A CIA hit man struggles to protect a woman from a revenge killer—and his own dark desires—in this debut erotic thriller.
Kael Brady, member of The Group, a “division within a division within a division of the CIA,” is in Jamaica, having killed his latest target the night before. He sends Zelie, his Taiwanese “asset” and willing BDSM sex partner, to the spa and meets with fellow agent Luke, another BDSM fan, on the beach. They check out local women, but Kael, somewhat haunted by both his profession and sexual proclivities, seems reserved. Then Rain Howard, a beautiful tourist from Raleigh, North Carolina, enters his view. Kael falls hard and convinces her to extend her vacation, to the dismay of Kael’s departing friend, Charlotte, who was a witness to his killing. The couple spends some sweet, sex-free time together, but the idyll ends when Kael learns that someone is out to take revenge on him and could hurt Rain. Kael leaves the island immediately to track down the potential killer. The novel then jumps ahead two years, with Kael arriving in Raleigh, believing the threat has passed. Rain, initially wary, soon succumbs to his overtures; she also ditches her corporate gig to open a cafe and become a professional beignet maker. She soon learns that she likes having rough sex with Kael. By novel’s end, though, they face a showdown with the surprising killer. Debut author Smith wisely has Zelie say, “What’s the big deal? Thanks to that stupid book, the BDSM lifestyle is totally normalized,” teeing up this novel’s Fifty Shades of Grey–type tone. Indeed, Smith’s erotica should please fans of E.L. James’ work, even if her couple’s enjoyment of asphyxiation may be too edgy for some. Her special-ops plot generally creates excitement, as well, although her use of multiple first-person narrators (mostly Kael and Rain, but also Luke and Charlotte) is ambitious, as is the introduction of an assassination subplot late in the proceedings. Still, Smith has plenty to spur on an ongoing series.
An entertaining mashup of Bond, beignets, and bondage.