Author ~ H.E. Kollef
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 23rd March 2016
Genre ~ M/M Contemporary Romance
Will Mracek is forced to flee to Prague when he witnesses his boyfriend, powerful security magnate Jean Claude la Bête, commit murder. On the run, and with help from his cousin John, Will becomes an English teacher named Max Knight and does everything he can to blend in. Meeting Hadrian Walls, however, changes everything.
Max falls in love with the grumpy ex-RAF, now bartender, and Hadrian finds himself doing the same, despite not knowing the secrets of Max’s dangerous past.
But trouble has a way of coming home, and Max and Jean Claude will face each other one last time in a confrontation that sends both of them over the edge…
I had a lot of fun with this book. Maybe it was because I’d been reading a lot of historicals alternating with very romancey romances that this thriller really took me by storm, perhaps not. I don’t know but it was fun and didn’t waste any time at all in getting down to business as gentle bookbinder Will witnesses his powerful and very demanding business man boyfriend, Jean Claude, murder a subordinate as casually as one might swat a gnat. Horrified, Will flees in fear of his life and calls upon John, his ex-marine cousin, for help. And that’s just the first few pages.
One of the main strengths of the book was the sense of place. It starts in the glossy end of NYC, all smart suits, gleaming marble and chrome architecture, then goes to Prague where the modern world lies in a very thin veneer over the strength and stability of a much older culture. Prague was described in just about the right amount of detail by an author who, I suspect, knows intimately and loves it. Bohemia was the old name for Czechoslovakia and I enjoyed the play on words as Will, now living as Max Knight in Prague with John and John’s partner Karel, gradually immerses himself in a relaxed and welcoming bohemian, in the social sense of the word, culture. There he also meets Hadrian Walls – some parents need shooting – a grumpy but attractive ex-serviceman who has seen too much and is a recovering alcoholic working as a bartender. Soon the two embark on a slow burn affair, oblivious to the net closing around them.
Jean Claude is genuinely in love with Will and, moreover, is a man who once he has his heart set on something doesn’t care who bleeds as long as he can keep hold of it. Once Jean Claude’s organisation finds Will, nobody is safe, the stakes are impossibly high and only Hadrian and John’s skill and determination, with aide from a most unlikely direction, can prevent Will from being dragged back to Jean Claude’s gilded cage.
Perhaps Will was just a tiny bit too much of a damsel in distress for my taste, but he had grit when it counted and the testosterone is lavishly provided by Hadrian so that’s all right. I enjoyed the action scenes and hard man shenanigans, and even managed a little sympathy for Jean Claude, utterly loathsome though he was. This is a high angst read, by my standards, and with mounting tension throughout, describes a very satisfying story arc. I also liked that there were consequences for heroics and neither protagonist emerged unscathed. This author is definitely a name I’ll be on the watch for.