Title: Roughed Up
Author: Hank Edwards
Cover Artist: Mina Carter
Publisher: Startled Monkeys Media
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Length: Short Novel (141 pages/43864 words)
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Zac D
Review Summary: A short novel that, together with the first two books make an easy, entertaining holiday read. However, some weak construction is left exposed by slightly flimsy plot that, at times, fails to engage.
FBI Special Agent Aaron Pearce and his lover Mark Beecher are taking a well-deserved vacation relaxing on the beaches of Barbados Island. They spend lazy days in the sun, on scooters seeing the sites, and in their room making love.
When Mark sees a young girl in a bar who may be in danger, he begins an informal investigation into her situation, even as Pearce reminds him they are not citizens and have no legal power on the island. Mark is determined, however, and, while investigating on his own, is taken captive by a sex slavery ring.
Pearce panics when Mark goes missing. He has a good idea what happened to Mark and who has taken him, but he cannot prove it. While working with the Barbados Royal Police Force, Pearce realizes he has become the detective’s prime suspect, and understands he needs to conduct his own personal investigation if he has any chance of finding Mark before he is either sold into sex slavery or murdered.
Up to Trouble Series
I approached Roughed Up with an open mind. I really enjoyed the first book in the series, and was left somewhat deflated by the much weaker second installment. I was prepared for either with the third.
The short length of the book works in its favor. Though it takes a while to get going, Roughed Up retains the fast pace that worked so well in the first two books. The plot is constantly in motion, and taking the reader on a journey that entertains. It’s not engaging enough to make a real connection, and yes, if you’ve read the other books–and I do think you need to be on point with the series to have any hope of appreciating this book–you may find yourself a little underwhelmed, but nonetheless, if I was going on vacation, the three books would be just the ticket for a week by the pool.
Agent Pearce is particularly nice to visualize, and the book does a great job of reminding the reader just what he looks like. You can never go wrong with tall, dark and handsome. At least, not in my, er, book.
There are some minor niggles. The first five chapters are mainly sex, sprinkled with a dusting of thin plot, and bickering about Mark cooking carrots too often back at home. In fact, chapters 1, 3 and 5 are just sex and nothing else.
The phrase spit slick prick will stay with me for a while, and not in a good way.
I also found some of the dialogue poorly put together. It was jarring when speech was constructed like so– Pearce groaned and sighed, then said in a deep voice, “Fuck me.” It pulled me out of the story, each and every time, and awakened my inner passive voice hating demon.
It was a shame, because if I hadn’t been so bored with the constant sex, I wouldn’t have noticed such silly little things.
That being said, I did enjoy some of the more humorous dialogue between the two lead males. Pearce’s journey throughout all three books from surly, aloof FBI agent to loved-up boyfriend is well described, and his frequent unease at his newfound inner softie is very funny. Pearce does wry introspection very well, and I really liked the gruffer side of his personality. It’s always entertaining to see an alpha male discover his inner teddy bear.
And on to the plot…
I did have some issues with the plot. The more I read, the more I felt it underlined the growing weakness in the characterization of Mark and Pearce. Mark’s have-a-go-hero complex is irritating, and thoroughly unbelievable. He’s not a cop, or FBI agent…he just has a ‘bad feeling’ and heads off into the lion’s den with just his flip flops and pigheaded ignorance for company. His reasoning doesn’t make any sense, and rather than admirable or endearing it struck me as rather ludicrous, and in turn, his already slightly childish character does have the tendency to grate.
Pearce bugged me too. He had a real gritty edge in the first book, and retained most of it in the second, but in this installment he lost it somewhat, leaving him quite flat and two dimensional. This is unfortunate, because it led me to think that perhaps if Mark had done as he was told and let things alone, and Pearce had just used his common sense and reported the shady bar to the relevant authorities, the whole plot would have been redundant and saved me the trouble of reading it.
It’s not good when a book feels like a chore.
Despite all the nitpicking though, Roughed Up is a good read, the series as a whole is a lot of fun. Roughed Up is the weakest of the three books, and perhaps the series may have been better if it was constructed into two longer books, rather than stretched out over three, but I don’t think the negatives outweigh the good points. I enjoyed all of the books, and the first book, Holed Up, is a cracking read.
Roughed Up scores 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the merit of the series as a whole.