Review: Hard Night by Jackie Ashenden

hard nightTitle: Hard Night

Author: Jackie Ashenden

Year of publication: Out today! The author very kindly sent me a copy to read and review

The heroine: 11th Hour executive Faith Beasley

The hero: 11th Hour owner Jacob Night

The blurb: Made up of former soldiers, the men of the 11th Hour play by their own rules to protect the innocent, capture the guilty, and stay in fighting shape for whatever–and whoever–comes their way . . .

Jacob Night, ex-Black Ops, owner of a billion-dollar security company, and leader of the 11th Hour, spends his life completing dangerous missions for others. But there’s one personal mission he has yet to complete: Finding his missing brother, who was betrayed by the woman he should have been able to trust. But when he finally tracks down his brother’s ex, there’s one surprise: she can’t remember a thing.

Faith has no memory of who she is. She can’t remember life before she came to work for Jacob Night, and she’s not sure she wants to. But when she and Jacob are ambushed by men who have come to kill her for sins she can’t recall committing, she has no choice but to face the past. Yet once she does, and Jacob’s identity–and her own–come to light, they may not survive with their lives intact, let alone their hearts.

Standalone or series: This is the third book in the 11th Hour series, but can be read as a standalone

The review: This is the third and final book in the 11th Hour series, which I’m sad about because I have enjoyed this series very much. For me, this one was the best of them all. We’ve met Jacob Night before; he’s the elusive owner of the 11th Hour. The only people who have seen him in the flesh up to now is Kellan Blake, very briefly, and Faith Beasley. Faith is Jacob’s right hand, running the business on his command.

Faith is a mystery herself; six months previously, she ended up in hospital with no memory of who she was or what had happened. Jacob turned up to claim her as his cousin and whisked her to his house, where she has lived and worked with him ever since. What she doesn’t know is why – Jacob is looking for his missing brother, and intel has it that Faith was his lover. Believing her to be his best lead, Jacob has her under his protection because someone is out to kill her and he’s waiting for her memory to return so she can lead him to his brother.

He eventually finds out who she is and what she’s done, and when Faith learns the truth she is torn. Torn between knowing the truth about who she really is and fighting the feelings she’s had for Jacob since she met him, together they embark on a journey to find his missing brother and learn whether the attraction they feel for each other is real or just another illusion.

With two leads who are both hiding their true selves underneath the personas presented to the world, undeniable sparks that fly whenever they’re together, and hot, passionate sex they can’t stop having, this book will tick every single one of your romance loving heart’s boxes. Don’t miss this book, or this series.

Review: Raw Power by Jackie Ashenden

raw powerTitle: Raw Power

Author: Jackie Ashenden

Year of publication: 2018

The heroine: Socialite/musician Callie Hawthorne

The hero: Ex-marine Jack King

The blurb: They fought for their country. Now they fight for you.

To find the people lost in the shadows, you need the men who live in them. The former soldiers of 11th Hour are unaffiliated, unacknowledged, and definitely illegal. They protect the innocent, destroy the guilty–and capture hearts along the way . . .

Rugged, skilled, and hard-bodied, Jack King’s whole life was the Marines until an injury left him discharged from active duty. But he finds a new purpose when he’s recruited by a special unit that employs ex-military to do very special jobs. Yet he’s not impressed when his first assignment is babysitting the pretty, perfect daughter of a politician–especially when she’s far from the angel she appears to be . . .

Callie Hawthorne hates politics, and she hates playing the part of a senator’s goody two shoes daughter even more. It only gets worse when her father decides she needs a security detail 24/7–and the bodyguard happens to be the most insanely hot guy Callie’s ever seen. Still, she’s not going to be ordered around just because of some half-assed threat to her father. . . . But when it turns out her dad’s no angel either, Jack has to kidnap Callie in order to protect her. And as danger closes in, he’ll need all his considerable talents to keep them both alive. The greater challenge will be to keep his hands off her . . .

Standalone or series: Book one in the 11th Hour trilogy, but can be read as a standalone

The review: When I was talking with the author about this book, she amusingly – and accurately – referred to Jack King as a grumpy dude. But our hero has a lot to be grumpy about; scarred from a traumatic childhood and witness to a horrific incident he couldn’t have stopped, he found his path with the Marines. Leading a team into a hostage situation, he’s advised it may be a trap. But Jack in unable to be patient when he hears the cries of innocent children, so he gives the order to go in… and ends up being the only one left alive after the intel about the trap unfortunately proves to be correct.

Horribly scarred down the entire left side of his body, he is deemed medically unfit and discharged. Lost without the only thing in his life that made sense and gave him purpose, Jack drinks his sorrows away before he’s approached by a woman named Faith Beasley, offering him a job with a private military unit called The 11th Hour. Owned and run by the elusive and mysterious Jacob Night, Jack’s curiosity gets the better of him and he goes to the HQ in San Diego to learn more.

When he learns his first assignment, an interview of sorts, is to be bodyguard to the daughter of a Boston senator whose family is getting death threats, he baulks. But when he’s told he either takes the assignment or leaves, he flies to Boston. Callie Hawthorne is, at twenty-two, almost a decade younger than Jack, and the last thing he wants is to be babysitting a spoilt princess. But when he finally tracks Callie down, he finds her at a nightclub, dancing. Music is the only freedom Callie has in her life, and more time Jack spends around Callie, the more he realises she’s terribly afraid of something. After an amateur assassination attempt on Callie’s life, the discovery of hidden cameras in Callie’s apartment that her father secretly wants put back in, and Jack witnessing a confrontation between Callie and her father, he realises what it is that Callie is so afraid of: Senator Hawthorne.

So he spirits Callie away from Boston without warning back to San Diego, against the orders of his new employer, and her father is furious. But Jack is adamant he is not allowing Callie to go back to the senator, and Callie fears this is her one chance to finally get out from under her father’s thumb. Callie has never known kindness or affection in her life; her father wanted an heir and, after Callie’s complicated birth, her mother couldn’t have any more children. Her parents blame Callie for that, and she is nothing more than a trophy to be paraded in public.

Callie is intrigued by Jack. She knows he has secrets. She’s attracted to the darkness inside him, because she understands what it’s like to have nobody on your side. For his part, Jack finds Callie brings out his protective instinct, and wakes up a side of him that’s been dormant for a very long time.

The senator raises hell, determined to get back the daughter he believes is his property. It isn’t long before Night digs up the dirt on Callie’s father, and the team is called into action to protect her. When he tracks her down anyway, Callie musters up her courage and defies his order to come home, having made the decision that her place is by Jack’s side.

This was a raw, gritty, sometimes dark romance, and it worked well for a character like Jack. Callie balanced out the darkness with some light, and her courage and determination not to let her father dominate her life forever made her an interesting, well-written heroine. I adore this series.

Review: Total Control by Jackie Ashenden

total controlTitle: Total Control

Author: Jackie Ashenden

Year of publication: 2018

The heroine: Computer genius/coder Sabrina Leighton

The hero: Helicopter pilot Kellan Blake

The blurb: Helicopter pilot Kellan Blake has always hated being told what to do, so being discharged from the army for insubordination doesn’t come as much of a surprise. What does surprise him is that when he joins up with the elite, underground 11th Hour squad instead, they send him straight home. The nest of vipers that calls itself his family is the next target for the team’s tech unit, so he’ll either have to brave their traps and deceptions himself—or watch his sweet, shy friend Sabrina walk into them alone . . .

Sabrina’s no femme fatale, but since there’s no one else with the tech skills to get the info they need, she’ll put on a party dress and take one for the team. But whoever decided she should pretend to be Kellan’s new fiancée hit a little too close to home. How can she concentrate on a dangerous mission when she’s worried about giving away what she really feels for her loyal, passionate, smoking hot partner? At least she isn’t likely to blow their cover. Until she’s in the line of fire, and neither Kellan’s demons nor his heart are hers to tame . . .

Standalone or series: Book two in the 11th Hour series, but can be read as a standalone

The review: I have book one in this series and was going to read them in order, but the lure of a best friends to lovers book by Jackie was too much to resist… and I’m glad I caved.

Kellan Blake and Sabrina Leighton work for 11th Hour, a privately run underground organisation that does missions just this side of legal for its elusive owner, Jacob Night. When Kellan is instructed to investigate reports that his ex-General father, Philip, is selling guns to cartels, Kellan baulks. The information must be false because there’s no way his father – a war hero – could be doing something that’s getting innocent people. But Kellan is given an ultimatum by Jacob Night – either prove his father innocent or someone else in the team will do it.

Not only is having to investigate his father bad enough, but Kellan is also told to take Sabrina with him. As a coding expert, she’s the best person to find incriminating evidence on Philip’s personal computer because it will no doubt be encrypted. Kellan and Sabrina, whom he calls Bree, have been best friends since they were ten. Sabrina’s father was the gardener at the Blake residence, a job he got after Sabrina’s mother and two brothers died in a car accident, but her father couldn’t cope and took off, leaving Sabrina in the care of the Blakes. They took her in and gave her shelter, but Charlotte Blake always did a good job of reminding Sabrina quietly that she wasn’t really part of the family.

Having lost everyone she ever loved, Sabrina will never take the risk of telling Kellan the truth of how she feels about him – she’s been in love with him for years. So when it’s suggested they use a cover story of being engaged to explain the sudden visit to Kellan’s parents, Sabrina is uneasy at the notion. But since they have to move quickly and nothing better is suggested, that’s what they go with.

What follows is the revelation of secrets. Everyone has them – Kellan, Sabrina, Charlotte and Philip. Kellan won’t stop until he finds out the truth about whether his father is gun running or not; Sabrina is determined Kellan will never discover the secret she knows about his father, and the elder Blakes have been hiding secrets of their own. Kellan and Sabrina follow the clues and when Sabrina’s feelings finally come out, Kellan is forced to examine his own and see the truth that’s been buried for a long time.

I found both protagonists a little frustrating at times and wanted to shake them both – Kellan more so than Sabrina. He’s has this beautiful, loyal woman who’s stuck with him through everything and he doesn’t really see her as a woman, see how amazing she is. I wanted to smack him upside the head!

The sex scenes. Oh, boy. They were so hot I’m surprised my book didn’t turn into ash in my hands! Definitely some of the best I’ve ever read. If you love best friends to lovers books, you’ve got to read this one.