Book Review: Last Hope by Jessica Clare and Jen Frederick

I didn’t review the middle two books in the Hitman series, partially because I wanted to take a little break and partially because I couldn’t find words that didn’t sound much like the first one. Also, I’d reviewed the 3rd one before on Goodreads. I will say that I absolutely loved these books, and this one was just as amazing, even though it pulls us out of the Russian mafia world and into a mission of Rafael Mendoza, a minor character from Last Breath. Considering the, uh, large and unique problem Rafael has, I didn’t feel I could let this one go without a write-up.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A woman blackmailed into being a mule to save her best friend finds herself at the hands and protection of a mercenary who needs the documents she’s been delivering. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Damsel in Distress
Ava is trying to save her best friend who is being held hostage by the guy she’s dating by delivering documents to various sources for reasons unknown to her. All she knows is that she doesn’t want to see her friend dead and will do anything to keep her safe. Rafael needs those documents to save his own friend, and so he and some fellow mercenaries are carefully watching Ava, trying to get at what she’s carrying. This spying leads to Rafael developing an attraction to Ava, one he knows will not be returned (because they always know, right?)

Jungle Fever
When things go haywire while Ava is being transferred and the plane goes down in the jungle, Ava and Rafe find themselves alone in the wild. You’d think that being unshowered and gross in the middle of nowhere would be a good lust deterrent, but it has the opposite effect. And while the beginning of the story was slow for me, this is where it picked up steam.


His Other Weapon
I feel like I shouldn’t laugh at Rafael’s conflict, because in the context of the story, it seems serious. His mother was insane and brainwashed him into some neuroses, and a freak incident with a girl in high school scared him into never having sex. Yes, Rafael is a virgin hero, having abstained from sexy times because of the massive size of his package. He’s afraid he’ll hurt or kill anyone he tries to have sex with, so it’s just easier to not even go there.

The Monster is Attacking Her City
Even with the serious themes of the book, it was hilarious. First of all, Rafe’s penis is pretty much a side character and is referred to as Godzilla through the whole book.


There’s some conflict between Rafe and Ava, but there’s more between Ava and Godzilla, considering she’s determined to….tame that beast? I don’t even know what a good metaphor for this would be. Basically, she’s determined to take his V card despite that the fact that he’s scared he’s going to hurt her. I mean, to be fair, once they actually described the thing, it wasn’t so surprising that one might be intimidated. But Ava is nothing if not determined.

Later things get really absurd when Ava has symbolic dreams about Godzilla…the actual monster, though representative of Rafe for sure.

Sexy, Scary, Silly
I thought this was such a fun and hilarious read. Sure, there was some danger and violence and sad times. There was also a lot of the lovey emotions I live for when I read a romance novel. But I totally dug that this book didn’t take itself too seriously. The characters were fun and snarky, and yet for as ridiculous as some of the plot was, it’s romance game was on point.

The Romance Factor
I don’t care if it’s repetitive and silly…I love a situation where the hero and heroine, despite the fact that everything they do with each other says differently, believe that the other doesn’t want to be with them or could ever love them. Rafe plays the “I’m not good enough for her” card, and Ava just thinks she could never be what Rafe would want in a woman. The way the novel is crafted makes this whole exchange swoony rather than annoying. 5/5

The Steam Factor
The frequency of sex in this book seemed to be slightly less than the others in the series, but come on. You can’t have a virgin hero with a small torpedo in his pants and not have some serious explosions. 6/5

Final Thoughts
Though I would have loved this book even if I’d read it, the audiobook experience for this whole series was amazing. Kasha Kensington and Iggy Toma narrate and holy cow…it was like butter on my ears. To be honest, I’m sad that I’m done with the series, because I love this world, these characters, those narrators…pretty much everything. I’ll have to check them out again because these are definitely high up on my favorite list.

Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt

I’m drawn by spoilers. Having read the synopses for all the Maiden Lane books, I knew that the Ghost of St. Giles plots were coming up, and I was stoked. I loved his quick appearances in the early books, especially when I found out who the Ghost was. So if you haven’t spoiled yourself already and don’t want to know, then you may want to step way from this review now.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A man who maintains the utmost propriety during the day becomes a defender of the innocent at night, but when he falls for a beautiful lady above his station, he finds himself struggling with the rigid lifestyle he’s promised himself to maintain. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Can we talk about how much I adore the Ghost of St. Giles? First of all, I love the whole “secret life” thing, where the hero has to keep a secret but you know the heroine is going to find out. And it’s so fun when she does, because then she plays coy, and in this case, she kind of messes with his head in a very steamy moment (which I’ll bring up later).

In this case, the double life is highly pronounced. By day, Winter is a good man, running an orphanage and trying to do right by those on the dangerous streets of St. Giles. He’s also very somber. But when he’s the Ghost, he’s flirty and brave and delightful. When Isabel figures it out, it’s a seriously fun ride of ” Does she know?” and “Does he know that I know?” And somehow, that dynamic brings about those feels that I love.


There is also a character swap in the traditional roles that heroes and heroines usually take in historical romance. Many of the traits prominent in heroines make up Winter’s character, while Isabel definitely has more of a male view on sex and romance.

This book also introduces us to some upcoming characters, like Artemis Greaves, her cousin Penelope (blech), and…let me give a girly sigh here…Captain James Trevillion…who’s actually kind of a pain in the ass when it comes to the Ghost, as he decides to try to hunt him down with his dragoons. Still love him.

The Romance Factor
Two words that work for both the romance and steam levels in this book: virgin hero. The fact that Winter is a man of morals and won’t sleep with a woman he doesn’t care for just makes it that more awesome when starts his relationship with Isabel. There’s also the moment when he kisses her as the Ghost and the fear she feels for him when he’s injured. And that moment when he realizes he can’t go back to his celibate lifestyle because love. Seriously, just mop me up off the floor already. 5/5


The Steam Factor
You know those scenes that are a perfect blend of romance and eroticism? They don’t come along often, but when they do, they’re worth nothing. Isabel and Winter’s first sexual encounter is one for the books in my opinion. She knows he’s the Ghost, he doesn’t know she knows, and they’re stuck in a hiding space together. Close proximity sexy things happen, but beyond that, both characters have this huge show of emotion, and the whole thing is just awesome. 6/5

Final Thoughts
This book sets things up for the rest of the Ghost story arc. I’m so glad there are more Ghost books because the character is a blast, but this one set the bar high.

Beauty and the Billionaire by Jessica Clare

If you want to get my attention, tell me about a book with the Beauty and the Beast trope. It is my absolute favorite, and I’ll read pretty much anything based on it. When I heard about this one, I was all over it. It originally went on my Book Rewards list, but I got lucky and found a paperback copy of the first two books in the series at a bookstore in Tulsa while visiting a friend. I couldn’t resist picking them up, and I’m so glad I did.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A lonely, scarred recluse sets up an elaborate scheme to get the ghost writer he’s attracted to into his home, not expecting to have anything more than friendship with her…if that. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
This book was everything I wanted and more. Hunter is such a good “beast.” He’s nervous and angry and lonely and even when he’s yelling, you can’t help but love him. And…wait for it…he’s a virgin! I love a virgin hero! Gretchen is adorable. She’s quirky but not annoyingly so, and she’s perfect for bringing him out of his shell.

There are some funny moments between the two of them. The first time she sees him, he’s completely naked and he’s mortified because he had this idea he’d give it time before he showed her his face (that plan went down the tubes pretty fast). But she feels bad about embarrassing him, goes to apologize when she sees him outside, and somehow thinks that saying “I saw your penis!” will help break the ice. I don’t think that ploy ever works.

Good Talk

The Romance Factor
No question, this is a 5/5 on the romance scale. Hunter’s shyness melted me. Even when he was being slightly underhanded in finding ways to keep Gretchen at his mansion, I adored him. When they had their standard romance novel falling out, it actually broke my heart. Even knowing they’d get their HEA, I was still so sad for them. Also, bonus love to the Phantom of the Opera reference in the story.


The Steam Factor
Like the first book in the series, this one has so many sexy times. Once again, though, they fit well with the story. I loved that Gretchen’s “job” involved a trunk full of erotic letters that she used in her seduction attempt. And did I mention the virgin hero? So hot! 5/5.

Final Thoughts
The minute I finished this book, I wanted to start over and read it again, and I almost did. I didn’t want this story to end. Like the first one, this one brings in characters and alludes to pairings in the rest of the books in the series. Instead of reading it again, I shelved it with the plan of picking it up at the beginning of next year for a re-read. Now I just have to get the third in the series to continue my journey through all the billionaire feels.