A guest review by Lasha
Summary Review: This book has some major issues, including hot, if improbable, sex scenes.
Second in the Armadillo series. Book one, Leather Nights reviewed here.
In the midst of ending a miserable relationship, gentle physical therapist Gage Neary has been accused of the most horrific of crimes — murder. As a number of his patients die of poisoning, the evidence seems to point to him, and he becomes the prime suspect in the FBI investigation. Cody Redsun, the smokin’ hot FBI agent assigned to investigate the crimes, decides that it’s Gage he’d rather probe for answers.
When they find their lives threatened, Cody gives himself a new assignment; keep Gage alive until he can find the actual killer. While the true menace to the two men seems to be clear, Cody hides a tortured past that is just as threatening to their deepening bond. As the danger heats up, so do the two men, burning only for each other and the fiery passion that promises to consume them.
Undercover Nights is the sequel to Leather Nights which chronicled the lives of two gay men (with children from previous relationships) coping with the pressures of being an out couple in a small Texas town. Gage and Cody were introduced in book one and now take center stage in their own novel.
The book starts out not with Gage and Cody meeting, but with Gage and his current live-in lover, Antonio fighting because Gage walks in on the boyfriend having phone sex with another man. A few pages later he catches the bastard cheating and breaks up with him, setting Gage up to immediately date Special Agent Cody Redsun, in town to investigate a mysterious death that Gage might be involved in – or so the FBI thinks. Insta-Attraction happens between Gage and Cody and after one date and the break-up with Antonio only hours old, our two protagonists have sex, after which Cody runs out on Gage because he cannot handle his feelings for the other man. Antonio just happened to be in the area and seeing Cody run out becomes enraged that his ex – who he was cheating on — would be with another man, so he beats up Gage (breaking his cheekbone) and putting him in the hospital, but flees the area afterwards. Cody comforts Gage and this sets up the general concept of the novel: the two MCs versus the bad guys.
In this review, I am going to explain the many reasons why I am giving this book 1.5 stars because that is the main issue with Undercover Nights — why it doesn’t work as an action/suspense thriller in my mind.
First, Gage, our first hero, is not very bright. After being beat to a bloody pulp by Antonio and later finding out his ex is actually an assassin for a Mexican drug cartel; does Gage change the locks on his front door? No. Of course this means that Antonio and his drug dealing friends are able to get in and try and kill him (repeatedly) throughout the novel. (For this, I kept flashing back to poor old Ken Hutchinson in the 1970’s TV show, Starsky & Hutch, who always put his spare key above a ledge on his door and the bad guys kept using it to break in and try and kill him. Hutch meet Gage, Gage meet Hutch. Same mentality. Poor naive fools.) Also, no cop worth his/her salt would keep a witness who is in protective custody at their own home, let alone let them answer a knock at the door and open it up for the bad guys to cart them away.
Second, the bad guys are two-dimensional cardboard cut outs from a 1920’s silent movie, except in this instance they speak, but still twirl their moustaches and spout really bad clichéd — and in some instances bigoted dialog. (I expected dramatic music to crescendo everytime one of them appeared).
Third, Special Agent Cody Redsun doesn’t follow any type of correct police procedure that I know of. He gets involved with a potential murder suspect, doesn’t report possible corruption to higher ups and generally investigates his case like he’s on vacation. Point of fact: Gage, Jake, Cade (from book #1) and Cody go to a BDSM club to follow the Big Bad and gather evidence against them — yet do they take pictures, video or audio of these events? That would be a no. Cody and Gage are too busy having sex in one of the private rooms to bother with that. Even more alarming is the fact they fall asleep afterwards and spend the night in a drug cartel owned club, only sneaking out the next morning with no evidence to get Gage off the hook for the murder.
(I’m afraid it was at that point the whole book went utterly unrealistic for me and I nearly gave up. But since I was reviewing this, I carried on.)
You don’t just have to handwave over the glaring plot holes in Undercover Nights, basically you have to use your Jazz Hands to make them go away. Having worked in law enforcement, I couldn’t see that any effort was made to do research on the realities of working for the FBI. When one of the main characters is an FBI agent and the plot revolved around corrupt law enforcement officials, I would hope the plot would have some gritty realism in it. This one doesn’t. I can easily forgive some mistakes in regards to author not understanding how the FBI or state and local police agencies work, but if you are going to set a story in that universe, please use some sort of reference to fact check how cops really investigate a crime or protect a potential witness who could identify a major assassin from a drug gang. They certainly don’t allow them to stay in their own home with one agent to guard them.
Another thing was the identities of the bad guys were given away too early in the book. I would have liked not to have known who the Big Bad was so early on to draw the tension out when the climax of the novel came. Knowing the identity took away all the suspense needed to carry the plot forward.
The Love Story
The best part of the book. While I could have done without the Insta-Love and endearments from the moment Cody and Gage meet, I have to admit the sex scenes were hot. I gave the novel the extra .5 rating because those scenes were mostly very well-written. Only problem, as I discussed before, is that the sex was highly inappropriate in time and place. For example, Gage and Cody kiss in his hospital room after Antonio nearly beat him to death and before Gage’s injuries have healed. Ouch.
It seemed the large amounts of sex were filler for the confusing plot. Plus if Cody and Gage had sex everywhere they did in this book, more than likely they would have been dead as the drug cartel would have killed them during a sex-induced stupor before Cody could pull his gun out. There was also a “sir” and “Master” role-play that came out of nowhere in the BDSM club between Cody and Gage that to me went against the previous developed character traits of Cody. I did not think Cody would enjoy being tied up or penetrated for the first time in a place where anyone — including the bad guys — could walk in and see them. I would have thought Cody would have wanted his ‘first’ time to be in private with sweet lovemaking to ease him through his fears — which were many at the beginning of the book. Instead you get an intense D/s scene with no real preparation in it for the submissive.
So while the sex scenes were titillating, they were also improbable and actually dangerous if you were really an FBI agent trying to keep your witness/lover from being killed while drug kingpins were after him.
I don’t think any reviewer wants to write a less than positive review. It is not my intention to bash this book, but to point out the flaws in the plot, characterizations and overall tone of the book that made it less than an enjoyable read. I am sure there are readers out there who love this book and are totally not interested in realism from a law enforcement universe. Every reader is different in how we enjoy a book and reviews are very subjective, so you can take this review with those words in mind. While this was not my cup of tea, however, it might be yours. But, I cannot recommend it based on my initial reaction.