Synopsis from Goodreads: At thirty-two Dev is "mostly retired" from Raines Investigations, content to run operations from his sprawling Arizona home. But Dev has never been able to say no to a beautiful woman, so when Lark Delaney comes to him for help, the former U.S. Army Ranger from Wind Canyon gets back in the game.
Lark is sexy, successful and dedicated to tracking down the baby girl her sister gave up for adoption. It should be a straightforward case, but it's not long before Dev uncovers a shady adoption ring and worse—the child's parents have been murdered and the little girl has been taken.
As the case grows dangerous and Lark needs him more than ever, Dev can't ignore his growing attraction for her. He also can't trust his judgment with women or the emotions he's long-since buried. But there's a chance, if he gets this right and saves Lark's niece, that he'll end up saving himself, too.
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Mira Books, 2011.
How acquired: Through Book Mooch.
First line: He had everything he ever wanted.
My thoughts: I went into this book with a little trepidation, knowing that the heroine was going to hire Dev to help her track down the child her sister had placed for adoption four years earlier. Knowing, from the synopsis, that the adoption probably was not conducted legally. This is one of my hangups. I work in the adoption field, and I hate seeing stories, on film or in print, that give adoption a bad name. And lines like this, nineteen pages in, did not help:
Once they located the adoption agency, the address of the adoptive parents should be easy enough to find. Assuming the agency people could be persuaded to give up the information.
The only thing that would persuade the staff at our agency to divulge a family's address would be a warrant. Well, maybe a gun to the head would do it for some of our staff. But we would never just hand that information over to anyone who wanted it.
Several pages later, after talking to another girl who also placed a child, and was currently pregnant and placing that child as well, albeit with a different agency, Lark wonders how much the girl earned, and Dev speculates:
“She's blonde and blue-eyed. Caucasian babies are in high demand. Twenty thousand, maybe more. It isn't against the law – not if the agency is licensed and following all the state mandates.”
Maybe that's not illegal in Arizona, but it sure is in my state. We can pay a birth mother's living expenses – within reason and with a judge's signature on a court order – but we can give her money, and she does not get paid to place the child.
And now I'm probably just being a little nitpicky, but a few pages later they walk into a daycare center, and while Dev approaches the receptionist desk, Lark wanders around the play area, and then talks to a little boy. I cannot imagine any daycare in the country where a person can just walk in off the street and roam around among the children.
Anyway, after it was stressed a couple of times that Lark only wanted to be sure her sister's child was in a safe and loving home, and had no intention of disrupting that, I began to relax a little and enjoy the story. And then when they finally went to that home, just in time to see masked men fleeing after having gunned down the adoptive parents and the household staff, while terrified little Chrissy was hiding in a closet, I was completely hooked. And after that, it wasn't about adoption (other than Lark of course eventually adopting Chrissy). It was about drug cartels, and Mexican criminals, and lives being in danger, and me turning pages faster and faster.
I loved Dev and Lark together. Lark is a successful businesswoman, running her own company and making and selling designer handbags. Now that she has Chrissy to raise, the last thing she needs is a relationship. Dev is the youngest of the Raines brothers, and after his fiancee broke up with him days before their wedding several years ago, he doesn't trust women and is determined to never fall in love again. They may say they love you, but how can you know if they really mean it? The answer is to have fun with pretty women but never get serious with them. The attraction between Dev and Lark is palpable, but Lark is Dev's client, and he doesn't mix business with pleasure, so she's off limits as one of his flings. When they do finally give in to the chemistry between them, it was pretty sizzling.
We meet several men who work for Dev, or who served with him in the military and are called upon now to help out. The action never lets up as Dev, Lark, Chrissy, and other men are thrown into one intense situation after another. Of the three books about the Raines brothers, this one is definitely my favorite. The next three books in the Against Series feature three of the other men involved in this one, and I am eager to read all of them. So eager in fact, that I've already placed an order through Barnes & Noble for the next book, along with two other books in the Against series, and the first book in the Brodies of Alaska series.
So despite my initial misgivings, this was a very good suspenseful story with a complex plot. There were lots of scenes that made me either laugh out loud or grin like an idiot, and when the danger was over and Lark and Dev were coming to grips with their feelings for each other, there were some scenes that literally made me cry. I can't get the next book quick enough.