This post includes reviews of all the books in the Auctioned series:
- Auctioned (#1)
- Stranded (#2)
- Deserted (#3)
- The Job (#3.5)
- Played (#4)
- Finished (#5)
Auctioned (Book 1)
Even though I’ve loved everything I’ve read by this author, I put off reading this book because I knew it would be difficult. Now that I’ve finished it, that is an understatement. That sentiment is compounded by how happy I was when I realized Gray was a familiar friend from Power Play and that this sweet kid was about to go through hell.
It’s important to note here that this isn’t a dark romance, but it is a dark book. Gray does, in fact, go through hell, but he escapes worse actions that are visited by those around him. However, even in the instances when he avoids physical pain, Darius doesn’t make it easy for Gray to accept that freedom is around the corner. In the long run, Gray does his best to step up when he needs to, and his soul remains intact. This is less of a redeeming feature and more of a bug when it means Darius must adjust his already complicated plans to accommodate the desires of the boy worming his way into Darius’ heart.
Again, not a dark romance but still a very unconventional relationship arc. The immediate conflict is addressed, but the ride is far from over. Gray and Darius end the book on the narrowest of “happily for now” margins, and I can’t wait to dive into the next part of their tale. Even when I know it probably won’t be an easy read, it will be utterly worth it.
Stranded (Book 2)
I was thrilled when I realized that the next book in this series was from Darius’s perspective. This narrative choice works out on so many levels, from getting his take on the developing “relationship” he has with Gray to how much his internal narrative adds to the tension of the events after their time on the slaver’s yacht. Darius did promise Gray they were going home, but the first half of this book involves a slight detour that only adds to the angst and trauma already experienced by Gray and the other young men he was taken with.
Too much fiction of all forms ends with the great escape and the assumption that everyone will live happily ever after as they ride off into the sunset. This book blows that assumption out of the water, as Gray and his compatriots now have to adjust to being back in the “real” world and the work, both mental and emotional, that comes with trying to move on. Plenty of familiar faces from other Dee books make an appearance as Gray is reunited with his family, but Darius is the one who sees the toll everything is taking on the young man’s psyche. I’m not sure whether the connection shared between Darius and Gray helps or hurts in this context, but as a reader, I’m all for it, despite the inherent complications. Darius’ brother Ryan might have warned Darius about this exact scenario. Still, all Darius knows is that he doesn’t consider his responsibility toward Gray over now that the younger man is back in the bosom of his family.
Unlike the previous book in this series, this one doesn’t end on a “happily for now” note. It’s not quite a dark moment or cliffhanger, but it definitely prompts the reader to desperately want to know what happens next. Darius and Gray might be “physically” safe now that they are nominally home, but their story is far from over.
Deserted (Book 3)
One of my pet peeves about most romantic suspense-type stories, whether in novel or movie form, is that the relationship that develops is often due to a “trauma bond” more than from genuine romantic interest. This is absolutely the case for Darius and Gray. While I haven’t mentioned it in previous reviews for this series, I appreciate that the characters are low-key aware that this is the nature of their connection. The way Dee writes them emphasizes the specific natures of their dynamic, in how both men understand that their different forms of growing attachment to each other aren’t the healthiest. As this book starts, Gray and Darius even take steps to mitigate that attachment and begin the slow, painful separation process.
Spoiler alert: It doesn’t quite work out like that. Initially, Gray undertakes a mission of his own as part of his healing journey. Darius manages a more distant protective role, which works right up until it doesn’t. Therefore, the only solution is a cross-country road trip to finally get home to Camassia Cove, Washington. Except “forced proximity” is also a romance trope for a reason. Spending time together without the threat of constant danger forces another evolution of their connection that might start to look a little bit like love.
Resolutions to multiple conflicts are achieved in this story, from interpersonal to loose threads still hanging from the initial auction in the first book. I am now solidly in the Darius + Gray = Forever camp by its end because even unconventional romances can still make for a wonderful love story. This book ends on the closest “happily ever after” note of the series so far. But I know that the adventure is far from over, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Especially since I already know about the groundwork laid in Las Vegas!
The Job (Book 3.5)
This book is the first I read in this series, though far from my first book by this author, and it can easily be read as a stand-alone. I enjoyed it for many reasons, especially for the humor and family shenanigans promised in the blurb, but also because it features something not often found in storytelling. Whenever heroes plan a heist or op, they usually have all sorts of info about the mark, but how do they get those details? This is where Casey and Boone come in, as they use their experience and connections in Las Vegas to pull together all the background needed for a project planned by their cousin Darius.
Even though they raise a little girl together (the daughter of a friend who passed away), these adopted brothers haven’t been on speaking terms in years. It’s obvious that this pains both of them, but they won’t pass up a job that will include a payout that will allow them to provide the best life possible for their daughter. Speaking of Ace, I don’t often enjoy precocious children in my love stories, but this little girl (and how her fathers interact with her) wormed her way into my heart. Though it is not a traditional family dynamic by any means, the love they share is obvious, and that’s the most important thing anyway.
The romance itself is relatively low-angst because we missed most of the emotional pain before the story started. Like many books by Dee, it verges on taboo if you squint. Casey and Boone are not biological brothers, but they were raised together. The relationship between them is fewer hearts and flowers and more wanting the other (and their daughter) to be the center of their universe. It just takes a bit for both men to be on the same page. Once they are, the happily ever after is in sight and so much fun to read.
I’ll definitely be returning to the beginning of this series now, and I look forward to seeing Boone and Casey again in the final books of this saga.
Played (Book 4)
The timeline of this book overlaps with that of The Job. That book is not required reading for the main series, but I encourage readers to check it out regardless. This series, however, definitely does not work as separate standalone novels. Events for the characters are relatively stable after Deserted, but the main themes of Played are ramping up to the grand finale and Darius reconciling what he thought his “retirement” would look like versus the reality.
This book was announced at the same time as the final installment of this series, so I knew going in that I would not get total closure on either of those themes. However, that did not stop me from smacking my Kindle and trying to turn to the next page when I got to the end. Luckily, I only have a month to wait for the ending to this epic series, when hopefully Darius and Gray will finally get their happily ever after with their found family.
One of my favorite things about Dee’s writing is how most of her books exist in the same world, even when the series are different subgenres. However, differing series types don’t mean that similar characters can’t have connections, and some familiar faces continue to show up here. These cameos lead to excellent plot and character development, such as River and Reese Tenley (from The Game series) being tasked to assist Darius’s final mission in their shared role as former PMCs. That’s heavy on the plot side, obviously, but their inclusion also led to one of my favorite moments of this book when Darius turns to River for moral support regarding his relationship (because he is slightly worried about Gray’s previous connection with Madigan and Abel of the Camassia Cove series, who also appear here). Even though this series can stand alone, those details enhance the reading experience for Dee’s fans and hopefully lead newer readers to her other work.
Fans of romantic suspense, action-adventure, and found family should not miss this amazing series. Bold words when the final book has not yet been released at the time of this writing, but Dee has yet to let me down on the storytelling front. I can’t wait for Darius and Gray to get their happy ending, even if I’m not ready to be done with these characters quite yet.
Finished (Book 5)
Here’s the thing: The final two books in the Auctioned series could have easily worked as a single novel. However, from a creative standpoint, I loved that Dee continued the pattern of switching between Darius and Gray’s points of view, especially since she does it so effectively and with such intention. The setup of this final adventure needed to be from Darius’s perspective (and I still love a particular scene between him and River). And even though the cliffhanger at the end stressed me out as much as it did all the other readers, it was the perfect breakpoint to switch to Gray for the final installment of this amazing series.
After all, this is very much all about Gray. Darius might have become an integral character, but he is no stranger to this life. Before his kidnapping, Gray may have had some relatively unique relationship issues, but overall, he was just a normal guy starting his life. The Gray at the end of this series is probably unrecognizable to his former self. Sure, his developing relationship with Darius had a lot to do with it, but events would have changed him regardless.
So, the beginning of this book focuses on the resolution to the cliffhanger Darius finds himself in. But the bulk of the story acts as an extended resolution to the full events of the series. This is not a complaint. Such an intricate plotline that included such dynamic character development deserved much more than a scene or two as a wrap-up. (And even then, I still definitely need a proper after-action discussion with the full crew that was not possible at the time, but I have a feeling that Dee won’t leave me hanging.)
Dee has always blown me away with her writing, but I never expected to enjoy this series as much as I did. The ending was a touch of perfection and left me with the perfect blend of book hangover emotions — happy that everything worked out and sad that I no longer had new pieces of this world to explore. Except that the best part of Dee’s work is how it is all part of a giant shared universe, so I know this isn’t the last time I’ll see these characters. I can’t wait.