The Talented Mr. Rivers
I started HelenKay Dimon’s The Talented Mr. Rivers because the blurb reminded me of Anne Stuart’s Ice series. Vulnerable innocent paired with a dangerous man who’s hiding far more than he shows… sounded like catnip, and the M/M factor sealed the deal.
My first mistake was to have thought of the Ice series, with its tight pacing and vivid atmospheres. My second was to not have read the previous book in this series.
Weeks after Will Rivers’ house has been blown up and he’s gone into hiding, he emerges, only to be tracked down by Hunter Cain. Hired by Will’s family, who run a crime business called Pentasus, Hunter poses as a bodyguard. In reality, he works for German intelligence, and he needs to get as much intel as possible out of Will before using him as bait to lure in the only other surviving member of the Rivers family.
What could have been tense and exciting scenes—and probably are, in the previous novel—happened well before this story began. Before I ever clicked through to page one, Will and Hunter met, ogled each other, thought hot thoughts, and went their separate ways. That’s not to say this can’t work, but I felt as though I was three hours late to a party.
As for the characters, Hunter is the usual ultra-masculine type who does the usual emotional shutdown after sex. His backstory is intriguing, though, and I liked him when he wasn’t threatening anyone or posturing.
In comparison, Will is something of a nonentity. Hunter, perhaps feeling the book’s title needs justification, comments, “Your talents are never-ending”. Unfortunately the only talent Will has shown at this point is the ability to receive anal sex with only a bit of saliva as lube. Ouch. Later on, though, he demonstrates he’s good at fisticuffs, which makes him just like every other man in the story (including Fisher and Zach from the previous novel, and Seth from a future novel).
So. Hunter stores Will in a safe apartment, going out periodically to meet CIA agents about bad guys trying to kill Will or good guys trying to discover what Will knows. He comes back to dance figuratively around Will and have sex with him. Finally Will says they can’t keep “playing house” (great phrasing), and I agreed. I was tired of it too, and so much of the action taking place in one apartment gives the story a claustrophobic feel.
The enforced proximity might have been more interesting if Hunter and Will hadn’t become lovers early on. After that, most of the tension came from my wondering when Will would realize Hunter was more than a hired guard, and the characters wondering about Peter, Will’s brother and heir to Pentasus. Get ready for a lot of mentions of Pentasus. As for Peter’s credibility as a villain, he tells Will:
“You are the one person, other than me, who will have access to all the Pentasus information. That is your birthright and arrangements are being made right now to get that intel to you. Father saw to that and I have no control or way to stop it.”
He says all this in front of Hunter, by the way. So although Will has always made it clear to his family that he wants nothing to do with Pentasus, it’s like a hereditary title and he gets all the intel anyway? There’s something about the logic of this crime business that I don’t understand.
That said, towards the end the story works well. Once Will and Hunter start talking, and when the conversation isn’t about Pentasus or intel, the emotional tension rachets up to match the physical heat. I enjoyed this, and I wish the rest of the book had been as much fun to read.
To summarize – Ms. Dimon can write good romance as well as hot sex. I just wouldn’t recommend The Talented Mr. Rivers as a great example of the former.