The Family Man
Grade : B

The Family Man is a promising start to a new romantic suspense series, The Mind Hacker, from new-to-me author AJ Rose featuring a small team of special agents who work for the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit. There are a few stock-in-trade tropes here and the author sometimes gets bogged down with too much description and explanation, but I enjoyed the story overall. The action sequences are tense, the sex scenes are hot and the two leads are interesting and likeable. Their relationship is in the early stages here, but that’s pretty much what I expect from book one in a same-couple series, and the eventual HFN feels right and promises more to come.

Special Agent Tracey Smith is the youngest agent ever to join one of the FBI’s elite NCVAC (National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime) teams within the BAU. He might be young, but he knows he’s good at what he does and he’s no stranger to hard work, having worked as a police psychologist for three years while also earning his PhD. The small, four-person team he is assigned to is headed up by Supervisory Special Agent Jonathan Anderson, and Tracey has barely had time to get his feet under his desk when they, together with their colleagues Sarena Mercado and Perry Vaughn, are sent to St. Louis on the trail of a serial killer – a sniper – who is picking off victims seemingly at random and often in broad daylight.

I’m not going to say too much about the plot, save that it’s intricate, clever and well-executed, with some really tense moments that are nicely balanced with humour, character interaction and the slowly unfolding attraction between the two leads. The author has clearly done their research about the way the BAU works and what their role is within an investigation such as this one, but the downside of that is that there’s the odd step into a bit too much minutiae and an occasional ‘flabbiness’ in the pacing, but I appreciated the attention to detail for the most part.

The central pairing is something of a staple of procedurals – the old hand and the rookie. Jon is one of the BAU’s top agents and is enigmatic and inscrutable, nicknamed the ‘Ice Man’ because he’s so focused and tightly controlled. He’s an excellent mentor though – I really liked that he so strongly encourages Tracey to pursue a life outside the bureau for the sake of his personal well-being, and his willingness to let Tracey take the lead in certain areas of the investigation once he’s shown a real aptitude for them. Jon compartmentalises his life for a very good reason – some of the stuff he has to deal with is the sort of thing no human being should ever have to see – but it’s led to the break-down of his few personal relationships because his desire to keep his loved ones away from the darkness that is a part of his everyday life means they’ve felt he’s shutting them out. (I get it - but the profiler-who-feels-tainted-because-he-has-a-knack-for-getting-into-the-minds-of-killers is such an overdone stereotype.) Jon has resigned himself – for the time being – to casual hook-ups that don’t require any emotional investment, until the newest member of the team starts to get under his skin. But getting involved with a colleague – and a subordinate – is a very bad idea, and he is determined to keep his distance.

It doesn’t take long for Tracey to develop a serious case of hero worship over his mentor. Although when the man starts to appear in his dreams, he quickly works out that it’s not just Jon’s keen mind, work ethic or solve rate that is drawing him to the older man, and that he – Tracey – is clearly not as straight as he thought he was. It’s just a crush – or that’s all it can be, because the bureau’s fraternisation policy is very clear – but, sensing Jon’s deep loneliness, Tracey thinks maybe he can be what the other man might need in another way. A friend.

I really liked the progression of their romance. It’s a smoldering slow-burn with sexy almost-kisses and lots of longing – and it doesn’t feel implausible (there are no ‘we’re under fire so we must shag’ moments, here!) or get in the way of the plot. Jon and Tracey have strong chemistry and the author does a good job of developoing their emotional connection; they hook up a couple of times and the book ends on a firm HFN, but they still have a way to go – and things aren’t going to be easy because they’re going to have to keep everything on the downlow at work if they’re going to try having an actual relationship.

I liked both characters a lot – there’s a bit of a grumpy/sunushine vibe going on and they’re very different in many ways, but the intellectual and emotional connections they form feel very real. I enjoyed the secondary characters and their chemistry and interactions, too – Sarena and Perry are not just window dressing and are important to the investigation. One niggle, though - I was surprised at finding out that Jon is thirty-five, because that seemed young for him to have the experience and the seniority that he has; I’d expected him to be early forties at least. Maybe the author didn’t want a big age gap between the leads (Tracey is twenty-eight), but having Jon ten or twelve years older would have felt more realistic.

Despite my criticisms, I was pretty much glued to The Family Man from start to finish, and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a new romantic suspense series to try.

Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : B

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : March 9, 2024

Publication Date: 03/2024

Recent Comments …

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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