Sharpshooter (Shadow Agents #3) by Cynthia Eden

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Sharpshooter is the third book in Harlequin Intrigue’s Shadow Agents series about Gunner Ortez, a member of a special ops called EOD who had lead a long life and hardship through various deadly mission but his heart only beats for a forbidden woman who once belonged to his dead brother. Two years ago, Sydney Sloan and her fiancé’s brother, Gunner failed a rescue mission to bring back Slade from the jungle of Peru. Both of them mourned together and soon had each other back except that they never seem to get away from their shared past. Now Sydney wanted to turn tables on him and willed them another chance of happiness before their hopes shattered again.

As soon as I started the book, I was already in the midst of the action. Despite being a third novel of a series, I never felt disconnected as the author skillfully made the book readable as a stand-alone novel. Unlike various other Harlequin’s novels with similar plot, Sharpshooter kept me engaged with the relationship both Sydney and Gunner have, their hardship and gained trust. How they something new from each other and became dependent on one another as more than just a team but a soulmate. How their love for each other strengthen on despite the risk of being heartbroken.

Another interesting thing about this novel is that ‘Sharpshooter’ was mainly told in Gunner’s point of view. The author crafted a very empathizable character in him that was unlike any single minded alpha character of the genre. Considering this book revolved around his feelings toward the woman he love and his loyalty toward his little brother, Gunner made the book evolved into more than just a light reading romance. There was multitude of action which doesn’t skimp on plot and characterization. The book was packed with conflicts and at most time cast doubt on these characters that I kept second guess when Gunner was made to look like a villain. There was that added psychological element as the plot ventures even deeper into the heart of the story.

Interestingly, for a short novel, the author didn’t skimp on anything. It is a romance novel but its also primarily a suspense/thriller and an espionage novel. Had Harlequin doesn’t pick up the series, you’d never knew the story was more like something you read by John le Carré or Tom Clancy only with more love in it. I knew I had praised the author with her latest vampire/werewolf romance but I was surprised by this one as I thoroughly enjoy the novel. However, the fast pace action and multitude conflicts might not be a suitable read for regular romance reader who wanted more love story but I enjoy the balance with the storyline and it work well into my reading enjoyment.

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Broken by Shiloh Walker

Broken is a continuation of Fragile, a romance suspense adult thriller about Quinn Rafferty, a stone-cold and brooding ex-Ranger bounty hunter and with his new housemate, Sarah McElyea, a silent and unapproachable woman who is secretly running away from someone from her past. Despite being warned against it, he found himself deeply attracted to Sarah and started to get closer to her even when they were both still keeping their own secrets from one another. Without they knowing, a powerful and angry man is searching for his wife and he wouldn’t stop until he found what he’s looking for.

Admittedly, I have some misgivings about the first part of the book since it does filled with sensuous explorations and romance and stuff. I enjoyed the tone in Fragile where the suspense is more prominent than the romance. I was ready to give up on this book until it started to pick up at the furthest part of the book when paranoia, fear and distrust between the main character.

It is not a bad book by itself but after Fragile, I was looking forward to similar thriller experience instead of heavily romantic storyline.  I like it better if romance and sex is taken a subtle pacing that allow the plot to flow through. However, if you are looking for things like bodice ripping and stuff, maybe this is the book for you. As for me, I was expecting more and got dissappointed. The earlier half of story is quite predictable boy-meets-girl and I don’t really see much of Quinn’s from the first book as in this one. In this book, he’s the personification of any other male protagonist in average romance novels that his twin brother, Luke has much better inner conflict than this one.  Well, each to their own.

Fragile by Shiloh Walker

Fragile is an adult thriller suspense romance about Devon Manning, a social worker with a troubled childhood and Luke Rafferty, an ex-Ranger who is now a doctor who deals with emergency cases with frequencies in handling child abuses case.

Devon Manning is possibly a great example of a strong female character that I like to read in fiction and had hope others would try to emulate. I really have problems with authors who assume that only female who can kick ass is a strong female, I do like kick ass character but only if they have soul within them. The definition of ‘strong female’ itself is actually more about being independant, warrior-like, worthy, loyal, kind, strong-willed and strong-hearted. It can be a single mother with five children, a grandmother who sees her family broken and try to fix it, a sexually abused girl trying to survive the depravity in the world and etc. The point is, its a real quality in people and it exist everywhere around us. In Devon, she had lived through the darkest time in her childhood of rape and drug abuse when she’s barely 12 until  she found help. As an adult, she did have some problem with trusting in people except for the children she’s working with and Luke, but what made her characterization is real was the fact that the author centered her POVs and plot around Devon that made the book intriguingly immersible.

This story is very unconventional in a sense of predictibility under a romance genre. Honestly, its very wrong to assume this book specifically as a romance book.

From the start, the novel uses multiple-POVs like an average mystery thriller format in laying down its plots and characters. Romance is just an additional thing that made both Luke and Devon significantly cohessive to the storyline because both of them directly and indirectly related to the plot progression. The book series touched the ugly part in humanity, particularly with post traumatic events, stalker, child abuses, pedophilia, drug abuses and all sorts. Walker had cleverly imbued such themes in her books almost like JD Robb aka Nora Roberts did with her cross genre series.

Fragile also had several explicit sex scenes but its very misleading to call this book as an erotica because sex is not the major part of this book. But just because a character find sex as emotionally freeing, it doesn’t mean the book is purely erotica. I do have issues about the sex in this book which I saw as a filler but as a whole, I don’t really have a problem with it since I could skip it and go ahead to the plot.

The major attraction to this book was the plot. There were layers of it like Devon’s childhood, her work, the fear she’s having at the thought being watched and stalked, the problems with Luke that’s related to his old job and Luke’s twin brother, Quinn, who himself had a darker childhood abuse. What made the book work for me was in Shiloh Walker’s skill of plot handling and she wrote it with such finesse that made the book wholesome as a romance and as a thriller thats eeriely similar to Urban Fantasy without the fantasy part.