Dear Ms. Black:
Why do I do this to myself? Why am I so in thrall to the Cosa Nostra of Shayla Black’s series? Just when I think I’m out, she pulls me back in again.
This time we hear Axel’s story. I remember Axel as wearing a lot of leather vests in the previous books so we’re already not starting out on the best footing. Axel was some kind of military-ish, mercenary, private army type person who was hired by a famous director to save his kidnapped daughter, Mystery. To be honest I think she deserved to be kidnapped because of that name. Anyway, Mystery was held in a shack in Death Valley (not a good omen, that, is it?) and was being vaguely menaced by her captors. Suddenly, Axel and his cohorts stormed in. His cohorts duly died, and Axel and Mystery set off in search of rescue. Being rescued by a leather-vest-wearing Blackwater goon got Mystery all giddy in her knickers, but Axel held back on sex with a traumatized, vulnerable young girl in the middle of one of the most inhospitable environments on earth. Axel’s mama didn’t raise no leather-vest-wearing, dodgy mercenary fool. Axel and Mystery eventually got rescued and went their separate ways, Mystery gazing at him as his leather-vested self flapped away into the sunset, and he had nothing left of her but memories and the vaguely dirty feeling left by an encounter with someone with such a monumentally ridiculous name.
Fast forward six years and we find Mystery in a dodgy bar wearing an even dodgier disguise, looking to hook up with the leather daddy who got away. All goes as planned. Axel, not the brightest Dom in his graduating Dom class, is fooled by Mystery’s disguise and they fall into bed. After Mystery escapes the next morning, Axel is perplexed. But they had such a connection! He ran his fingers through her static-y, slightly synthetic-feeling fire-engine-red hair! Sure, her hair may have literally fallen off her head a few times…wait, that couldn’t have been a wig…could it? What about her eyes?! They were glacially blue; he’d never seen eyes like that before. But she did rub at them quite a bit and mutter stuff like, “Fuck these contact lenses”. You don’t think she was wearing contact lenses, do you? Well, don’t I feel stupid. And by ‘I’ I mean ‘Axel’, who must have been off chasing something shiny when God was handing out ‘gorm’.
Anyway, Axel decides to ignore the old bible proverb, ‘Give a man a fish, and if the fish swims away, it’s just not that into you’, and he chases Mystery, for he has deduced that she was his late-night paramour in bad stage make-up. Just as this happens, Mystery starts getting threats, telling her to leave the country. All this happens against the backdrop of the mystery (a-yo!) of her mother’s alleged suicide years ago (she wuz pushed!) and the questionable machinations of her bodyguard, Heath, who is shady but, really, everyone in these books is shady. The difference between the good guys and the bad guys is that the good guys wear leather.
After a pretty meaty start, the book just ran out of steam, and I found myself not caring about Axel or Mystery’s mystery. After ten installments this series is showing signs of wear and tear, and it’s almost impossible to tell each book apart. Maybe Black has finally chased me away from her Wicked Lovers. DNF