This post includes reviews of the current books available in the Shadow Elite series:
Stephen’s Translator (#0.5)
Charlie’s Doctor (#1)
Stephen’s Translator (Shadow Elite #0.5)
This novella is available as a free download via Prolific Works as part of the Your Book Boyfriend’s Boyfriend M/M Romance Group Giveaway 2022.
The “meet cute” between Stephen and Ehren in this book was so delightful that I totally forgot this novella included more genres than just contemporary romance. I was so immediately invested by the scenario and these characters that I would have been okay for the post-date hotness to continue in the same trajectory expected by the heroes (as much as they tried to resist their chemistry). Instead, we were hit by an external plot that promised to be equally compelling.
That Stephen’s immediate reaction was to support Ehren instead of running away was a credit to his character. This emotionally driven set-up meant that it was also easy to see both men’s perspectives when Stephen’s involvement leads to conflict between them. Overall, the situation acted as an excellent lead-in and introduction to the planned main series by highlighting the mercenary team members without overwhelming us with them. (Note: Before this, I had read the main Exit Strategy trilogy by this author but not the later book that also features these characters; I rectified that by reading Accidental Lover as soon as possible.)
The action-adventure aspects of the story that occur when Stephen and Ehren reach Turkey felt a bit condensed, due to the length constrictions of the story. However, the romance arc never suffered the same and featured all the important beats necessary to make me support the eventual happily ever after. (And I’m not just talking about the fun spicy bits, either.) Since I was trapped on an airplane for my own trans-Atlantic flight at the time, I immediately started reading the next book to learn more about this intriguing crew of mercs and continue to follow the mystery teased at the end.
Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars
Charlie’s Doctor (Shadow Elite #1)
The first full novel of this romantic suspense series can easily be read as a stand-alone, but it picks up the thread of the mystery presented in the prequel novella. The team is having no luck finding clues about an artist missing for decades, but the trail leads them to Charlie’s ex-boyfriend, the casualty of a failed relationship during Charlie’s previous career.
The drama of running into the one who got away was compelling enough for me to care about the characters. However, I often rolled my eyes at Charlie’s domineering personality—he often manages to be a bit of a dick even when he’s doing the right thing. In contrast, Will’s a man on a mission who reluctantly accepts Charlie’s assistance because he knows it will benefit him. Chemistry and affection were never the problems between them in the past, though, so it’s completely unsurprising when the danger-prompted forced proximity leads things to a natural conclusion.
I figured out much of the plot long before the reveal, but I still enjoyed the ride through the events of the story and spending time with the extended cast of the rest of the mercenary team. The second-chance romance aspect of this book was much stronger, and I appreciated the reconnection between the characters and the acknowledgment that they are in different places in their lives now (it just happens that they happen to be better for them to stay together).
I knew going in that Charlie probably wouldn’t be my favorite of this mercenary crew, but I’m completely intrigued by the rest of them, and I’m looking forward to future installments of this series.