Endangered Species (Book 1)
I won’t lie: I originally had zero plan to read this series. A prison love story held zero appeal to me, and the step-brother aspect put me off further. Except I love this author, and I especially love this author’s Elite Protection series. So, the fact that this series is a spin-off of that one finally swayed it in my favor. Spoiler alert: I have zero regrets about reading the first installment of this series.
I’ve been intrigued by Webster since first meeting him, and I thoroughly enjoyed him as a point of view character. Bonus points for a neurodivergent character who doesn’t need saving! The step-brother aspect that initially gave me pause refers more to the past connection shared by Cyrus and Webster, a single year during which 17-year-old Cyrus helped protect 6-year-old Webster from parental abuse. They have not seen each other since those ages, making their romantic connection less fraught with taboo (though other characters in the book don’t shy away from joking about it).
This is an enjoyable book, with a twisty plot, but it’s not always an easy book. James notes at the end of the book that Cyrus’ original prison sentence, despite being a frame job in the story, is all too real for other underserved populations in the United States. Elements of the external plot ring true for so many contemporary news stories, especially in this era of for-profit prisons. Not everyone is as lucky as Cyrus and Webster, nor does everyone have Webster and his friends’ skills and resources to get their own happy ending.
I look forward to reading the next installment in this series and seeing where James takes us next.
Dangerous Breed (Book 2)
I enjoyed the first book in this series partly because it involved a character known to me from another series by James. Still, I wasn’t sure that interest would hold up as events moved away from the familiar sphere of the Elite Protection family. However, as Wyatt lays out to Memphis, once that crew adopts you as one of their own, your family is their family. Thus, Preacher leaves prison to find himself with a job and a support network, which sends him on a crash course toward the Camden brothers.
Memphis and Preacher share a connection from their first meeting. Preacher doesn’t fight with himself for long before acknowledging his need to protect Memphis and his younger brother from their family. Some elements of this book aren’t terribly easy to read, especially as James reminds us in her author’s note at the end that facets of her characters are based on her time as a nurse. However, that darkness is easily balanced by the total sexiness of each of Preacher and Memphis’ explosive encounters. Importantly, Preacher does not “fix” Memphis’ sense of anxiety or low self-esteem by loving him. Instead, he gives the other man space and support to feel ready to address those issues himself. This makes for a lovely subplot in addition to the romance and thrilling external plot of protecting Memphis and Knox from their brother and father.
I’m now totally invested in this spin-off series and can’t wait to see where James decides to take it next. She’s left room open to explore other characters that definitely interest me. For now, I’m content to look forward to the next installment of another of her excellent writing projects.
Domesticated Beast (Book 3)
One of my favorite romance tropes is “murder as a love language.” I was already intrigued by Javier due to his “wedding present” at the end of the previous book in this series, so I was 100 percent here for his attraction for Bowie and how he acts on it. On the other side of the spectrum, I have a soft spot for ballet dancers because I’m the only woman in my family who isn’t one.
The attraction between Bowie and Javier is instantaneous, even if it doesn’t necessarily “make sense” to an outside observer. Acting on that attraction enables them to grow closer, even if Javier’s actions on behalf of Bowie are significantly different from the usual flowers and chocolates. Both men have experienced trauma in their lives, and I love how it bends them together rather than breaks either one.
Plenty of familiar faces appear in this story, though we also meet some fantastic new secondary characters in Javier’s family and Bowie’s best friend, Odette. James is wonderful at crafting dramatic stories featuring wonderful romance and external conflict arcs in which the heroes don’t exist in a vacuum. Javier is my favorite type of anti-hero, and Bowie is a cupcake with a core of steel. They’re my favorite pairing in this series so far, even though none of the books are to be missed. As usual, I look forward to the next installment in this series because I’m not ready to be done with this world.
(Also, consider this my official vote for a bonus scene showing Javier and Shepherd meeting or interacting.)