TITLE: HOSTILE GROUND
AUTHORS: L.A. WITT & ALEKSANDR VOINOV
Details: Received from Riptide Publishing
Through Love Romances and More
Own / Kindle
After the deaths of three undercover cops investigating a drug ring in a seedy strip club in Seattle, Detective Mahir Hussain has been sent to finish the job. He joins the club’s security team in the hopes of finding enough evidence to bust the operation before the men in charge find a reason to put him in a shallow grave.
To protect the strippers, only gay men can work the club. Ridley, the cold and intimidating head of security, knows exactly how to test potential new hires—including Mahir. From the minute they meet, Mahir and Ridley engage in a dangerous dance of sex and mind games. Mahir needs to find his evidence before Ridley figures out he’s a cop—and before they both grow too close to betray one another.
As the game goes on, Mahir burrows deeper into the operation, where he learns there’s much more happening than meets the eye . . . and why every cop who made it this far has been silenced with a bullet.
Talk about dropping your main character knee deep in shit. Mahir, a Seattle Detective, goes undercover in a strip club in the full knowledge that the three policemen who preceded him have been shot and killed. Because the owner of the club doesn’t want his security staff to interfere with the girls working there, Mahir’s first hurdle is the ‘gay-test’. Since Mahir is gay this isn’t a huge issue but the head of security investigating his credentials, Ridley, is one scary bastard. Which makes Mahir’s reaction to the test rather surprising. Rather than repulsed he finds himself excited and drawn to the man.
Mahir’s cover is well established and means he has to live away from his own house most of the time which makes the arrival of his teenage nephew a problem. The boy has left home after coming out to his mother and afraid of his father’s reaction. Since Mahir has had a fraught relationship with his brother ever since he came out, he understands the boy’s fears and allows him to stay even thought it means leaving him alone most of the time.
As a strange, potentially dangerous but compelling relationship with Ridley develops, Mahir has to balance the various balls he’s trying to keep in the air. If his cover is blown he’ll die, probably at the hand of the man he’s becoming ever more attracted to. A man who seems incapable of staying away from his as well.
With it being unclear exactly what the owner of the club is up to the investigation can’t be rushed while every single day undercover increases the risks for Mahir. And it isn’t long before Mahir isn’t the only person in mortal danger.
This was a fascinating book. It is both a thriller and a love story but it is so much more. The authors deal with a host of issues while never giving the reader the feeling that they’re being overwhelmed with them. Through Mahir’s nephew we get a look at the problem of coming out to parents who neither understand nor ‘approve of’ being gay. Mahir being a Muslim leads to the unavoidable issue of bullying and discrimination. Both issues are woven into the story in a meaningful yet unobtrusive way. Often, when an author wants to deal with an issue the reader gets beaten over the head with it. Not in this book. The issues were there but not only did they fit the story they were also dealt with in such a way that they made the reader think without taking them out of the main story-line.
I was fascinated by the transformation Mahir went through every time he had to become Saeed and couldn’t look away when his cover was put to the ultimate test.
I love it when authors have respect for their readers’ intelligence. I won’t say what, but I saw two plot developments coming quite early on in the story and half feared it would be dragged out until the final pages, as seems to be the standard these days. I’m very grateful it wasn’t and am convinced it made the story much better than it would have been if they’d gone for the more standard approach.
The relationship between Mahir and Ridley was intriguing as well as incredibly hot. I loved the smalls shifts in dominance between these two men and their inability to stay away from each other even though being together posed huge risks for both of them. Mahir falling for Ridley against his better judgment despite the dangers involved was breathtaking.
“...dammit, but that was a smile tugging at the man’s lips. Butterflies in his stomach? More like a horde of red-assed apes going berserk in there.”
I don’t know enough about Islam or being a Muslim to say whether or not that aspect of the story was dealt with in a realistic manner. What I can say is that I never questioned Mahir’s thoughts or actions or felt the need to double check something. All of it made sense and felt natural.
It is a joy to have authors you can turn to, secure in the knowledge you’re starting a well written story with fascinating characters and a captivating narrative. Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt have turned into must read authors for me. I barely even glance at the blurbs for their books, because I know that I’ll love their words regardless of the story content. And, Hostile Ground only confirmed that idea for me. It was a thrilling page turner with enough love and sex to give the reader a breather from all the tension while the secondary characters all had a meaningful place in the story. In short this was a well-plotted, intriguing, hot and fascinating story written by two authors who have turned captivating their readers into an art form. This book comes highly recommended.