Their Bounty (Book 1)
I’m a sucker for found family stories, and even though this book is only partially that, it ensured my interest beyond the main plot. Clover is kind of a disaster, but he quickly becomes THEIR disaster despite lots of kicking and screaming on some sides (looking at you, Drake). Despite their role in dismantling a human trafficking organization in the first part of the book, the “Four Mercenaries” in question are very much gray-area characters rather than strictly on the hero or villain side of things. This makes them all the more intriguing to Clover, and honestly, to me as well.
The probable realism of this book’s external plot varies from vaguely ridiculous to terrifyingly plausible. The events bind Clover ever closer to his unlikely saviors, even forcing Drake to confront emotions he has long suppressed. The sexy bits in this book can be read on a spectrum from over-dramatized for reader enjoyment to the perfect makings of four individual love stories. Like it says on the back-cover description, Clover has distinct relationships with each of the four men. Through those relationships, and especially from Clover’s point of view, we also see the bonds between the four mercenaries that are stronger than friendship on multiple levels and by various definitions.
My favorite part of this book is Clover’s character development, especially how he insists on not lingering as a passive victim in need of others to protect him. Thus, the later protection is born out of genuine affection rather than a sense of transaction, heightening the external plot’s tension. This book does not end on a cliffhanger. However, I look forward to revisiting these characters to see both Clover’s progress as an individual and the progress of his convoluted, yet so simple, love stories.
Their Obsession (Book 2)
This book picks up about a year after the first in the trilogy. On the surface, Clover is living happily ever after with his four boyfriends, enjoying the various relationships he has with each man. Except his four boyfriends also happen to be badass mercenaries who need to get back to work. Despite their trepidation, they allow Clover to join the team and accompany them on what appears to be an easy job. However, Clover is significantly younger (and therefore less experienced) than the rest of the team, and he immediately shows both of those traits.
Clover’s actions annoyed me greatly, making me remember why I don’t often read books featuring younger (nearer to 20 years old than 30) protagonists anymore. I have no patience for the immaturity or the dramatics that accompany being forced to acknowledge mistakes. The job goes poorly, and even worse, it appears to connect with the unfortunate events that led Clover to his four mercenaries to begin with.
Though he might be the primary protagonist of this trilogy, being the center of the various relationships, Clover is not necessarily the true hero of this story. He is a player, but his part does not go back nearly as far as Drake’s, who has much more reason to be invested in going after Clover’s initial kidnapper. Unfortunately, this leads Clover and Drake (with poor Boar along for the ride) to make some pretty terrible decisions that wind up putting the men into an even worse predicament. The “dark” portion of this dark romance series slams to the forefront, and it’s not an easy read. While book one stands alone, this middle trilogy installment left me immediately anxious to dive into the finale to find out what happens next. And things are dark enough that I’m much more worried about everyone making it out alive, putting even their potential happily ever after on the back-burner of that priority.
Set Aflame (Book 2.5)
At the beginning of this series, it is evident that Boar and Pyro are already in an established, long-term relationship. This is the story of their meeting, which is less “meet cute” and more “Boar, you sweet cinnamon roll, you shouldn’t follow strange men home.” Luckily for Boar, it all works out for the best. I’m more interested in learning how the Four Mercenaries came together as a unit, but this peek into a part of their shared past is satisfying and sexy.
Their Property (Book 3)
I made a false assumption that the finale to this trilogy would pick up immediately after the exciting yet traumatic events in the middle installment. Instead, months have passed; this badass mercenary crew is barely hanging on while one of their own is missing. Not only do they have to rescue Boar, but multiple broken relationships (romantic and friendship) need healing between the five distinct characters. Clover may have started as the “center” of this reverse harem story, but at its heart, this is a found family story.
As befitting the apex of this dark romance, there is plenty of angst to go around. My heart broke multiple times, especially for Drake and Boar. Certain events from book 2 would never be resolved if Drake avoided Clover forever, and I especially enjoyed the changes in how Drake and Tank related to each other. I even experienced some begrudging sympathy for Pyro by the end, even if I think his character is pretty damaged (even beyond his issues with addiction) to the point of being borderline abusive toward both Clover and Boar.
I’m not sure that Clover will ever truly take up the mantle of mercenary, like his partners, but it’s pretty clear that he’s going to live happily (and slightly violently) ever after with this group. All of them certainly find out by the end that they work better together.
Overall, this was an exciting trilogy that I enjoyed reading. The “dark” on the cover refers more to some external plot events than the relationships themselves, which range from fun to sweet to sexy AF. Not all of these authors’ books are for me, but I’m glad I checked these out. I’d even love to read more about their adventures, inside and outside of the bedroom.