Loving Vin (Book 1)
At this point, I’m thoroughly invested in all the interconnected series Kennedy has created. The first book in the Berretti Security Series leans heavily on events in the Escort series, and it also fits in the Protectors and Finding worlds. I’m glad I looked into the recommended reading order because this book, especially, works much better with the full context of the Escort trilogy already experienced.
We meet both Vin and Mia at the end of Escort Book 3, Logan’s Need, and based on Vin’s reaction to Mia, I had a feeling their romance would be up soon in the reading list. Neither has much in common on the outside, but they are damaged in their own ways, and their jagged edges end up fitting together nicely. This romance arc’s physical side is satisfying on all fronts, but I couldn’t help but think that something important was missing. For all that Vin comes to care for Mia and her menagerie of other lost souls, I found that their love story seemed to evolve without them doing much actual communicating. With words. Like mature adults.
This is a short novel, so maybe I missed it behind the scenes. I’m glad that Vin and Mia find comfort and a home in each other after both experience such difficult pasts. I especially enjoyed Mia’s personal character development and how her need for independence clashed with Vin’s need to care for the woman he can’t help but be drawn to.
There are still some Berretti brothers in need of their happily ever afters, so I look forward to continuing yet another excellent Kennedy series.
Redeeming Rafe (Book 2)
My biggest complaint about this book is that Rafe doesn’t need to be redeemed. The symmetry in the title is nice, but Rafe is instead a broken soul lashing out. Luckily for Rafe, Cade is the one sent by Rafe’s brothers to investigate their hacking problem. Unluckily for Cade, he experiences an instantaneous connection with the youngest Barretti brother, putting him between a rock and a hard place when it comes to protecting everyone he has come to think of as family. Cade is the real hero of this story—an innocent bystander who does nothing except fall in love and then does everything to protect that burgeoning relationship, no matter how difficult it is.
This is yet another book in Kennedy’s extended universe of novels that is perfect for reading in the context of the other books. It’s a pretty big commitment, but I highly recommend it because every book has been worth it for the expanded scope of the story, even the ones that I don’t give five stars. We’ve already experienced Vin and Dom’s heartache over their missing brother. Kennedy wrenches us even further when we find out here just how bad things got for Rafe after his separation from his brothers as a child. These revelations put all the characters through the wringer, with the added complication of a target on Rafe’s head. This dilemma puts Rafe back into his brothers’ reach when Cade refuses to give up on the youngest Barretti
As usual, Kennedy does not shy away from showing readers the darker side of humanity regarding her characters’ backstories. Elements of this book are not an easy read, but the eventual happily ever after, which certainly doesn’t come easy, makes it all the more worth it. Rafe is my favorite of the Barretti brothers, now that I’ve met all four, but I have the feeling that Ren might give me a run for my money as I dive into the next book in this series.
Saving Ren (Book 3)
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Declan and Jagger’s love for Ren does not “cure” his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Kennedy does an excellent job with this book’s setup in that it is clear how Declan and Jagger’s non-romantic support is there until Ren is comfortable with seeking treatment for himself. Does the evolving relationship between the three men encourage Ren in this regard? Yes, but there is no “magical healing cock(s)” trope here, and I appreciate the author’s sensitivity in writing about this mental health issue.
Another element about this book I adored is how equal the three individual relationships between each of the three men are, even for Ren. Declan has hidden a torch for Ren for years, but it is the spark of Jagger coming into their lives that truly ignites the wildfire between all three of them. Even though the initial sparks between Declan and Jagger are of animosity, they are both completely united when it comes to prioritizing Ren’s health and safety. This prioritization ends up leaving Ren in the dark about specific Barretti family issues, causing the novel’s poignant dark moment. However, even when the relationship was at its most fragile, the love between the partners was evident and touching. After all, Ren is not the only one in this book to struggle with self and family issues. Jagger and Declan also travel complete character arcs that had me enjoying all three characters as individuals as well as a romantic triad.
I had a suspicion that this would be my favorite book of the series, which is definitely the case so far. Now, I suspect that this is far from the last we’ll see of Ren, Jagger, or Declan in the larger shared world of Kennedy’s excellent collection of romance series. I can’t wait to keep reading to find out.
Freeing Zane (Book 4)
Now that all four Barretti brothers (plus one former in-law) have found their happily ever after, I wasn’t sure how this book would fit into this series’s overall scheme. We’ve met both Zane and Connor before, as friends and former lovers of previous heroes. Still, neither man is directly connected to the Barretti family or even the security company owned by two of the brothers.
However, none of that matters. Almost all of the former heroes in this series make essential appearances in this book. What does link these books is that Connor and Zane both consider themselves damaged, a recurring theme. However, Kennedy once again blew me away with her ability to craft a romance between two “broken” characters who do not fix each other but instead allow each other the support and space to be their own heroes and save themselves. Along the way, readers enjoy a healthy dose of feels, sexy bits, and an excellent external plot that both supports and intertwines with the overall romance story.
Like too many contemporary veterans, Connor has left military service with problems that include limb loss, traumatic brain injury, and the accompanying post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s also searching for internal fulfillment in a sexual relationship, even one that doesn’t include traditional relationship elements. Enter Zane, who might be the perfect man to satisfy (pun intended) Connor’s needs, except he carries plenty of baggage of his own. That baggage was manageable until Connor snuck through every one of Zane’s mental barriers.
The external conflict creates multiple dark moments in this story without ever verging into melodrama, then makes a solid ending to the complete series. This book is a stunning conclusion to the overall Barretti Security Series, but I’m so excited to continue to the other books in Kennedy’s larger shared world.