Last Breath: A Hitman Novel
I loved the first book in the Hitman Novel series so much, I happily jumped into the second, Last Breath, expecting great things. Unfortunately an issue I had with the first book but was able to ignore became so extreme in the second, it pretty much took over and my enjoyment decreased exponentially.
College student Regan is living a nightmare that few women could even imagine. After being kidnapped by the Russian mafia, she was sold into sexual slavery and eventually purchased by a twisted man she calls Mr. Freeze who likes blondes and is obsessive about dental hygiene. Due to Mr. Freeze’s specific fetishes, he demands that Regan be “broken” before he takes possession of her, and thus begins weeks of pure hell in a Rio brothel, where Regan is routinely raped and humiliated. She’s barely managed to hold on to her sanity by mentally detaching and fighting back as much as possible, but she’s beginning to lose hope that she’ll ever be free again.
Daniel Hays has seen the lowest reaches of humanity while searching for his sister, Naomi, who was kidnapped while on spring break and thought to be in one of the brothels of Rio. Therefore, when called upon by his friend Nikolai to rescue Regan – who is his girlfriend Daisy’s roommate – Daniel reluctantly agrees since he’s the perfect man for the job. He finds Regan easily enough and buys her from the owner of the brothel with plans to dump her at the U.S. embassy and continue his search for his sister. What he doesn’t expect is for Regan to resist his plans to get her back home.
At first, Regan doesn’t trust Daniel. But when it becomes clear that he has no other plans than to deliver her to U.S. officials who can help her get home, she lets herself feel a spark of hope. However, when Regan spots some of Mr. Freeze’s bodyguards outside of the U.S. embassy, she realizes that her only chance of staying safe is to stick with Daniel like glue. It takes her a while to open up about her situation to Daniel, but once she does, the two begin a crazy journey through the slums of Rio, searching for Naomi while trying to outrun the men who want to get Regan back for Mr. Freeze, all while trying to obtain the necessary documentation to get Regan back home and fighting the growing attraction between them.
While Last Breath works perfectly well as a stand alone, events and characters from the first book in the series, Last Hit, do set up the story, so you may want to read it first.
First, I will say a few things about what I liked about this book. The depiction of sexual slavery is brutal and unflinching. Not that I liked reading about such a horror, just that I appreciated that authors Frederick and Clare didn’t shy away from tackling such a distasteful but unfortunately all-too-real situation for far too many women. While I did wonder at Regan’s ability to engage in sexual activity with Daniel so soon after her experience – we’re talking hours and days here – she didn’t escape unscathed.
As characters, Daniel and Regan were okay. Daniel’s your typical smart-mouthed ex-military dude who has a major hero complex and feels tremendous amounts of guilt about what happened to his sister. Regan is a fighter who is willing to sacrifice herself for the man she loves, but she’s also determined that she’d rather die than ever be taken back to a brothel. Several times Regan had some TSTL moments when she’d refuse to stay behind in a very dangerous situation, but I gave her some leeway given the trauma she’d suffered. I also liked that although Daniel lusted after Regan pretty much from the first minute he saw her, he freely admitted the inappropriateness of his feelings and was determined never to act upon them. He stuck to this fiercely, and it wasn’t until Regan made the first moves that he allowed himself to become physical with her.
The action was pretty fast paced although I thought that things tended to drag a little. Regan and Daniel do a lot of moving around but when I look back over it all, the time span covered was actually pretty short and really, not a lot happened. Maybe it seemed like more because in between getting shot at, killing bad guys and avoiding capture, Daniel engages in a lot of mental lusting, and when the two finally get physical, there are many pages devoted to their escapades.
And thus is my problem with this book. I’ve stated before in reviews that I’m not a fan of dirty talk. I can handle some or even skim over more, but the level of explicit chatter between Daniel and Regan took things to a whole new level. Every single sex scene, and there are many, is littered with words that I can’t type here much less bring myself to say out loud. Bodily fluids are lapped and licked and shared in abundance. I kept thinking that there comes a point when normal arousal morphs into something extreme and that perhaps a medical professional should be consulted. I appreciate the authors’ refusal to engage in the embarrassing purple prose euphemisms of the past, but for me, slang for female genitalia is something that is best employed in very small amounts. I confess openly that by the end of the book, the second that I realized that we were beginning a sex scene, I skimmed quickly until I was sure it was all over before I’d begin reading again. I hated it. For me, it wasn’t sexy or romantic at all. Remember that old saw about porn, “you know it when you see it…”? Let’s just say I think it applies here.
I’m on deck to read the next book in the series and report back, and to be honest, I’m not exactly looking forward to it. When the sex scenes in a book are so hyperbolic and ridiculous that all other aspects such as character and plot become secondary, it’s not a book I tend to enjoy. After the first two titles in this series, I’m afraid I’m in for more of the same.
But I fully acknowledge that when it comes to sex scenes, taste can vary widely. If heavy-duty sex with lots (and lots and lots and lots…) of dirty talk are up your alley, then you may enjoy Last Breath. For me, I may be nearing the end of the line with this particular series.