Title ~ Herc’s Merc’s; The Bigger They Come
Author ~ Ari McKay
Publisher ~ Torquere Press
Genre ~ M/M Erotic Romance
Rating ~ 4 Stars
Cade “Hercules” Thornton, head of Hercules Security, is the best bodyguard in the business, which is why millionaire Kate Morgan lures him out of retirement to protect her grandson, Jude. The only problem is that Jude doesn’t want a “babysitter”, and sparks fly from the moment Cade and Jude meet. But the danger is real, and so is the stalker who wants Jude – even if he has to kill Cade Thornton to get to him.
Cade "Hercules" Thornton is an ex-Marine and victim of "Don't ask don't tell." When he's forced to leave the military, he's picked up by a firm of private military contractors who have no qualms about his sexual preferences because his faultless rep precedes him and he ends up leading his own elite platoon of mercenaries. Group name: Herc's Merc's, the tie in to the title of the book.
However, as this first book of the series opens, that's all in his past and Cade is now running his own bodyguard business - 'Hercules Security'- after an injury to his leg (which he got saving the life of another soldier) cuts short his career, invaliding him out of the business with a generous settlement and the means to found his own firm. He's managed to hire guys from his former platoon to work for him, so they still think of themselves under the same nickname.
Because of his leg injury, he doesn't do much field work anymore, spending most of his time in the office but all that changes when Kate Morgan, an older, very rich, feisty, business woman walks in the door and demands his personal services to protect her grandson from an ex-lover who is stalking him. She tells him she wants the best and whatever the cost that means him! Cade soon realises that this is a woman who won't take no for an answer and before he knows it, he's reluctantly agreed to take on the job.
The grandson, Doctor Jude Morgan, is a scientist who works for, and will soon be inheriting, the family pharmaceutical business, which is an important well known company. He loves his strong willed grandmother but even though he understands why, really dislikes the way she interferes with his life. So when the big, strong hot looking Viking walks into his office and informs him that he's been hired by her to protect him from his ex, Jude is NOT happy and sparks fly. As far as he's concerned, he can look after himself because at this point, he just sees Thomas, his ex, as a clingy nuisance, not thinking he's that dangerous! Their first meeting ends badly, insults are thrown and the result is a very pissed off pair of guys who are both left feeling shaken because of something Jude makes Cade do which is totally out of character for him. Cade quits before the job has even started properly but after a dressing down from his spunky relative, Jude, feeling bad, apologises and the two of them come to an agreement that reinstates Cade as his bodyguard but under their own terms and not the manipulative ones first agreed with grandma Kate, who has a sneaky agenda all of her own! You can probably guess the way the story plays out from then on but as I always say, it’s not the content, it’s the way its told, and I really like the way they tell this one.
There's sexual tension between them because Jude is a pretty prickly character but its slow burning. He doesn't trust easily and isn't used to sharing his house, or private life, with anybody. Because of the situation Cade needs to be with him pretty much 24/7, so they're in each other's space all of the time. This makes their initial relationship a tad rocky. Of course there's some underlying attraction going on but for once this isn't one of those stories which relies on insta lust and sex to drive the story and I loved that they didn't end up jumping each other's bones within a few pages of meeting. Even though he realises his feelings for this client are different than any he's had before, Cade puts Jude's safety before his own feelings and acts like the true professional he is. They dance around each other until the inevitable happens but the love scenes are sexy, perfectly placed and well worth waiting for when they arrive and the romance grows at a believable pace between them, which is a refreshing change.
Cade is exactly what you want in a bodyguard, he's brave, selfless, strong, gorgeous and willing to sacrifice himself for his client in the line of duty. How can you not get all swoony over that! But I have to be honest, it took me longer to warm up to Jude as a character because he's a bit of a cold fish to start with, really quite cranky and stand offish but as the story progressed he began to worm his way into my affections as I realised that all that coolness is actually masking a passionate guy who is guarded because of his wealth, upbringing and social standing. He finds it hard to accept the fact that anyone would want him for himself and not just for the money and status, he represents.
Luckily Cade sees past the facade and in true bodyguard romance style gently begins to break through the emotional barriers that Jude has erected around himself and we get, not just a more believable love story, but a pretty decent suspense plot as well that may not be full of surprises but is solid and well told.
Like all Novellas, there's always a few things you'd love to see a bit more fleshed out because the length is bound to add a few constraints on the story and characters, let's be honest as readers we're always wanting more, we're all a bit greedy that way! For instance I would have liked to have been introduced to a few more of Cade's team and seen a bit more of the goings on at 'Hercules Security' which is central to the whole series, and I also had a bit of a hard time getting a handle on Thomas' character. Most of the time he's just talked about off page so I think if we'd got something from his point of view slipped in I'd have got a better handle on his character and stalker motivation but rest assured, by the end of the book I was in no uncertain terms as to how much of a crazy lunatic he was and definitely got my nail biting moments.
I think Ari McKay have a really good start to the series with this and it’s going to be fun getting to know more about the guys from Hercules Security. I'm not 100% sure but I'm guessing that the next book might feature Red...Cade's right hand man and the one other male character from the security firm who gets some airtime during the book, and I'm looking forward to hearing his story and getting to know him more. I'm a sucker for a strong alpha male protecting his man so I know I'm going to enjoy this appealing bodyguard series.
I've got to hand it to this entertaining and diverse writing duo, they can turn their hand to any sub-genre and give us really engaging, enjoyable reads. The old west, gothic horror, vampires, contemporary romance, suspense, there's even been Highland games and a man in a kilt (Yum!). I'm thinking there's not much they don't tackle well and at the moment! I'm loving discovering all their various projects. Talking of vampires, that's where I'm going next in my Ari McKay journey, their Blood Bathory series ... So down the line, watch this space!
**sigh** I love this "job"............!
A Word from Ari McKay
Thanks again to all the fantastic folks at Sinfully Sexy for reviewing one of our books and giving us an opportunity to share our thoughts with their readers! We really appreciate being able to talk about our stories and share a little about how they came about.
“Herc’s Mercs: The Bigger They Come” is the first of what we hope will be a long and successful series featuring men who put themselves in harm’s way for others. We’re working on the major edits of the second story (“Herc’s Mercs: Line in the Sand”) and we’re finishing the rough draft of the third (“Herc’s Mercs: Bloody But Unbowed”). Three different stories, three very different couples, but all unified by the theme of heroism in the face of danger.
The plot bunny for the series was kind of interesting; it burst to life fully formed with Herc already yakking about who he was and what he was doing. It’s not often a story idea forms in that way for us. While we have plenty of ideas at any given time, there tends to be some adjustment from the original concept as we develop the characters and plot. Not so much with Cade Thornton. He may be fictional, but he was just there, such a strong and immutable presence there was no changing him!
Action and adventure can be a bit complicated to write at times (and sometimes the stories take a lot of research) but all three of the Herc’s Mercs stories were part of that rare and wonderful “writes itself” breed. There is research involved, but everything about the characters and the plots flowed surprisingly easily. Sometimes we have story ideas we’re excited about, but for one reason or another, things bog down and have to be set aside until they gel better or until we recycle them into something that works. We pretty much wrote the three Herc’s Mercs stories back to back. That has never happened before, but we certainly won’t mind if it happens again!
We hope you find Cade and Jude’s story as exciting to read as it was for us to write!
About Ari McKay
Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who collaborate on original m/m fiction. They began writing together in 2004 and finished their first original full length novel in 2011. Recently, they’ve begun collaborating on designing and creating costumes to wear and compete in at Sci Fi conventions, and they share a love of yarn and cake.
Arionrhod is an avid costumer, knitter, and all-around craft fiend, as well as a professional systems engineer. Mother of two human children and two dachshunds who think they are human, she is a voracious reader with wildly eclectic tastes, devouring romance novels, military science fiction, horror stories and Shakespeare with equal glee. She is currently preparing for the zombie apocalypse.
McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.
Ari McKay will be gifting one lucky reader an eBook of Herc’s Merc’s: The Bigger They Come