FBI Agent Ashley Chen has a secret and it’s a big one. This secret is why she leads a solitary life and keeps her colleagues at arms-length. Her latest assignment takes her to Boston to assist in the investigation of a sex slavery/human trafficking ring. This puts everything Ashley is protecting on the line. Further complicating the matter is this hard-to-resist agent, Lucas Randall. Lucas is a straight arrow who has to make some tough decisions during the course of this case that makes him uncomfortable. One of his biggest puzzles is Agent Chen. He knows she is hiding something, but at the same time, he cannot help his attraction. Is she a part of the problem or a part of the solution?
If there ever was a knight in shining armor, it would be Lucas Randall. You may remember him from A Cold Dark Place. He is an FBI agent out of North Carolina. He is the quintessential agent. Handsome, well-built with an All-American quality, he attracts women, but he is no player. He is in Boston following up on a lead for his case when he is roped into an undercover operation. He is part of a sting to take down a sex slavery ring. Things get ugly pretty quickly and he saves one of the captives, but other law enforcement lives are lost. He is determined to find not only the perpetrators, but the leaders of this illegal international trade.
The chemistry between the two main characters is sizzling. The author always manages to take two seemingly incompatible personalities and make them combust. Although the attraction is immediate, true feelings do not come easily to Ashley’s heavily guarded heart:
The kiss had been a rare act of whimsy on her part, a way of satisfying her curiosity. A way of exorcising her interest in the man and putting out the flames that had started to burn between them. Reality never lived up to fantasy. Disappointment was comforting in its familiarity.
Both Lucas and Ashley have to fight for this relationship. Ashley’s secrets threatened to derail whatever is developing between the two of them and her reasons for keeping distance are valid. But this is a romance, so, of course, we have a happy ending!
One of the things I like most about this series is the struggle the protagonists go through to do the right thing. Situations getting a little murky, especially when they are chasing evil villains. Nothing is ever fully cut and dry and sometimes compromises are made. Even Lucas, who has the best of intentions, does not escape unscathed. Like in real life, answers are not always easy, and it the struggle to reconcile competing values is what makes the characters truly human.
I also give kudos to the author for diversifying her leading characters in the last two books. The hero in her last book, Darsh Singh, is an Indian from Great Britain and Ashley is an inter-racial American born of part Chinese descent. Toni Anderson acknowledges the challenges faced by an Asian American woman in law enforcement. There are small, subtle details included that highlight her unique experiences. For example, it is not always clear what part of a person’s culture and experiences influence a decision: “That ingrained need for parental approval never left no matter how old she got. She didn’t know if it was because she was an Asian-American female or because she was an insecure orphan. Whatever it was, it sucked.” It adds an additional layer that is relevant and wholly appreciated.
This romantic suspense rolls out in a very clever manner. The plot is as twisty and turny as San Francisco’s Lombard Street. There is plenty of tension and excitement. Even though it is early in the year, I already know that Cold Secrets is on my top books for the year. Yes, it is that good.
Hugs,Tags: 4.5 stars, cold justice series, romantic suspense, Sunny, toni anderson