Read my reviews of the previous books in the Necessary Evils series:
Every time I can’t possibly love this series more, James ups the ante on us again. I knew going in that this book would cross over with another series by the same author, and that it would also tease a planned future series. Little did I know how much the world of the Mulvaneys was about to explode. After all, Thomas got what he wanted with his seven sons, who are all productive adults. It should have been obvious that the larger-scale version of his epic plan is already in production; this is just the first time we’re getting a chance to see it up close. James doesn’t waste time setting up too much backstory with this book, either for the secret government project, the external plot regarding the threat on Mac’s life, or even the initial meeting between Mac and Archer that launches their professional partnership and personal dynamic.
After spending time with Aiden in the previous installment of this series, Archer remained the most mysterious Mulvaney brother. And it turns out that everything we thought we knew about him was wrong, even when we were technically correct. He wears the persona of drunken pirate the same way Adam, Asa, and Avi are playboys, except he doesn’t drop this mask for his brothers. The fact that I know James didn’t have every detail of all of her characters planned out from the very beginning just makes her creativity and storytelling even more mind-blowing; for example, putting together the pieces about August and Archer as children goes a long way toward explaining the shift in Thomas that resulted in Atticus growing up so touch- and affection-starved. In much the same way that facet of his adult character made Jericho his perfect match, James also creates Mac as the perfect foil for Archer—with a twist.
A common joke about this series is how the Mulvaney boys seem to imprint on their partners like psychotic penguins, but I’d argue that the reverse happens here. Mac is familiar enough with how to deal with Archer’s particular flavor of neurodivergence since he’s the twin of a man with a related diagnosis and the son of the woman who literally wrote the book on how Thomas approached raising his children. (Perhaps there’s a tiny bit of some form of -pathy hanging out in Mac’s brain after all.) The lower-key power exchange between him and Archer evolves throughout the book from pure sex to pure passion as feelings enter the mix, despite Archer’s best intentions. However, since feeling something is what begrudgingly attracted Archer to Mac in the first place, his crankiness about the situation is more adorable than angst-ridden. In the end, Archer and Mac probably win for worst public shenanigans in Mulvaney family history, and I almost became the first real-world Mulvaney victim by choking on my coffee in surprise.
But apart from the relationship drama and before they can get back to work on their top-secret government project, Archer and Mac still have to figure out who has a contract out on Mac’s life and what it has to do with a picture he didn’t mean to take. Luckily, Mac now has the entire weight of the Mulvaney family behind him, and I had a ton of fun with all the appearances made by other familiar characters. I’ll always have a soft spot for Noah, the founding member of Team Emotion, and his subplot hit me right in the feels and impressed me with how he has grown as a character. James takes us to another pretty dark place in this book, in which the external conflict is unfortunately rooted in an all-too-familiar reality based on current American events. This adds verisimilitude to the story and a bit of catharsis when the plot is resolved, but also reminds me of why it’s almost a shame that the Mulvaneys don’t exist in the real world.
I’m already excited about multiple things after reading this book, based on the hints dropped throughout the pages—not only the conclusion of this series in book 7 but also exploring a brand-new series that extrapolates on what James has developed here. However, I also know I’ll enjoy re-reading this story since I’m as much of a fangirl of this series as Lucas is of Molly Shepherd and Molly is of Lucas’s husband (and if James is taking suggestions for bonus scenes, that’d be a great dinner party).
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.
Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.