23 August 2014

The Black Sheep and the Hidden Beauty (Unholy Trinity, Book 2)

Synopsis from Goodreads: They're back - the boys you go out looking for precisely because your mother warned you not to - the bad boys every good girl needs at least once, if not twice...

Raphael "Rafe" Santiago may have left the streets years ago, but the street has never left him. A rough childhood in the Bronx taught him never to let his guard down, to keep everything in order, and always to trust that little voice in his gut that tells him when someone's got something to hide. horse trainer Elena Caulfield, is definitely hiding something, and Rafe intends to find out what it is and take care of it - his way.

But his way wasn't supposed to include feeling an intense attraction to the tomboyish Elena. With her mud-caked boots, quiet strength, and gentle manner, she's nothing like the flashy, seductive, overtly feminine women Rafe usually beds. The closer he gets to her, the harder it is to control that fiery passion he's worked hard to keep cooled, the kind that can catch a man off guard and leave him open to danger - because whatever secret Elena's protecting, it's big...and worth killing for. Because when you're from the Bronx, you take care of what you love - or die trying...

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by Kensington Publishing Corp.,2008; received from the author - I won autographed copies of all three Unholy Trinity books in a giveaway on her Facebook page!

First line: He found himself watching her.

My thoughts: We met Rafe briefly in THE BLACK SHEEP AND THE PRINCESS, so I already knew his style and personality would be quite different than Mac's. I'll admit right now that I like Mac's cover better than Rafe's – there's just something about a man in jeans and a black t-shirt. Mac also appealed to me because he was a former cop, and I like stories with cop/former cop heroes. Rafe is more the white collar type, always impeccably dressed and groomed. Which of course provides an immediate contrast between him and our heroine, Elena, who is always dressed in overalls and boots, often with a thermal underwear top, and usually dirty/muddy/horse poopy. Most definitely not Rafe's type, yet he can't seem to keep himself from watching her as she trains the horses for Kate's camp kids.

I followed with the plot this time around much easier than in Mac and Kate's book, finding it less convoluted and confusing. The fact that it revolved around horses, and Elena's previous job as a trainer at a racing stable, may have helped, as the world of thoroughbred horse racing used to be my life's dream, back when I was a teenager.

Rafe of course is one-third of the Unholy Trinity, the three friends who grew up terrorizing summer camp, and are now partners in a company called Trinity. They help people, the underdogs, righting wrongs, championing those who don't have the means to champion themselves. Elena is a horse trainer, hired by Kate to work with the horses at her camp for disabled kids. She previously worked for a large racing stable, and supposedly left that job in search of a calmer, quieter environment for her own horse, who is pregnant, and who had difficulties with her first pregnancy. Elena keeps to herself, is friendly but does not go out of her way to befriend other employees at Dalton Downs. After covertly witnessing a conversation between Elena and her vet, who showed up unexpectedly to talk to her one day, Rafe is convinced that Elena is hiding something, and determinedly and doggedly sets out to uncover her secret.

The writing felt a little crisper, and like the first book, there is a lot of characterization and dialogue, both internal and external, along with plenty of amusing banter, not only between Rafe and Elena, but between Rafe and Mac. Mac is a little more involved in Rafe's story than Rafe was in Mac's, and that was a good thing, giving us a look at the friendship and brotherhood bond between them. I figured out Elena's secret quite awhile before the guys did, or part of it anyway, but it didn't bother me or take away from my enjoyment of watching the plot unfold. And things got pretty tense towards the end, leading to a very satisfactory resolution.

Overall, I enjoyed the actual mystery/plot more here than in the first book, but I think if I had to choose between Rafe and Mac I would go for Mac. Sorry Rafe! 

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