At Any Cost by Mandy Baxter

At Any Cost by Mandy BaxterAt Any Cost by Mandy Baxter
Series: U.S. Marshals #4
Published by Zebra on May 31st 2016
Pages: 352
Buy on Amazon

She can't remember when she wasn't afraid. She can't go to the police. And "Olivia Gallagher" is only a day away from fleeing her Idaho wilderness life before biker gang leader Joel Meecum finally catches up with her. So keeping her rugged new neighbor at arm's length is the only safe play. Until Livy can't resist one last hungry chance to feel alive…
For U.S. Marshal Nick Brady, taking his vacation next door to Meecum's ex-girlfriend seemed the smartest way to find him. But suddenly, nothing is making sense. How could this feisty, straight-talking brunette ever get mixed up with Meecum's brutal crew? And why is he breaking his oath and getting so close that all he wants is to keep her safe? Now as the clock ticks, Nick and Livy's only chance at escape may be the one they can't survive…

A mandatory ‘vacation’ isn’t something Nick Brady will willingly go into and forcibly removed from his favourite activity of hunting criminals, he decides to poke his nose into something he has no business in: catching one of the top 15 crime lords. But that trail leads to a woman in hiding and it’s just pure bad luck that his person-of-interest soon becomes Nick’s personal investment when the initial attraction slides into something more.

I thought the story somewhat predictable as far as a relationship forged under pretense and deception can be. There’s doubt and second-guessing on both sides, procrastination with the truth-telling because of the need to prolong the good times and then the final blow-up when the truth gets revealed – coinciding with the climatic action scene when the bad guys start showing up. Even if I couldn’t exactly quite feel the soul-deep connection between Nick and Livy (much less the love after several hot rounds in bed), I found both characters decent enough, albeit dramatically sex-starved, judging from the amount of lust-soaked thoughts that they each have.

The ending however, feels rather abrupt, as though a Happy-For-Now closure should suffice. Even so, I personally think that injects a little more realism, counterbalancing the need to suspend my disbelief when it comes to Nick/Livy’s zero-to-hundred relationship.

‘At Any Cost’ requires absolutely no prior knowledge of Mandy Baxter’s previous U.S Marshal books (previous characters aren’t even mentioned), which leads me to think that an entirely new story-arc and/or character-arc might be in progress. If that’s really the case, I’d love to see what’s in store in the coming months.