Where Death Meets the Devil

Where Death Meets the Devil - L.J. Hayward Reviewed for Sinfully.

4.5 stars

Read the blurb for this book and that's all you need to know going into it. Told from Jack's point of view with chapters alternating between "then", a year ago with Jack on a mission deep undercover in the Australian desert where Ethan Blade enters his life, and "now" when Ethan returns.

The story unfolds alternating with chapters from "then" and "now". The parallel chapters worked very well. Something that comes up "now" that you can't really figure out is then tied to something in the following "then" chapter making decisions and actions clearer. It builds the story of Ethan and Jack and ties Jack's ill-fated mission to Ethan's return piece by piece.

Betrayal, loyalty and trust are the main themes running through the story. Whether it's personal or business or something in between, Jack is tested throughout.

Jack - ex-military, now a meta-state asset, has done what he has in order to protect his family and his country. His motives remain, but he has started to wonder if he's been used as a pawn. With his loyalty being questioned by his employers, Ethan only confused things more during the time they spent in the desert a year ago. When he shows back up in Jack's life things get even more confusing. Having Jack's point of view throughout the story makes him a character that you know well by the end of the book. While his motivation for what he does remains the same, he looks differently at how to achieve it and how those around him act.

Is Ethan Blade a sociopath? Does he have a conscience? He's brutal, but charming and there is a story behind why he does what he does. From the beginning Jack catches glimpses of a sadness and vulnerability in the man. While we know more about Ethan by the end of the book, the reader, and Jack, still only know what he wants us to.

Ethan and Jack have a great chemistry whether they're fighting, bantering or fucking. Enemies to grudging partners in survival, back to enemies then to lovers of a sort. Both have a healthy respect for the other's talents, abilities and intellect. It's a slow burn with plenty of tension. Even though they were only together for a short while "then", with the amount of emotional and physical trauma and turmoil it seems like they were together much longer. In the "now" the dynamic continues. They have a simmering attraction to each other that I ate up.

The storyline that plays out is a constant back-and-forth. You're never sure who is playing whom, what is the truth and what the motives of the players are, although as the narrative progresses, you have a better feel for some of it. There is plenty of action. Both men have the action-hero thing going on and Jack even has a hi-tech enhancement in one area which gives this story a slightly futuristic spin, though it feels firmly set in the present.

This is a story I imagine many readers will race through - full of action, intrigue and suspense - but after the first few chapters I found myself slowing down and carefully reading every exchange between Ethan and Jack, looking for the hidden meanings in their words and the clues as to where they were both coming from and where they might be headed.

The ending is a definite HFN, with no mention of a sequel. The setup is there and I would love to read more of these two, especially considering the one important aspect of their relationship that never happened - I won't say what it is, but you'll know what's missing when you read it and you'll probably be wanting that scene as much as I was. I would absolutely read more, but the story is complete and at the end I was satisfied with where they stand. Highly recommended for those who like romantic suspense that is heavy on the action and complex characters that will keep you hanging on their every move.