Author: Tara Wyatt

Stripped by Tara Wyatt

Stripped by Tara WyattStripped by Tara Wyatt
Series: Blue HEAT, #1
Published by Avon Impulse on 15th May 2018
Pages: 384
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three-stars

Detective Sawyer Matthews isn’t just having a bad day—he’s having the worst day. His hunt for the criminal who killed his team member has stalled and now… he’s got to play nice with his new, totally unwanted partner. It’s not that she isn’t qualified, or that he doesn’t like her—it’s because he knows what she looks like naked. So very, very naked.

Brooke Simmons finally landed her dream job working for H.E.A.T, an elite undercover detective squad, and she’s not giving up simply because she had a one-night-stand with her sullen—but undeniably sexy—new partner. They’ll just have to keep it professional. Easier said than done, considering their first case requires Sawyer to infiltrate a drug cartel operating out of a male strip show. Watching him do his best Magic Mike impression every night isn’t just hot—it’s torture.

Sawyer doesn’t need any distractions, yet his attraction to Brooke is explosive and he can’t resist going for round two. Or three. Or four. But as their investigation progresses and danger mounts, they’ll have to put their jobs, hearts, and lives on the line to fight… for each other, for survival, and for justice.

Tara Wyatt’s newest law enforcement series sounded like the kind of romantic suspense I wanted to dig my heels into and ‘Stripped’—in more ways than one—is the introduction to a trio of detectives seeking to avenge the death of their friend, while finding their HEA along the way.

It’s not quite a workplace romance gone wrong, but Brooke and Sawyer went at it in reverse—from a one-night stand to the mortifying discovery that they actually work together—with Brooke as a replacement for Sawyer’s fallen best friend. As they got very hot and extremely heavy in the opening scenes for what was meant to be a one-nighter, I felt a tad bit cheated out of the usual play of tension that I normally like before they actually fall into bed, then felt equally off-centre as both Brooke and Sawyer did as I didn’t know where the direction of ‘Stripped’ was going.

My own expectations of a high-octane, non-stop police drama weren’t quite fulfilled; instead we had Sawyer and Brooke sniping post-hookup (and basically being jerks to each other) that got annoying at times instead of the heavy and heated glances that typically build. Then it got weirdly comical when Sawyer went undercover as a male stripper, kicking off a raunchiness that rivalled a porno given the amount of sexy times in it when I wanted to read more about hard-core police work.

There were overly-used clichéd phrases written in that made me cringe as well, and some unwelcome development of secondary characters whose future stories I know I might not be looking forward to read. In all, there was certainly action that kept me going (of the actual road-rash-giving kind) and I did, for most of it, liked Brooke’s no-nonsense character save for the last, somewhat out-of-character TSTL move on her part.

But there were lulls in the pacing that made the whole story move along in a jerky fashion and I did at times, feel somewhat untethered to the plot that just didn’t build or move when I thought it would, in a direction I thought it would. That said, ‘Stripped’ is far from a bad read, only that I wished I enjoyed it more.

three-stars

Chain Reaction by Tara Wyatt

Chain Reaction by Tara WyattChain Reaction by Tara Wyatt
Series: Bodyguard #3
Published by Forever on February 28th 2017
Pages: 336
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three-stars

Blonde. Beautiful. Talented.
Alexa Fairfax is practically Hollywood royalty. But growing up in a family of legendary movie stars also puts her in the spotlight for danger. And after she discovers a plot more deadly than any movie script, Alexa desperately needs a bodyguard. A man like Zack De Luca. A true friend with a good heart, a protective nature-and the hard, chiseled muscles to back it up.
Zack has always been wildly attracted to Alexa. But since he's training day and night to be an MMA fighter, he's afraid his gorgeous friend will only distract him from his goal. Indescribably sweet and irresistibly sexy, Alexa needs Zack to pretend to be her boyfriend after her life is threatened. Now this fighter-in-training will have to fight his own intense feelings - to keep their little charade from turning into a major disaster . . .

It’s my first read by Tara Wyatt and I’ve going to sheepishly admit that the whole bodyguard gig thing is one of my guiltiest not-quite-secrets. ‘Chain Reaction’ is a sweeter read than I expected and from the onset, I’m going to say it isn’t a bad read. More focused on the romance than suspense, it’s got so much of the sheen of the famous Bodyguard movie, but there aren’t any complaints from me here.

My mixed feelings probably stem from the characterisation which felt at times, a bit clichéd for this genre, especially in the beginning chapters.

Alexa’s evil parents are just that: evil, manipulative and hell-bent on Hollywood domination with some kind of mafia backing, while the sweet, innocent daughter is made to follow in the family’s supposed thespian interests. I expected a more kickass heroine, but got one who puts herself down too much, is considered way ‘too sweet’, good and naive for these bad things to happen to her. That she doesn’t like sex—because of the abuse she’s suffered in the past—until Zack shows her what it really means simply made her out to be too much of a stereotype rather than a multifaceted character. Admittedly, it’s easy to empathise with her insecurities but too many shades of the fanfic Mary-sue simply loom large in Alexa Fairfax, whose ‘stronger’, sensual side needed to be coaxed out by Zack. He in turn, is protective but feels he’s way out of her league as he nurses that growing crush he has on her. The denial is mutual, but when Zack becomes Alexa’s pretend boyfriend, the chemistry explodes…well, at least after several deliberate cock-blocking scenes.

There isn’t any wavering on both sides however; Alexa/Zack remain fully committed to each other when they both finally give into their feelings and it’s a refreshing change from the usual pushing-away technique that a main character does to the other in too many books. I liked that no one had to do grand grovelling gestures or affect a huge lifestyle change in sacrifice, but that both their paths took different turns together somehow. The action and the climax are predictable (it’s pretty much how I think a Hollywood-produced romantic suspense movie would play out), but the HEA is solid and guaranteed, reinforced with tears, cheese and a proposal.

three-stars