I have read the entire Tag Raiders series by Juanita Kees. It begins with Fly Away Peta, continues in Under The Hood, and this is the new book in the series, Under Cover of Dark. This book has handsome detective Mark Johnson (from each of the earlier books) centre stage as he tries to save the beautiful but haunted widow, Lily Bennetti and her son, from the drug/gang culture of an (at times) quite sinister capital of Western Australia - Perth. The characters from Under The Hood - TJ and Scott - have a part to play in this book too, and it's nice to see them a little more advanced in their own lives, in Book 3. Ms Kees does romantic suspense beautifully, and her knowledge of teenage issues, particularly drug and gang culture, comes to the fore in this novel. It's not a pretty picture, and the author certainly doesn't try to glorify or gloss over the threat these issues pose to teenagers today. There are some lovely scenes set in the Roleystone area of Perth, where TJ and Scott have their teenage refuge, and where Detective Mark takes Lily to remove her from the threat posed by the drug barons chasing her. It's here where much of the chemistry between the two lead characters begins, and this is sustained throughout the novel, as Lily faces a showdown with the woman who has been a mafia king-pin in the Tag Raiders since day 1. I think readers who enjoy romance with warm, caring characters, real-life issues, and the chills that come with well-written suspense will definitely enjoy Under Cover Of Dark.
A violent husband, a dirty lawyer and a woman who’s as cold as snow! These three people have the power to make Lily Benetti’s life absolute hell and hell hath no fury like a mother whose child is in danger!
When Liliana (Lily) Bennetti once again finds herself and her son Luke at the receiving end of domestic violence perpetrated by her husband, Gino, things quickly spiral out of control and it’s not long after that he finds himself on the receiving end of a fatal bullet.
Still going through various notes concerning the investigation of Tiny Watts’ murder, Detective Mark Johnson is called to interview Luke Bennetti who has been brought in for questioning. After a short court appearance pending his trial and sentencing, Luke is released on bail but signed up for an apprenticeship program at the Tiny Watts Teenage Rehabilitation Centre run by Scott and TJ Devin, but things are far from over with Nic Albero, Gino’s business partner, on the prowl and Lily doesn’t know if she can trust Mark enough with the truth that she hides.
Seeking solace at the rehab centre after her home is destroyed by a gas explosion (in which she narrowly escapes becoming another statistic thanks to Mark), Lily becomes fast friends with TJ and soon begins to help out around the centre in an effort to keep busy. When she begins a project clearing one of the gardens, however, she unearths a tin of documentation regarding Tiny and his heritage possibly placing her in even more danger. With the documentation safely in custody, Mark tries to find the missing pieces of the puzzle which have begun to point to a common denominator, but the threats, harassment and imminent danger from Nic eventually force Lily and Luke to flee from their safe haven.
I’m a die-hard lover of Romantic Suspense but it’s been some time since I read one. So, when I saw Juanita Kees’ latest on NetGalley, I didn’t hesitate to request it even though she is an author I haven’t read before. Needless to say, it won’t be my last by this Ruby Award winner and fellow ex-South African.
Juanita sets the stage well for what’s to come in Lily and Luke’s life. Giving us image-provoking scenes right from the first page, the drama and suspense is well done with the romance aspect built in at a leisurely pace as she fleshes out her characters by giving us glimpses into their pasts - from the fragile, fearful character of Lily who has endured years of physical and emotional abuse and is now trying to hide a secret for fear that Luke will be implicated; to Luke who has been damaged by bearing witness to crimes committed by his father; and Mark, burnt-out from his job as a detective but who still maintains his loving and caring nature as he slowly falls in love. Then of course there’s the flippant Harold, Mark’s partner, who brings a dose of humour with him. And, for those of you already familiar with her previous work, her returning characters can surely only enhance the connections that develop between them and the reader.
The romance is sexy and mildly sensuous with the desire between Lily and Mark fairly dripping off the pages as their frustrations at having to keep their distance from one another comes to the fore.
With a well-crafted plot, believable characters and her relaxed way of writing, I think Juanita is well on her way to proving she has a gift for romantic suspense as she manages to capture her audience by keeping us in suspense while Mark ferrets out the truth.