An undercover policewoman falls for the criminal assigned to protect her in a taut romantic thriller by author Bailey (Staking His Claim, 2014, etc.).
Seraphina Newsom, a former nurse, has wanted to be a cop since childhood. After the death of her brother, rookie cop Colin, at the hands of crime boss Trevor Hogan, she’s determined to avenge him—without official sanction from the New York Police Department. Working as a waitress (and not a very good one) at Hogan’s nightclub, Rush, she hopes to find an incriminating ledger that will put him in prison. Sera’s uncle, Police Commissioner Newsom, knows Sera has gone rogue and offers a deal, which might be construed as blackmail, to criminal Bowen Driscol to protect his niece and free her from Hogan’s clutches. From their first meeting, Sera and Bowen are immediately hot for each other, and he quickly stakes his claim, nicknaming her “Ladybug.” Sera, a practicing Catholic and a virgin, lusts for Bowen despite his reputation (she knows nothing of his arrangement with the NYPD), and she finds herself doing things that good girls don’t usually do. The pair even attends church together, a place Bowen seldom visits; but in Sera’s presence, he is called to be a better man. The two bond at Bowen’s apartment (he paints murals) and fall into a steamy, but respectful, affair. An element of distrust lingers—she knows he’s a criminal—even when Bowen proves to be reliable. After overhearing talk about a shipment of stolen goods, Sera is a marked woman, and the line believably blurs between good guys and bad. It’s a well-conceived setup, with virginal Sera a counterpoint to rough and raw Bowen, who craves her so much he’s in pain. The structure might be described as formulaic, but the dynamic between the two main characters is so well-developed as to make any formulaic elements nearly indiscernible. Although it appears a sequel is in the works, thankfully the author doesn’t leave the reader hanging but sufficiently resolves the current plotline while sparking interest in the novel to come.
This intense, erotic romance pairs brisk action with well-developed characters.