Series: Gravediggers

Say No More by Liliana Hart

Say No More by Liliana HartSay No More by Liliana Hart
Series: Gravediggers #3
Published by Pocket Books on July 25th 2017
Pages: 368
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two-stars

Dante Malcolm is a man of refined tastes. He was once a part of Britain's Elite Intelligence Force, but there was a reason he'd never been able to capture Simon Locke, the notorious thief who always seemed to be one step ahead. That's because Dante and Simon were one and the same, until Dante's double life eventually caught up with him and now he belongs to the Gravediggers. Eva Rothschild is a Detective Inspector with Interpol and is the one responsible for catching MI-6's most notorious agent in his final heist--except the heist killed him. But something has never felt right about his death, and it's haunted her for months. It was too easy, and Dante Malcolm was too smart to go down that way. Dante might belong to the Gravediggers in body, but his heart and soul will always belong to the next job. The rest of the team doesn't know about his alter ego because he made sure the information went missing from his file. So when the job he's always waited for seems like a possibility, he sneaks out of the country like a thief in the night, only to run into the only woman who's ever been able to match him in wit--and passion--for the job. Except they're standing on opposite sides of the law--and only one of them can walk away with the prize.

’Say No More’ had loads to deliver after I read its blurb.

Slap an arrogant, self-absorbed man who only lives for only himself and his pleasures without any consideration for others on the table and I’m going to want a redemption story and a hard but rewarding way out of the morass he’d found himself in. Put a woman whom he’d wronged so badly that I expect grovelling and a hard time by the end of it.

Instead, all I got was more cocky smugness, inflated self-confidence and the constant pompous justification of why he acts the way he does, amid the backdrop of child-smuggling and a missing twin that could have been more prominent but wasn’t. The action and the suspense somehow took a backseat to the meandering story of Dante’s womanising habits, his history with Liv and the Gravediggers mission that stood in the way of the plot moving forward.

Of all the books in the Gravediggers series, ‘Say No More’ is unfortunately the weakest of the lot in terms of plot and characterisation. It didn’t have the intensity and quirk of the first book nor did it have the same humour and surprises of the second, and I found myself sorely disappointed (and infuriated) in what could have really been a great read.

There was nothing redeemable I found of Dante, for starters. Privileged, unapologetically superficial and self-absorbed as he goes in search of thrills beyond working in MI6, his own selfishness and cowardice leads him to eventually become a Gravedigger, all because he’d no care for anyone but himself, not even the woman he gives up because he was afraid of giving up his lifestyle more. But he merely remains insufferably unrepentant even throughout the 2 years he left Liv—despite the claims he makes about wanting only her—and somehow thinks that a declaration of love at the end without any tangible measure of self-sacrifice would solve all problems between them in his small-minded universe.

Liv, the woman he spurned for the sake of his own skin, is understandably angry but apparently not angry enough that she jumps easily into bed with him despite the enormous amount of hurt he’d caused. Lust, or rather, sex, it seems, is overpowering to the point where Dante and Liv get it on as though 2 years of pain can be brushed aside like nothing. I still liked her better nonetheless—liked her unrelenting determination to search for a sister (whose story feels like a ship passing in the night) and sympathised even the pain she’d gone through.

Still, ‘Say No More’ isn’t a book I’d warmed up to at all, considering the optimism I felt after Elias/Miller’s story. But it’s been long established that my reviews mostly run contrary to what’s found here, so maybe it’ll be right up someone else’s alley. Just not mine.

two-stars

Gone to Dust by Liliana Hart

Gone to Dust by Liliana HartGone to Dust by Liliana Hart
Series: Gravediggers #2
Published by Pocket Books on June 20th 2017
Pages: 384
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four-stars

Sometimes the dead do rise…
Miller Darling is one of the most popular romance novelists of her time. Not bad for a woman who doesn’t believe in romance. She’s as logical as they come, and she doesn’t believe in happily-ever-afters. What she does believe in is family, so when her brother disappears, she doesn’t think twice about packing her bag and her laptop and heading out to find him.
Elias Cole has an axe to grind. Of all the Gravediggers, he’s the most reluctant in his new role as dead man walking. He’s angry, and being stuck in the tiny town of Last Stop, Texas might as well be purgatory. He misses his country and the life he had before he was betrayed. The only thing keeping him sane are the men who are like him—the Gravediggers—and the woman who makes his head spin. He’s never met anyone like Miller Darling. She’s not intimidated by his scowls, and damned if he doesn’t find that appealing.
When Miller sneaks out of town in the dead of night, her suitcase in tow, he has no choice but to follow. He’s made an oath to the Gravediggers. Only death can separate them. But he’s willing to risk it all to follow the one woman who drives him crazy halfway around the world. But when the ones who own his soul find out that he’s deserted them, there will be nowhere to hide.

Elias Cole and Miller Darling have a recent and unhappy history, and it’s mostly a funny one of unfulfilled sexual tension where Elias left Miller, well, wanting. They’re brought closer together by circumstances that are odd but befitting the life of a romance author who lives inside her head when she receives a finger with a ring that says her equally oddball and irresponsible brother has gone missing.

Elias is literally forced to go with Miller as she goes after her brother and the journey is a hilarious one, peppered mostly by Miller’s fanciful imaginings that started to feel a lot like a parody of romance authors whose heads stay mostly in the clouds. I loved every minute of the banter, especially how often Miller makes Elias speechless with her overactive imagination.

At the same time, Elias’s own reasons for wanting revenge lends gravity to his purpose for being a Gravedigger and I was eagerly waiting for his backstory, as I do for the rest of the motley crew. Sadly, not too much of it is given and his purpose in seeking revenge is somewhat dimmed by the end of the book, proving a disappointment as I half-expected that goal to be fulfilled.

But as far as pairings go, I loved how Elias/Miller both surprised me at every turn, both with their conversations and actions that were as non-stereotypical as they could be in this genre. That they made me laugh most of the way was a fantastic bonus that helped make this book a standout.

Like the first book, this one made me sit up and take note, not just because of the intrigue that’s presented here—I’ve not forgotten that the funeral parlour in an ugly town in Texas houses the world’s deadliest operatives—but also because of the direction that the story took. I’d been expecting more counterterrorist-type scenarios as it did in Deacon’s case, but that was hardly the case this time around.

‘Gone to Dust’ has a heavy focus instead on the journey that Elias and Miller took and the development of their relationship, but eschewed the details about the treasure, the myth and Justin’s ultimate fate in favour of banter and steamy sex. In fact, the story ended very soon after they yanked Justin out of his hiding place and got the bad guy, making me feel as though I was left hanging when Elias and Miller finally decided that they loved each other enough to stay together after a very brief meltdown on Elias’s side.

I think I would have enjoyed it more if the ending had been less abrupt and if I’d seen more of the Gravediggers in action—there were admittedly fewer scenes with them here than in the first book—mostly because their strange relationships and quirky interactions were the highlight of this series so far. The rushed epilogue felt like a HFN without a definite plan for the future (that itself is briefly explained) but still, it would have been nicer to have ‘Gone to Dust’ more conclusively wrapped up without me feeling stunned and wondering if some pages had been missing after all.

Still, it’s a memorable read and as a series that’s only just beginning to gather steam, I’m eager to see what Hart has in store next for this group of unlikely brothers.

four-stars

The Darkest Corner by Liliana Hart

The Darkest Corner by Liliana HartThe Darkest Corner (Gravediggers #1) by Liliana Hart
Series: Gravediggers #1
Published by Pocket Books on May 23rd 2017
Pages: 368
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three-stars

Deacon Tucker is a dead man walking. A former black ops agent, he was disavowed and stripped of all honor before being recruited as a Gravedigger. But his honor and good name no longer matter, because no one knows he’s alive, and he’ll never get the recognition he deserves. His mission is simple: save the world or die trying. And for God’s sake, don’t ever fall in love. That’s a rule punishable by death. The kind of death a man can’t be brought back from.

Tess Sherman is the only mortician in Last Stop, Texas. She has no idea how Deacon Tucker ended up in her funeral home, but she’ll eat her hat if he’s only a funeral home assistant. Deacon is dangerous, deadly, and gorgeous. And she knows her attraction to him can only end in heartache.

Deacon is on a mission to stop the most fatal terror attack the world has ever known—what’s known as The Day of Destiny—a terrorist’s dream. But when he discovers Tess has skills he can use to stop them, he has to decide if he can trust her with secrets worth dying for. And, most important, he has to decide if he can trust her with his heart.

It takes an appreciation of macabre, black humour to like this book; thankfully the dry kind that I love can sort of easily be translated into a love for this kind of dark comedy.

In contrast to the sombre, almost-sinister cover which made me wonder if ‘The Darkest Corner’ was a murder mystery or a thriller, there’s quite a bit of wry, self-deprecating humour in this, as characters run the gamut from dark and shady to weird and mentally unstable. It’s eccentricity exemplified and probably not a story for people who love straight-out romantic suspense and hear-pounding thrillers but one that meanders and winds around the daily lives of Tess Sherman, her relatives and their ilk, while keeping a mysterious group of men called the Gravediggers who’ve died and come back to life, all in Tess’s back garden, so to speak.

We’re given the odd life that Tess leads, right down to her babbling personality and the actual happenings in a funeral home, except that it’s suddenly populated by men whom she can’t understand, not least a mysterious leader named Deacon Tucker who never gives straight answers when she needs it. Her funeral home business is, unbeknownst to her, the perfect cover for what they do and Tess is slowly but surely waking up to things that go bump in the night—and not of the supernatural kind.

I’m reminded of 6-feet under in its morbid glory, with all the tangential, long descriptions of peripheral characters who add to the quirky mood of the story but not to the plot, which is surprisingly slow-going after the actual introduction to the Gravediggers. For the first half, I was entertained somewhat and undoubtedly en route to boredom, though the cloak-and-dagger conspiracy theories and the spy stuff did get interesting, interspersed with the small-town life that Liliana Hart tries to bring to life. Unsurprisingly, it was Deacon and his unhappy band of operators that captured my imagination, and I think we simply didn’t see enough of them in this book. I was straining the end of my leash for the action and suspense to begin, given that there is a real threat out there and it only materialised in the last quarter of it.

Hart however, has already written a potential series of books into this opener, with sufficient characters have enough depths to plumb until the daylight fades. So while I’m a little on the fence with this slow start, I’m nevertheless eager to dig deeper into this strange band of brothers. Just more of the action and the spooky spy-stuff please.

three-stars