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The Jasmine Tree (Siren Publishing Classic) Kindle Edition
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
Michael is undercover inside London's Russian Mafia. He's been there as "Mikel" for two years and a little piece of him dies everyday due to what he's forced to do to maintain his cover. Unfortunately, he's still got two more years to go.
During a night out, he meets Lilly and the two hit it off. Lilly's friend, Annabelle, also hits it off with Dimitri. Dimitri is essentially Mikel's partner in the business. He's also the boss's nephew and happens to be in trouble, a lot. So much so that's he's informed he needs a wife. Hence, Annabelle. The ironic thing is they seem to truly fall in love with each other.
That edict leads to Mikel and Lilly being able to spend time together. They start a relationship, of sorts, and have a great time together. As the relationship progresses, Mikel starts to worry that his current life will negatively impact Lilly. *danger Lilly danger*
But like the classic song says "I can't fight this feeling any longer." (You're welcome for the ear worm. LOL) Even though Mikel abruptly broke all contact with Lilly to keep her safe, they're still drawn to each other as evidenced by their reactions when circumstances bring them together again.
Mikel is trying to balance both sides of his life and is struggling. He's also noticed that he's "feeling" his Mikel role a little too much sometimes. Yes, Lilly can help him at times, but he's still, for the most part, playing a role with her because she doesn't know his real name, etc. So at times he calls in for a "grounding" session with a counselor to give him a few days where he can be his true self and purge his mind of all that's going on.
As in real life, power shifts, heads of businesses step down, and new people are brought in to lead. This happens and the new leader, Saskia, notices Mikel's work ethic and ability to get things done. He's going to go places with her. Eventually, Lilly ends up working for Saskia as well. Psst...while not entirely evil, Saskia does have her moments. Grr.
When Lilly lets her feelings for Mikel slip out during an unguarded moment, Mikel panics *pfft...men* and leaves. Then to ensure Lilly stays away from him, he lies to her, hurting her in the worst possible way. (Yeah, as a woman, I think you know where that would go. Jerk.)
But Lilly isn't all she seems either. She's more than she portrays and her secret is out. At this point, her and Mikel have reunited and said mutual "I love yous." Mikel is warned that his girlfriend has been outed and is in danger.
Will he get to her in time? If so, will they be able to make a relationship work after all their secrets are revealed? If not, will he save her from a woman's worst nightmare? Can she come back after that experience? Will they get their HEA? Read the book and find out.
Now, all that being said, while I think the story and the twists and turns keep you on your toes in some points, there were some things that I didn't care for. Now bear in mind, these are my personal preferences and in no way detract from the story. I'm just very particular about my book heroes and heroines. I'm just listing them in case someone is as picky as I can be. :-)
In no particular order, I didn't like the fact that Mikel's counselor for his grounding session is a chick he used to sleep with years ago. Granted, it was years ago and in real life you're going to run into exes. But, in my opinion, this is a conflict of interest for two reasons. One, you can never be impartial in regards to someone you've been intimate with. Two, this *cough cough, skank* has been told directly by Michael (because at this time he's being himself) that he's seeing someone. She then proceeds after the session to invite him to her room for a "drink." Yeah, that's a euphemism for sex. I thought that was totally uncalled for on her part and completely unprofessional. It bothered me. Thankfully, Mikel declined. My second issue, Michael (because again, this is something that happened to his real self and at this point they're free) suffered a horrible tragedy a decade ago. We learn of this towards the end. He still bears the guilt of not being able to do anything, the grief from the tragedy, and still holds himself apart from Lilly. They're starting a future together, expanding their family, yet he still hasn't fully let her in. Once he is completely honest with her, her response surprises him. She accepts that he had a past, tragedy happened, and he's still dealing with that. (She's witnessed him having nightmares numerous times and he's always brushed off her questions regarding them.) Michael doesn't want Lilly to feel like she has to live with the ghosts of his past, or make her feel like she's competing, but she says they're a part of him and she's okay with that. My issue was that he said that to her, yet he himself is making her live with those ghosts, because he's still denying her a fully committed future with him. It's not until he has another dream, this time a good one, that he flat out admits that he hasn't proposed to Lilly because of his past. He feels guilty about moving on and doesn't want to marry someone else. (Just a tiny hint there.) It upsets me that he's basically forcing her to live with those ghosts and is himself making her feel like she'll never be able to compete with his past, that she'll always be less than in his heart. While I know he deeply loves her and the life, the family, that they're building, his actions regarding this made my heart hurt for her, like she was a consolation prize in his eyes. Yes, he does remedy this, but it's after he's granted "permission" in his dream. (Some may find this touching and I get that. I truly do. Losing someone is a painful experience to move on from. But I also feel he's essentially punishing Lilly and short changing what their future could truly be, because of his thoughts, his feelings, regarding this situation.)
As I said, these are only due to my personal preferences and I admitted I'm picky with my main characters, so they may not bother anyone else at all. But please, don't let my particular observation on these two things stop you from giving the book a try. The story itself is well written and has a serious plot twist that may leave you shocked and it does have a HEA at the end.
**I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.**
This was my first Gayle Cranfield book. And I am not ashamed to say I think I'm in love! Her style of writing is by far different from the books I've been reading. I went into this book blind. I didn't read any reviews or listen to any others opinions about Ms. Cranfield's work. I wanted to form my own opinion...The sit on the edge of my seat, gripping adventure wasn't what I was expecting!
I was right there as Michael fought his own emotions as he struggled with juggling his private life with the undercover work he was doing in the Russian Mafia. When the two worlds collide his decisions are even harder. His growing love for Lilly or the job he is being paid to do. My heart was bleeding for him and rooting all the way for the happily ever after he deserved. A must read for anyone who loves the gritty drama of the Mafia but still likes to see a HEA ending.