Kill Without Shame
Kill Without Shame is the second book in Alexandra Ivy’s ARES Security series, and while mention is made of a plot thread concerning one of the team who has been receiving threats which I assume was begun in the previous book, that plotline is not really advanced here so this one can be read as a standalone. That said, I can’t really recommend it, as the whole thing is incredibly unexciting; the romance is seriously underdeveloped and not at all believable given the context, and the suspense is pretty much non-existent – the fact that it took me over four days to read shows how easy it was to put the book aside.
ARES Security is a high-tech, high-end firm set up by five men, brothers-in-arms, who bonded when they were held prisoner by the Taliban during a tour in Afghanistan. The hero of Kill Without Shame is Lucas St. Clair – the son of a senator – who is estranged from his wealthy, but coldly aloof parents, but whose name still opens doors. He is not above using that name and family connections when needed, but mostly, he wants to leave his old life behind him and concentrate on the new one he is building. That becomes difficult, however, when he is informed that an old acquaintance from his school and college days, Tony Hughes, has been shot and killed in the street, and that he was clutching a picture of Mia Ramon – an old flame of Lucas’ – when he died. Worse, the picture had the words “Kill her, or else” scrawled across it. Lucas didn’t know Tony well – they were from completely opposite backgrounds – but Mia is important to him; even though they haven’t seen each other for fifteen years, he still carries a torch for her and can’t bear the thought of her being in danger.
Mia is a successful businesswoman in her hometown of Shreveport, running a landscaping and garden design business that she has built up from her father’s much smaller operation. The last person she wants – or expects – to see in her office is Lucas St. Clair, and their reunion is frosty. Lucas walked out on her with no explanation fifteen years earlier, and she hasn’t seen him since; he broke her heart and she is not about to put herself through it again. She can’t deny that he’s become a devastatingly attractive man, or that she still feels the same pull towards him as before, but she is determined to keep him at arm’s length, no matter what. Mia looked on Tony as a friend and used to employ him from time to time, so she’s naturally upset to hear of his death – but she has no idea of why anyone would want him dead, and even less as to why she would be a target herself.
Lucas naturally wants to investigate Tony’s murder and the threat against Mia – and keep her safe. It’s not long before their enforced proximity is rekindling the old feelings between them, or long before they’re giving in to them, but even then, Mia is determined to keep things on a casual footing as a means of self-protection.
The stakes are raised, however, when an attempt is made on Mia’s life. With help from his team, Lucas gradually uncovers a series of misdeeds that dates back decades, implicating people Mia cares about in a morass of embezzlement, blackmail and murder. Lucas and Mia have to work together to uncover the truth, even as the killer is closing in on them.
From that description, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a fast-moving thriller with a sexy romance on the side, but it’s nothing of the sort. The pacing is pedestrian and the romance is perfunctory and, frankly, unbelievable; Lucas and Mia haven’t seen each other in FIFTEEN YEARS – and they’re hopping into bed together the day after their reunion. They split up when Lucas was eighteen – I’m assuming Mia was around the same age – and there is a massive difference between what someone is like at eighteen and what they’re like in their early thirties. They are – or should be – very different people now, yet there’s no sense of them getting to know each other again. In fact, there’s no romantic development at all – although I do give the author credit for having Lucas be open about his feelings for Mia and prepared to put himself out there, even when it’s clear to him that she is still not sure about him. There is a cute secondary romance in the story – between Mia’s assistant, Taylor, and the local detective assigned to the case – which is actually more interesting than the non-romance between Lucas and Mia.
The mystery plot is reasonably well put-together, but there’s only one possible villain, which takes away any element of suspense pretty early on, and the storyline is fairly predictable. The characterisation overall is paper thin and I never connected with either of the principals; and not only is the main romantic relationship a disappointment, there is no real sense of the emotional bond we’re told exists between Lucas and the other ARES team members.
All in all, Kill Without Shame – which makes absolutely no sense as a title! – is a lacklustre book that proved a big disappointment. I’m not invested enough in any of the characters to want to pick up another book in the series, and quite honestly, not suitably impressed with any facet of this one – writing, plotting or characterisation – to be inclined to read this author again.