Title: Heart and Soul (Detectives Valenti and O’Brian #2)
Author: Evangeline Anderson
Publisher: Loose Id
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novella (21K words)
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
The Boys are Back…
It’s been two years since tall, dark, and stoic Detective Valenti, and his partner, blond, intense O’Brian came to terms with their true feelings for each other. Going undercover at the RamJack, the most notorious gay resort in the country, tested their friendship to the limit and forged a new love between them that has grown immeasurably since. The partners always have each other’s backs and never let each other down.
But now O’Brian has accepted a new, dangerous undercover assignment where Valenti cannot follow. Working for James Talbert, the man who is single-handedly responsible for more illegal pornography than anyone else in the country, is bad enough. But the porn kingpin is also suspected of making gay snuff films—and his last five stars have ended up six feet under.
Valenti begs his partner not to go, but O’Brian is determined to take the assignment—and then fails to check in at the appointed time. Fearing the worst, Valenti goes undercover to rescue his partner, only to find himself caught in Talbert’s sadistic web. Now he and O’Brian will be forced to act out a madman’s darkest desires on film and hope they both survive. The ordeal will test and twist their love for each other, but will it draw them closer together or drive them apart? Whatever happens, it will force them to bare themselves to each other in a way they never have before, both Heart and Soul.
Detectives Valenti and O’Brian
It’s no secret that The Assignment reviewed here is one of my top 10 M/M romances. Sean O’Brian and Nick Valenti can do no wrong in my book. This new adventure, Heart and Soul, their first book since The Assignment (other than a couple of fun shorts around Christmas and the Fourth of July), showcases O’Brian’s and Valenti’s talents as detectives and their ability to make the tough decisions when needed. This book also shows once more their love and devotion for each other and that they will do whatever it takes to keep that love going.
In Heart and Soul O’Brian volunteers for an assignment to bring porn kingpin James Talbert to justice. Talbert wasn’t your usual dealer of porn – he made snuff films using gay twinks. O’Brian had some experience playing a twink on their last mission so he felt qualified to take on this role again. Valenti was upset that O’Brian had accepted the job without consulting him as they had been lovers for 2 years since the Ramjack and whatever decisions Sean made affected him as well. Nick feared he could lose Sean, but despite his pleas he couldn’t change his partner’s mind. Outside of the love and hot sex between them they trusted each other and Valenti felt betrayed that O’Brian had violated that trust by not at least discussing this operation with him before signing on. In his mind this mission put both their lives at risk; if anything bad happened to Sean he couldn’t go on without him. Sean O’Brian on the other hand felt strongly that it was up to him to take Talbert out and shut down this monster’s operations..
A month after Sean had been on the job he didn’t call in as usual and Nick was so upset he demanded that Captain Harris send in a team to extricate Sean. He was sure that something was very wrong because Sean never failed to call every day as he knew how important this was to Nick, and the only way he wouldn’t do so was if he was incapacitated. When Nick was given permission by his boss to check on his partner his worst fear was realized, Talbert had him showcased as his newest star – bound, hands behind his back and blindfolded, with a noose around his neck; and now Nick was also Talbert’s prisoner. Would they be able to extricate themselves from this newest hell hole alive? This was another life or death situation for these two detectives who had come through relatively unscathed from the Ramjack assignment, but would this newest test prove to be their undoing?
This story is much darker than The Assignment and O’Brian and Valenti are Talbert’s newest recruits who are destined for stardom and then death at the end of the movie. But before they get there Talbert has plans to make their lives even more miserable, tightening the noose, literally, around Valenti’s neck with a gun trained on both of them to show he meant business, as he orders Sean to do his dirty work for him.
Evangeline Anderson upped the ante with her newest villain James Talbert who made Vincent Conrad the drug dealer from the Ramjack assignment seem like small change. Talbert played Russian roulette with our heroes and had many other weapons in his arsenal that didn’t involve firearms but were just as deadly. He made O’Brian injure Valenti so badly he required medical care and both their professional and personal relationships were in danger of being terminated as O’Brian’s guilt and anguish about his partner’s injuries at his hands had a traumatic effect on him.
I loved Heart and Soul and the characterizations were just as good as I have come to expect from Evangeline Anderson but there were missing elements and I would have loved some of the humour between the guys that was very evident in The Assignment. The writer’s trademark angst is apparent although there wasn’t too much of this in Heart and Soul, mainly I think due to the length of the book. I should point out that the plot is quite similar to The Assignment – only the location, the villain and the crime are different. Also, I thought the end of the takedown was rushed. However, I realize that since this was a novella the author’s speed to wrap up the story and resolve Sean’s and Nick’s personal issues was quite understandable.
The best part of this book for me was the way the love between the protagonists has matured and deepened since I last met them. Although O’Brian and Valenti were in imminent danger in their current situation I had faith they would come out of it reasonably intact, otherwise there would be no hope for other adventures starring two of my favourite detectives. 🙂 As always, the sex between these two characters was intense as they climbed into each other’s skin and had a party that didn’t require firecrackers.
Even though Heart and Soul didn’t have the complexity of The Assignment which introduced readers to these two detectives, it was unique in its own way by showing how suppportive they were of each other in the middle of an extremely dangerous operation. The Assignment was the first Gay For You M/M book that I had ever read where the romance between two straight men seemed realistic, and I became very fond of the guys because of the way the author made them so three dimensional. In this new story I thought that the characters were just as well drawn.
If you’re a fan of either the author or The Assignment and like GFY romances you won’t want to miss Heart and Soul, another dangerous but enjoyable episode with O’Brian and Valenti who just can’t seem to stay away from trouble and each other. While you can enjoy this book without reading The Assignment I would strongly recommend that you read the previous book first to fully understand O’Brian’s and Valenti’s story. I had a really hard time rating this book and waffled quite a bit even just before posting this review, but I had to be as objective as possible even though I love this series.
Heart and Soul will be released on Tuesday, February 9th, by Loose Id.