REVIEWED by Caroline and Jen B.
SERIES: The Protectors #8
AUTHOR: Sloane Kennedy
LENGTH: 362 Pages
RELEASE DATE: May 18, 2017
My job is to save lives. But what if the one that needs saving is the one I was sent to take?
At 33 years old, Phoenix Jones once had a stellar military career ahead of him. But when tragedy struck his family, he walked away from the path he’d chosen to be there for the one who needed him most. Except fate is a bitch and when she once again takes Phoenix’s future in the cruelest of ways, he must find a new path.
When a former army buddy introduces him to Ronan Grisham, the leader of an underground vigilante group, Phoenix knows he’s found a new family and nothing and no one is going to take that from him again. So when Ronan asks him to shadow a young man who participated in a brutal crime against Ronan’s husband, Seth, when he was a child and appears to be targeting him again, Phoenix doesn’t even hesitate for a second.
Even knowing what he must do if the young man proves to have gone back to his old ways.
Because family is everything…
I can’t come back from what I did. I’m not sure I even want to…
An ugly childhood left Levi Deming with little to do but dream of a day when he’d be free of his tormenters so he could carve out a simple life for himself, preferably somewhere far away from the family who never let him forget he was less than human. But one terrible choice at the tender age of 16 changed everything…
Wracked with guilt for the role he played during a home invasion gone horribly wrong, a now 24-year-old Levi is trying to piece together a life where he can maybe do a little bit of good, even knowing it won’t make up for the lives he helped take and it definitely won’t give back the future he stole from the young man whose agonized screams still haunt him night after night. If it were only about him, he’d walk into the nearest police station and happily tell them to lock him up and throw away the key.
But it isn’t just about him anymore…
I expected to find a hardened criminal. What I found was something else entirely…
With Ronan’s orders to terminate young Levi if he so much as even jaywalks, Phoenix expects an easy job with one clear outcome. But when a violent encounter forces Phoenix to interact with Levi, he quickly realizes the case might not be as black and white as he thought. Instead of finding a criminal with no conscience, Phoenix discovers a young man battling impossible odds and near crippling guilt.
When his feelings of disgust and anger begin to fade and turn into something else, the would-be hitman is forced to make a terrible decision between the family he needs and the young man more intent on seeking judgement than redemption.
Another Sloane Kennedy book full of angst and feels and Levi just became one of my favourite characters from The Protectors Series.
The catalyst for this story began seven years ago when an already abused and scared Levi was dragged along to a robbery by his brother that would change his life. That night also affected the men we already know and love from this series especially Seth and Roman. Seth knows of Levi’s existence – in fact Seth is the reason Levi is still alive but when Levi is seen loitering outside Seth’s old family home, the place where all this began seven years ago, Ronan isn’t as kind as his lover and looks set to remove Levi’s presence from their lives.
Whilst reading this one I was trying to remember whether Sloane had previously given us anyone who had been through as much as Levi in their relatively short life. Abused by his father and brother, made to participate in crimes that still haunt his dreams, sent to prison for a crime that wasn’t his and once again abused in the worst way and now trying to make ends meet to protect a child which involves stress and blackmail and even more abuse.
Phoenix is ex-army but he walked away from that life when his family was dealt with a tragedy. Just as he was settling into the new path his life had taken him fate once again stepped in and he was left picking up the pieces. The situation was hopeless and left Phoenix feeling helpless and it’s not until he meets Ronan that he finds some sense of his self again and learns he can still have a purpose in life. Ronan and his family also become Phoenix’s family and he cherishes these men above everything else…
Until he doesn’t …
Phoenix’s new job is to watch Levi, assess the threat and take him out if he deems it necessary. This job should be easy as Phoenix knows the background story, knows what Levi and his family have done to Seth and knows he won’t have any problem killing him – until he meets him and Levi proves to be everything that Phoenix didn’t expect and as hard as he tries he just can’t balance this Levi from the one that appears in his file from Ronan.
Phoenix wars with himself and is less than honest with Levi as they start a relationship and for most of the book I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it does its epic and in true Sloane style these guys get their hard earned happy ending. That epilogue…
JEN B.’S REVIEW:
If you’ve kept up with this series, which I highly recommend you do, you know they all have a similar theme. Ronan’s agents are all men who have had their lives upturned when they suffered some type of devastated loss (mostly of loved ones). Phoenix is one of those agents. Further, many story lines are interconnected with previous ones, so it is definitely beneficial to have read the prior books. For instance, here, Phoenix is tasked with monitoring (and potentially eliminating) Levi, a young man who was involved years ago in events that changed lives forever. The surviving victim of that was Ronan’s husband, Seth. When Levi starts showing up on Ronan’s radar, Ronan assigns Phoenix to eliminate any possible threat to Seth.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to see that Levi isn’t what he seems. Phoenix accidentally makes contact with Levi (who should have remained nothing more than a mark), and he quickly gets some uneasy feelings about him. Everything isn’t adding up, but he needs to earn Levi’s trust so he will tell him what really happened that night that changed everything.
I fell in love with Levi almost immediately. He had it rough almost from the get go, with a really crappy family situation. Suffice to say there wasn’t anything redeeming about any of them, and Levi had to deal with them and their abuse on his own. It was his fear of his brother that found him in the middle of something which has plagued him til this day. He is stuck in a bad loop, and while he tries to do good things (and even did so back when it happened), he just can’t seem to get a break.
In the middle of all of this, Levi is tied to a young baby (his nephew) who nobody seems to care about either. He is the product of Levi’s brother and his drug addicted mother, but with his brother dead, and his father and the baby’s mother basically useless, Levi is the only one who really cares. If it weren’t for him, Levi would have had a much easier time getting away.
But, time is running out for Phoenix to get the proof he needs to assure Ronan that Levi isn’t a threat to Seth. They are growing close, but Levi has a lot of distrust and they have quite a few setbacks. Levi suffers from panic attacks and PTSD while he still endures abuse and manipulation. Lines begin to blur for Phoenix as he tries to decide who to stand behind – Levi or his family who gave him another chance at life.
This was another winner from Sloane. It delivers emotions and feels while giving us even more characters to love and yet another couple to root for. It was fast-paced, edge of your seat reading that fed enough tidbits to keep me turning pages quickly. I highly recommend this, as well as her other series – Finding, for stories that consistently deliver every time. The next book looks to combine characters from both series, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next!