Speak No Evil
I don’t know why, but this is the first novel by J.R. Gray I have read. I know Gray has quite a backlist, so I was ready to discover a new-to-me author.
The premise sounded good. Speak No Evil is set in New Orleans where Weston is a hitman, for the ‘family business’, and has a handler called Smith. The opening lines inform us he kills people and is not fond of the torture killings, but has obviously been a part of them before. He is divorced from a woman called Ava, who turned from a nerdy, sexy girl into a kind of voodoo priestess of the dark variety. This is not a paranormal read though.
I’m unsure if Weston’s Father is Mayor or Governor of New Orleans (I had an unproofed ARC which referred to him as both), but he’s obviously a corrupt and powerful man who’s also into voodoo. (It is to be remembered that voodoo is a religion to many people and not the ‘bad magic’ so often portrayed in books and horror movies.) It does, however, via Weston’s wife Ava – and his contacts – provide an ever-present backdrop to the narrative. When Weston announced his intention to divorce Ava, he believes she used voodoo so he can’t lie. Obviously, this would be a serious drawback for a hitman.
Eli is a member of the Coastguard, and when Weston is instructed by Smith to follow and observe him 24/7, Weston finds himself immediately attracted. He doesn’t know yet if this is a kill assignment but he decides very quickly – for a supposedly experienced hitman – that he can’t kill Eli.
This is when the novel should have really taken off with an exciting romantic hitman/good man dynamic. Can someone be reformed through love? Can Weston lie long enough to hide who he is from Eli? Will a lie put them in danger? Can Weston protect Eli? How will Eli react to Weston’s job and what he was meant to do? But it just didn’t happen.
There is a lot of running about and avoiding red sniper dots, good sexy scenes, and the occasional suggestion that Voodoo might indeed be ‘magic’ or the manifestation of evil, rather than strong suggestion. I was still so disappointed though. I was so disappointed though. Also, the book is set in New Orleans, but the city, its culture and surroundings are hardly touched upon and are not used to enhance the narrative. The fact Weston can’t lie isn’t used to good effect either, it just means Eli always believes him, so there no misunderstandings. Although that’s not necessarily a bad thing in romance these days.
Lack of backstory is another negative. All we really know is that for some reason, Weston’s family all took Ava’s side during and after the divorce. Eli, we know even less about, except for his life and friends in the Coastguard and that he isn’t really out at work.
To be honest I became a bit confused with what was going on at one point. There is a voodoo spell/ceremony enacted upon Weston by a friendly voodoo practitioner called Bones, but I was slightly confused as to its purpose and whether it worked.
All in all, Speak No Evil was a bit of a disappointment; it had all the elements necessaryfor an excellent novel, but failed to exploit them. I suppose it did have an HEA, but I really felt there should have been more soul searching from Weston when embarking on a relationship with a really good self-sacrificing man like Eli. Weston is, after all, a hit-man from a criminal family. Likewise, Eli’s acceptance of what he knows and sees regarding Weston is immediate and hardly discussed. It would have been more tense and emotional if the moral side of the story regarding Weston, his actions and those of Ava were looked at, even a little, which they weren’t. I can’t judge an author’s work on one novel, but Speak No Evil has not convinced me to try more just yet.
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I'm an English romantic, and an author who simply adores reading and writing books. I believe that all love has equal status, and all humans need and deserve romance. So, I am thrilled to be able to review LGBTQ+ novels for AAR and introduce more readers to some gorgeous LGBTQ+ romances and fascinating stories.