Final Hour Series, Prequel
Heat Factor: Shower sex after a very dangerous river dunking
Character Chemistry: I was slightly distracted by constant emotional turmoil
Plot: CIA agent doesn’t follow orders, everything that can possibly go sideways does
Overall: It’s the prequel to set up the series, and it does that very well
This book is a novella included in Turn the Tide, and is not for sale separately as of right now. Rushdan very kindly sent me a specially bound copy to read, so I will only be discussing the one novella out of the larger book.
Having read No Way Out, I am having so many feelings that I don’t really know where to put them. Ashley and Logan are the romantic interest protagonists, and there’s one whole thing going on with them, but there is a lot of other stuff happening, and it tied me in knots. Which, you know, is really how a suspense book is supposed to work. I’m excited to read the other books in the series, because Rushdan does an excellent job of walking the line that straddles suspenseful and believable. It’s dramatic enough to be mentally and emotionally engaging but still feels like maybe it’s not completely bananapants out there.
Let’s talk about the romance (this is, after all, a romance blog). Ashley and Logan have known each other for a long time, and they’ve had feelings for each other for a long time. Logan was in the field until he was fired by the Agency after being disabled by a bomb blast in the line of duty. He’s very grumpy because his life is really not what he wants it to be when the book starts. Ashley was an analyst and kept Logan alive in the field until he peaced out emotionally. Then she became a field operative, and we meet her on her first mission when the book begins. She makes a series of good or bad decisions–depending on how you look at it–that results in a complete fustercluck.
Logan is sent to find Ashley when she goes missing after failing to complete her mission because the CIA bosses know all about their relationship, and they know Logan will know exactly how to find her. Since he’s madly in love with her, Logan DGAF about the Agency, but he really wants to keep Ashley alive, so he agrees to go.
The whole book occurs over the course of a few days, and it’s a novella, and there’s a lot going on. So Logan and Ashley really don’t spend all that much time together. They do finally have that conversation that they probably should have had years ago but maybe weren’t mature enough to have had back then. You know, the one where they get on the same page and declare their love for each other. The rest of the time they’re either trying to sacrifice themselves for each other (occurs less often) or rescue each other (occurs very often). My concluding thought about their relationship is that if they thought for a hot second about the series of events that would result from certain bad decisions, they might have been able to avoid a good bit of the “I’d sacrifice everything to keep you alive” situations.
Now let’s talk (briefly!) about everything else. This novella also is meant to provide some backstory for characters who will (presumably) recur throughout the series and to lay the foundation for the super secret Gray Box agency at work in the rest of the series. There are machinations. There are manipulations. Crossings and double-crossings. Some of it is sad and rage-inducing. I really hope the potential angst energy seed planted here has room to grow in the later books.
At the end of the day, Ashley makes a decision–not to complete her mission as instructed–that has far-reaching consequences. When he first finds her, Logan hears her story and tells her straight up that she’s not field material (invoking Ronin, which I need to rewatch now). But also, without knowing exactly why she’s doing what she’s doing, only that she believes she’s got a moral imperative to do it, he later tells her that he respects her for doing what she believes to be right even after ab-so-lute-ly everything hits the fan. So there’s that. On the other hand, there’s this knowledge I have of the consequences of Ashley’s decision (believe me, they’re pretty bad, and some of them are only known to the senior Agency staff), and there’s also this niggling feeling I have that if Ashley didn’t believe in the mission of the Agency, didn’t trust her team, she shouldn’t have fought so hard for her position there. On the other other hand, accountability is important. Bad is bad. The Agency should be held accountable. But Ashley wasn’t playing a long game to be a whistleblower, she just acted on a gut feeling. So I was a little annoyed that she made this decision on her own, against orders, out of a lack of trust, when trust was probably the most essential thing about the work she was supposed to be doing. My brain is pretzel-fied with all my conflicting emotions about what Ashley chose to do.
A situation likely would have presented itself for Gray Box to be created, but by her one bad/good choice, Ashley made it happen. Of course, that decision also brought Logan, and love back into her life. So many things to think about!
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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Bond. James Bond. (But not a dick to his romantic partners.)
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