Why I read it: I picked this up from NetGalley because the blurb looked interesting.
What it's about: (from Goodreads) When FBI agent Grayson Kincaid first encounters Olivia MacKenzie, she makes quite an impression. The beautiful, tough, young attorney has stumbled into the middle of an FBI sting operation and has reduced it to chaos. Months of surveillance and careful planning down the drain, Kincaid's partner is furious and lets Olivia know that she's ticked off the wrong guy. After all, he's FBI.Olivia isn't intimidated by his partner's bullying because she's something even scarier...she's IRS. And working for the IRS isn't for the faint of heart. She's on the trail of an elaborate Ponzi scheme, one that threatens to ruin the lives of naive and unsuspecting victims, and one she has personal reasons to be angry about. But after she asks questions of the wrong people, her life is suddenly endangered. She's accustomed to fighting for the underdog but being vulnerable herself is a very different story. Smart enough to know when to call for reinforcements, she contacts Grayson Kincaid.Together they make an excellent team to fight corruption but Olivia is also fighting the immediate and intense attraction she feels for Agent Kincaid, and that may be a battle she is bound to lose.
What worked for me (and what didn't): The blurb is a little misleading. Olivia does work for the IRS and she also does some child advocacy on the side (she's a lawyer) but the Ponzi scheme reference is a reference to a personal investigation she's doing outside of both those activities. She's investigating her father. And, she doesn't contact Grayson - he comes to her.
When Grayson and Olivia first meet (she's having a job interview because of potential cutbacks at the IRS), she is threatened by the interviewer (Jorguson) and his bodyguard (Martin) - they are dodgy as all get out (Olivia hasn't had time to research - I appreciated she was smart and usually would) and suspect she is an FBI agent wearing a wire. When Olivia is shot a couple of months later, Grayson and his partner Ronan (not the partner the blurb talks of, a different one) investigate the possible connection and investigate Jorguson and Martin. as well as Olivia's father and his lawyer, Simmons, (who has also been threatening Olivia).
All the bad guys in this book are very very bad. And there are a lot of them. There are no redeeming characteristics and their evil sometimes came across as a caricature. Olivia's father is charismatic and evil and one dimensional. Olivia's mother, sister and brother-in-law are heinous - unbelievably selfish and self-absorbed. These three crossed the caricature line early and never quite made it back.
Thankfully, Olivia has some non-heinous people in her life too. When she was a child, she had some form of (unspecified) cancer and was involved in some kind of (also unspecified) experimental treatment (which sounded horrendous but it seems to have worked). She was isolated and then merely hospitalised with 3 other girls with the same disease - Jane, Collins and Sam and they are her surrogate sisters and best friends. I enjoyed the banter between the girls.
There is a subplot involving Jane and her brother Logan which could have been left out I feel. There is a large cast of characters in this book and the consequences/fallout of the story involving Jane was left largely unexplored here due to (I assume) lack of space. Still, I suspect that Jane will get her own book and maybe those issues will be dealt with there.
As for Grayson, he ran a bit hot and cold for me. There were times when I loved him and there were other times where he skirted right up to the jerk line (and sometimes crossed over). He could be very overbearing and demanding and got really angry really fast - while I didn't think that was ever a threat to Olivia, I can't imagine it being comfortable to be around. Grayson is also a little too good to be true - he's a trust fund baby who works super hard for the FBI, renovating and flipping buildings in his spare time. He also takes on custody of his 9 year old nephew Henry during the book and he's a devoted "dad".
Grayson and Olivia have an instant connection but at the beginning they spent long periods apart - Grayson doesn't call for 2 months after their first kiss and, seemingly, he only turns up because she's been shot. There didn't seem to be any conversation between the two where the reason for his absence (he took on custody of Henry) was discussed and I ended up feeling that Olivia caved too soon because she didn't make him grovel. Then again, she'd been shot so maybe she had other things on her mind! :) The breaks between them in their early relationship had the effect, for me, of making the story appear episodic.
As the book progresses, Grayson finds it increasingly more difficult to stay away from Olivia. I'm sure there is potential professional trouble for him with him dating a witness/victim of crime but that wasn't really explored beyond letting Ronan take the lead in the investigation and Grayson saying he should stay away (but then not).
Olivia, having seen (via her friends' families, not her own) the devastation life threatening illness caused, is reluctant to commit to a permanent relationship - she believes she cannot have a HEA, thinking that one day the cancer will come back. This was a really interesting aspect to the story and I wish it had been explored a little more. In the end, she changed her mind (it is a romance, so of course she does) but I wasn't quite convinced of the why of it.
There were some amusing moments in the book - I had a bit of a chuckle when Olivia compares Grayson to a modern day Bruce Wayne and asks if he has a batmobile in his garage (he says it's in the bat cave of course) and Olivia's tormenting of Grayson with a popsicle. The scene where both Collins (who's about to start FBI training) meets Ronan (who is gobsmacked) and both girls are (inadvertently) tormenting the guys by sucking on their popsicles was pretty funny.
Grayson and Olivia had definite chemistry. While the book is not terribly explicit, they certainly smoked up the sheets.
What else? This was a book that I enjoyed well enough when I was reading - it certainly was readable and I read it in only 2 or 3 evenings, but when I thought back on it, I could see more flaws than story highs. I wanted to like it more than I did but in the end, it didn't really satisfy. Then again, I think I might be super picky with my Romantic Suspense, so YMMV.