It is FINALLY here! Joe Kelly’s story has arrived! If you are a KGI fan, you know that Joe is the last of the Kelly brothers who has yet to find true love (books 1 – 4 and 8 are the others). Along with his twin, Nathan, Joe is one of the youngest sons. It is so nice to have Maya Banks turn her eyes to Joe for book 11 in the KGI series.
The beauty of a long running series is that it is easy to form attachments to characters, and ones that feature families are the best. I will be honest, I am giving this book a higher rating due to my affection for Joe Kelly. Because I am familiar with his background and enjoy his past interactions with his family, I am predisposed to like this book. As a bonus, we also get a delicious little nugget in the long-running romance between Rusty and Sean. This part makes me happy. However, I will also say that this book makes me restless because I really want more. After finishing, I struggled to figure out what was missing. It bothered me so much that I went back to the beginning and again read the first three books in the series (Darkest Hour, No Place to Run and Hidden Away). After these re-reads, I know I am not wrong. The earlier books have more depth, more intrigue, more suspense. They are laid out so beautifully with the right balance of agony and tenderness. Maya Banks takes the time to build relationships and we are captured hook, line, and sinker. I really miss that aspect in this book.
Joe is feeling a little alienated. All his brothers and KGI team members are falling in love and are in committed relationships. He does not feel like he fully fits in. At a time when everyone is talking babies, diapers, anniversaries, and such, Joe is still the single guy and reveling in his bachelorhood. Oh, how the mighty fall.
Zoe is Rusty’s best friend from college. Zoe is not her real name. She is on the run from her former life as the daughter of one of the most powerful criminals in the country. She is racked with insecurity and feelings of unworthiness. Unfortunately, she has a lot to overcome and these feelings are relentless. For me, it overshadows whatever strengths she displays. It makes it difficult for me to see Joe and Zoe together. Their relationship comes across as one note. Joe is constantly acting in an over-the-top protective manner. This is not new for the KGI crew. Most of the other alphas exhibit an overwhelming instinct to shield and protect those they love, but this relationship lacks substance. Joe himself admits that he falls in love with Zoe within three days of meeting her. Time and time again he defends his insta-love for Zoe, but she does not display anything so remarkable to justify his deep and abiding affection except that she is a broken bird. Still, there are some tender moments: “[A]t the end of the day, no amount of superficial beauty could make up for a lack of beautiful soul. And beneath Zoe’s soulful eyes was a woman, though cloaked in sadness and fear, who was absolutely beautiful.” I see the initial attraction, but I am just not sure I buy-in to why he loves her so deeply and so quickly.
I was also hoping for more suspense. The story is simple, maybe too simple, and the pace seems off. The action stops before it really gets started and the bad guys are never fully established. Zoe’s father is Garth Cambridge, the head of the largest criminal empires in North America. He is purported to be very controlling and Zoe escapes from under his thumb. Unfortunately, nothing happens between Zoe and her father. He could have been a really standout villain. Zoe’s ex-boyfriend is also a manipulator and his character is also almost an afterthought. He could have been a much more menacing factor. It feels like a missed opportunity.
Nonetheless, one of the best parts of this book is a spotlight on Rusty and Sean. We get another layer to their highly-anticipated relationship. What the author gives us is heartbreaking. It brings me back to the feelings I have for Rusty in book one when she first accepts the Kelly clan. This alone is worth the investment of time and money.
A mixed bag, if you are a fan of KGI, you will want to read this book. As a standalone, it is good-enough romantic suspense, but does not fully live up to the standards established by Maya Banks.
Hugs,Tags: 3 stars, maya banks, romantic suspense, Sunny Review