I read and enjoyed the first two of Carolyn Crane’s romantic suspense series “The Associates” earlier this year. I was bit wary however when I read the blurb to the third. Thorne, the hero is self-described thug and low life, a bad guy, a killer and gang member who is only loosely associated with the Associates, not just a troubled good guy doing covert work. Thorne is dark, troubled hero and I am close to being over dark troubled heroes. However I decided to read it anyway because I trust Crane. Even though it was "Off the Edge" that won the RITA last night my favorite of her Associates books was Book 1 “Against the Dark.” "Against the Dark" pitted a retired safe-cracker lured back for one last job against an Associates agent deep undercover in a human-trafficking organization. The hero and the heroine it were clearly well matched, both deadly and dangerous and a similar dynamic plays out in Into the Shadows.
Nadia and Thorne have history together but their combustible relationship fell apart right around the same time her father’s empire did. It is now nearly two years later and Thorne is in deep with the Hangmen as part of a personal revenge quest,and works with the Associates when their goals align with his. However a series of mysterious raids at warehouses that used to belong to Nadia’s father, cast suspicion on him, endanger his position within the gang and threaten to incite inter-gang warfare between the rival but associated organizations that divided up Nadia’s father’s criminal empire. The only way for him to stay alive and not blow his cover is to figure out who is orchestrating the raids and prove his loyalty. His search brings him back to Nadia’s door when he comes to search the neglected mansion she inherited from her father.
Nadia is the former “Party Princess” one of the coddled spoiled daughters of a criminal kingpin, and she has remade herself after her father’s death. Nadia has become a mother in that time and is no longer blind to the the source of the wealth and excess she used enjoy. She is also painfully aware of the ugliness of her father’s lies, and has become obsessed with finding and rescuing her mother, used and abused by him.
“She could never face herself in the mirror again if she didn’t make this right. Most important, she could never look her little boy in the eyes again if she didn’t make this right.”
I thought that Nadia and Thorne’s relationship was deliciously complex. Both of them are scarred by their childhoods, by their fathers' abusive presence and their mothers' absences. They rarely say what they mean to each other and doubt the words of the other, but they believe and see each other in ways no one ever has before. Thorne has never felt worthy of Nadia’s attention, and she has never felt secure of his.
Nadia fears that despite their cruel parting she still loves him and won't be able to resist him, even if she has resolved to keep her distance for the sake of her young son’s safety. Thorne knows he is terribly dangerous to her personally and by association due to the life he lives and his enduring “lovehate” for her also makes him vulnerable to those who want to control him.
I read the book in close to one sitting, so completely sucked in and had to go back and re-read the intense last few chapters to make sure I understood everything that happened because I was reading so fast trying to find out what happened.
I would highly recommend Crane’s Associates series, all stand-alones even if romantic suspense is not usually your thing,because it is not usually my thing but I find them highly entertaining with a great balance of romance and action. However the action level is intense, people are shot, killed and menaced through out, so not for the faint of heart.
A copy of Into the Shadows was provided by the author, Carolyn Crane via NetGalley for review purposes.