Author: Alexandra Ivy

The Intended Victim by Alexandra Ivy

The Intended Victim by Alexandra IvyThe Intended Victim by Alexandra Ivy
Series: The Agency #4
Published by Zebra on 31st December 2019
Pages: 352
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two-stars

ONCE, SHE GOT AWAY

The body lying on a cold steel slab bears all the hallmarks of the Chicago Butcher. There's a cruel slash across her throat, deep enough to sever the carotid artery, and a small crescent carved into her right breast. Her delicate features are painfully familiar to Ash Marcel, once a rising star in the Chicago PD. But though the victim resembles his former fiancée, Remi Walsh, he knows it's not her.

BUT THIS TIME

Though Remi escaped a serial killer five years ago, her father died trying to save her. Grief and guilt caused her to pull away from the man she loved. Now Ash is back in her life, insisting that Remi is still in danger.

IT'S A DEAD END . . .

Someone is targeting women who look just like Remi. With or without a badge, Ash intends to unmask the Butcher. But the killer isn't playing games any longer. He's moving in, ready to finish what he started, and prove there's nothing more terrifying than a killer's obsession . . .

I’ve not read the rest of the books that preceded ‘The Intended Victim’ by Alexandra Ivy, but this is easy enough to get into as a standalone. The premise is undoubtedly quite an intriguing one: a serial murderer—a.k.a. The Butcher—who’s apparently back after five years and is now strangely obsessed with altering his victims’ faces to resemble Remi Walsh before killing them.

The suspense plot itself is sort of unique, with a twist that I sort of saw coming but was left skeptical in the end. It did lack a bit of forward momentum even as the process of getting to know more about the strange spate of murders was ongoing, getting even disconcerting at times with different POVs belonging to secondary characters popping up from time to time.

There’s a second chance romance in here as well, but this was probably the weakest part of the story for me. Ash/Remi’s history was sort of glossed over; we weren’t told much, only that Remi had pushed Ash away after tragedy touched their lives and that he was only back because she seemed to be in the sights of the same killer again.

I was obviously hoping for harder soul-searching on Remi’s part, but most of it dealt with her determination to try to just look at the future and not the past—and that she only looked at Ash with regret. In this way, Ash/Remi’s second chance romance didn’t quite feel like a justified or a convincing one at all: a pairing brought back together incidentally and not because both wanted it enough to look for each other. Five years on, all we really had of Remi was her weak excuse of wanting to ‘protect’ others by pushing them away and internalising her own mental mess that she’d never bothered to sort out. Through it all, I never quite got the idea that she wanted them as much as Ash pursued her, merely caving to Ash’s insistent pressure and going along with it.

The uptick in the narrative happened at the last quarter, after which, it got engrossing, though everything was wrapped up quite neatly—too neatly perhaps—in the last chapter. Would I recommend this? Maybe. It’s a decent read if you like the usual red-herrings and the clues that come with solving a murder mystery, though romance-wise, it’s not quite a satisfying one.

two-stars

Kill Without Shame by Alexandra Ivy

Kill Without Shame by Alexandra IvyKill Without Shame by Alexandra Ivy
Series: ARES Security #2
Published by Zebra on December 27th 2016
Pages: 352
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two-stars

Five brave military heroes have survived the hell of a Taliban prison to return home and take on civilian missions no one else can. They re the men of ARES Security. Highly skilled, intimidating, invincible, and one by one, tested again and again Lucas St. Clair s prestigious family had a political future neatly planned out for him one that didn't include his high school sweetheart, Mia Ramon. Under their pressure, Lucas gave her up. But since surviving captivity, he s a changed man and a crucial member of ARES Security. When he discovers a dead man clutching a picture of Mia that bears a threatening message, his fiercest protective instincts kick in, and he knows he must go to her. Mia has never forgiven Lucas for breaking her heart, and she s convinced her feelings for him are in the past. But it s soon clear that isn t true for either of them. Now, determined to solve the crime and keep Mia safe, with his ARES buddies backing him up, Lucas will have to reconstruct the murder victim s last days and follow a lethal trail that leads right back to the fate of the woman he still loves.

Unfortunately, this was a book that I struggled with, despite the promising blurb that made me wish otherwise. As a suspense read, ‘Kill Without Shame’ is decent, but I found myself somewhat disappointed in the textbook style it was presented in, with the whodunnit moment coming as a huge info dump by the villain, with multiple POVs that could be distracting. Yet if the suspense is decent enough, the pairing seems a weak one, forged, or should I say, re-forged in the heat of danger and uncertainty.

After a 15-year absence of doing whatever he wanted, the appearance of high high-school ex on a dead man’s belongings convinces Lucas St. Clair that he’d always loved the woman whom he’d broken up with. It’s a premise that gets my spidey sense tingling as he goes in search of her to protect her—as well as to convince them that they really do belong together after walking away from Mia Ramon supposedly for her own good. Forgive my scepticism and my own unforgiving instincts when it comes to a limp explanation that I felt Mia accepted too easily because he smelled good, had a huge ton of sex appeal, good sexual moves and a hot body. A sleek, smooth apology and it was back in bed with him, because the threat against her made it easy to lean in on Lucas who happened to be conveniently there and gave him the reason to hone in once more on her when he saw the opportunity.

As always, my issue with second-chance romances is the believability of it, particular when one party has forsaken another for no apparent good reason, then returns out of the blue expecting forgiveness and a HEA after having spent the intervening years apart trying to forget her with other women, muscling in finally because she ’needs’ him. Had the threat against Mia not materialised, would he have gone after this woman whom he proclaimed to be the only one for him? Lucas St. Clair’s bullying and controlling behaviour rubbed me the wrong way, unfortunately; keeping watch over her—at a distance—for 15 years, then dictating her actions might be romantic to some, but it reeks merely of cowardice for me personally despite Alexandra Ivy’s efforts to shed some light on the remorse and regret he has felt since he walked away from.

There’s a secondary romance in a sub-plot that never quite went anywhere and also a hint of another team member’s stalker—plot lines that are meant to tantalise for future books perhaps, but it felt squandered instead when these scenes (and the subsequent switches in POVs) detracted from the building action and suspense. On a broader scale, ‘Kill Without Shame’ has all the right ingredients, I guess the individual bits, along with several clichéd moments that put it all together failed for me.

two-stars

Kill Without Mercy by Alexandra Ivy

Kill Without Mercy by Alexandra IvyKill Without Mercy by Alexandra Ivy
Series: ARES Security #1
Published by Zebra on December 29th 2015
Pages: 340
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three-stars

From the hellhole of a Taliban prison to sweet freedom, five brave military heroes have made it home—and they’re ready to take on the civilian missions no one else can. Individually they’re intimidating. Together they’re invincible. They’re the men of ARES Security.
Rafe Vargas is only in Newton, Iowa, to clear out his late grandfather’s small house. As the covert ops specialist for ARES Security, he's eager to get back to his new life in Texas. But when he crosses paths with Annie White, a haunted beauty with skeletons in her closet, he can't just walk away—not when she’s clearly in danger…
There’s a mysterious serial killer on the loose with a link to Annie’s dark past. And the closer he gets, the deeper Rafe’s instinct to protect kicks in. But even with his considerable skill, Annie’s courage, and his ARES buddies behind him, the slaying won’t stop. Now it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s next—unless they can unravel a history of deadly lies that won’t be buried.

5 captives who became blood brothers now start a security business together and their first unofficial assignment is an unusual small-town serial killer crime case that seems to revolve around one woman.

I hadn’t quite known what to expect from the Ares security team – the cover itself made me wonder if this was syfy or some paranormal romance – but Alexandra Ivy lays it all out very clearly in the prologue and at no time was I ever confused about the plot or the characters. There is a touch of the paranormal but in most part, ‘Kill Without Mercy’ has less to do with national security and everything to do with the claustrophobic feel of a small town that harbours its own brand of secrets and gossip. I didn’t like nor dislike Rafe and Annie, but was kept sufficiently engrossed by the developing case and the camaraderie of the alpha males who would slowly but surely find themselves on their knees in front of suitable heroines one day. It’s a good start to a series nonetheless; I guess I was just hoping for a bigger, more conspiracy-laden plot that involved more explosions and action but this is clearly my own personal bias and preferences showing up.

three-stars