author Accidentally Undercover collection. The books are meant to stand alone from one another, linked by the theme of an unsuspecting civilian being drawn into suspense and intrigue. I grabbed this one having enjoyed Bell’s Mars Fitness series and eager to try more of the author’s work. However, I didn’t realize until starting this story that it is actually quite connected to the Mars Fitness series, and almost reads as the third installment. When I started reading this book and realized Logan and his friends worked for Mars, I went back to book 2, Stacked, and remembered Logan as the sunshiney barista at the gym’s juice bar. That book actually introduces Logan and Jared’s relationship, as early on Logan tells Sawyer about meeting a guy named Jay and being totally in love, and his friends tease him about thinking every guy is “the one.” Later, about six months have passed and the guys are giving him a hard time for knowing so little about Jay, questioning if he is even real. The party they’re going to for New Years then connects over to this book where Logan is stood up and it finally persuades him to follow Jay to find out more about him. All of which is to say, this story is definitely directly connected to the Mars Fitness series and I am sort of confused why nothing in the blurb or the front of the book acknowledges that connection. That said, I do think you can read this story as a standalone from a plot perspective, as long as you are ok with the Mars gang showing up here as Logan’s friends and not knowing who they all are. But, conversely, I feel like if you are a fan of the Mars Fitness series, you will definitely want to read this book, as it very much feels connected to those stories and characters (albeit with a much more high-octane suspense style).

Ok, now that I got all that background out of the way… I really enjoyed this story. Bell does a nice job setting the stage for this relationship already in progress, giving us a steamy prologue where the guys meet and are very drawn to each other. We then jump ahead six months where we learn that both Logan and Jared have fallen hard, but Jared is keeping his job and much of his identity a secret from Logan, who only knows him as Jay. I had no trouble feeling the intensity of their connection and how much these guys loved one another, even joining a relationship in progress. Then, we are suddenly thrust into this intense suspense plot that sneaks up and takes us on a wild thrill ride for much of the story. I don’t want to give too much away, but the men are kidnapped and their lives are on the line and they have to fight to survive. What adds to the chaos of it all is that Logan now knows that Jared has been lying, so when they first get caught up in this situation, he isn’t even sure if Jared is one of the good guys or if he is working with the kidnapper. It throws another level of uncertainty into this dire situation that I think works well.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take too long for the men to get on the same page, but then they must fight with all they have to make it out alive. I appreciated that we see Logan as a real person, terrified and overwhelmed, just as virtually any civilian would be when thrown into this harrowing situation. He cries and is scared and almost falls apart and all the things that make him feel real. But, at the same time, we see a fierceness to Logan that comes out and he manages to overcome all this fear to fight for himself and for Jared. It is a nice balance and plays well with Jared’s protectiveness for Logan, but also his respect at how strong Logan really is.

This story really is a thrill ride, with long sections of high intensity, but it is balanced with slower periods where we see the romantic side of things. It also gives the men a chance to work through Jared lying (or avoiding the truth) and settle that side of the relationship so they can be a united front facing all the danger. So I think Bell does a nice job here with the thrills and the calmer moments. I mean, yeah, the guys do have sex at some really inopportune times, but aside from that, I think the balance works well.

I found this one just a really fun and engaging story that kept me on the edge of my seat. Fans of Bells’ Mars Fitness series are definitely going to want to check this out. And if you are new reader and enjoy this story and are looking for more of the author’s less adrenaline-fueled contemporary work, I encourage you to look at that series as well.

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