Review: The Protector by Anna Hackett

Review: The Protector by Anna HackettThe Protector (Norcross Security #9) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Norcross Security #9
Pages: 245
Published by Anna Hackett on June 28th 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

For a ballerina in the line of fire, the only man who can keep her safe is a scarred, battle-hardened soldier.

One minute Saskia Hawke is dancing on stage, and the next she’s been abducted by a very wealthy, very powerful man with connections. Whisked away to a country estate, she’ll do anything to escape, and prays the former soldier she can’t stop thinking about will come to rescue her.

What she doesn’t know is that her disappearance will light a protective fury inside Camden Morgan, and he’ll tear down the country to find her.

After a final mission leaves former Ghost Ops soldier Camden Morgan injured, scarred, and riddled with guilt, he comes home to San Francisco. Surrounded by his family and working at Norcross Security, he still can’t settle. He definitely knows he’s too broken to offer anything to the beautiful, raven-haired Saskia.

When she goes missing, Cam knows something is very wrong. He’s the man with the right skill set to bring her home, even as he knows he must protect her from himself and push her away.

But saving Saskia is just the beginning, as her abductor isn’t letting go of his obsession. Cam must go all in, be the protector Saskia needs, and risk his scarred heart. With the help of his brothers and Norcross Security, not to mention Saskia’s dangerous brother and his team, they’ll put everything on the line. And for Saskia, she’ll fight with everything she has to survive…and to prove to Cam that he’s capable and worthy of love.

My Review:

As is usual for Anna Hackett’s series, we saw the opening of The Protector in the close of the previous book in the series, The Medic. That’s when Camden Morgan first met ballerina Saskia Hawke and decided that he had too much damage to be the kind of man that Saskia deserved.

And as is also usual for the combat veterans of Norcross Security, he neglected to ask Saskia what she thought about his holding himself away from her for her own good.

As Saskia lived in NYC, and Norcross was based in San Francisco, Cam let himself believe that friendship was all he could give and the occasional late night phone call wasn’t more than either of them could handle.

Which was fine until Saskia was kidnapped by a Russian mobster with a taste for special, exotic women and an organization fine tuned in the ugly business of sex trafficking. A man who refuses to take no for an answer – even after he’s brought down again, and again, and again.

The first time Saskia escapes his clutches, the evil dude manages to slip through theirs. And Cam, being a fool, turns Saskia away even though he’s the only person making her feel safe.

But when he rescues her the second time, he starts thinking with his heart and stops trying to push her away. Only for her to get taken yet a third time by an obsessive villain who can’t afford to let anyone get away from him without punishment.

It’s an edge-of-the-seat adventure every step of the way as Cam and Norcross Security chase down Saskia’s latest prison – not just before her smart mouth and defiance gets her killed, but before she and Cam finally have the chance to admit what they’ve always felt for each other.

And before Saskia’s even more badass big brother sweeps in and eliminates ALL the threats to his sister’s life and happiness – no matter what she or anyone else has to say about any of it.

Escape Rating B: While The Protector was not my favorite book in this series – that honor is reserved for The Medic followed by The Specialist – it was a fitting wrap up for the Norcross Security series as a whole. We at least had the chance to touch base with all the members of the team and the Norcross family, and even had a glimpse of The Hacker’s new baby. Everybody’s fine and everyone, no matter how reluctant in the beginning, found their HEA.

The reason I like The Medic best of the whole series, is that in that story the heroine is an even bigger badass than the hero, and that he celebrates her badassery at every turn. Saskia is cast from a somewhat more traditional mold in the sense that she does need someone to rescue her from the repeated kidnap attempts. She does her best to stay strong and defiant, but she needs a hero in a way that Siv did not.

Also, I have to say that the “kidnapped by a mobster to be a sex slave” plotline is one that leaves me totally cold. Sex trafficking is real and terrible, but in fiction this particular villain type goes over the top into bwahaha territory, at least for this reader. It was too personal and this dude was just too much of a caricature. Your reading mileage of course may vary. This trope is popular with a lot of readers, I’m just not one of them.

The Protector is the final book in the Norcross Security series. The handoff from this series to the next, which will be Sentinel Security, looks like it starts with Saskia’s badass big brother Killian Hawke. The first book in the series is coming in August. I’m curious to see how Killian’s nemesis and frenemy, a federal agent who isn’t exactly FBI and isn’t exactly CIA but who certainly is going to finally bring him down. Or tie him up. Possibly both!

Review: The Medic by Anna Hackett + Giveaway

Review: The Medic by Anna Hackett + GiveawayThe Medic (Norcross Security #8) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Norcross Security #8
Pages: 282
Published by Anna Hackett on April 5, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

She’s a tough former soldier trying to resist the charming medic who’s going all in to claim her.
Former Norwegian special forces soldier Siv Pederson is making a new start in San Francisco. New country, new job at Norcross Security, and her new rule: no men. She’s left her annoying ex behind and her only goal is to prove herself in her new job, especially when she’s assigned to her own investigation.
What she didn’t count on was having to work with one handsome, charming, and far-too-tempting former combat medic.
After a career as an Air Force combat medic, Ryder Morgan is happy with his life. He likes working part time as a paramedic and donating the rest of his time at a free clinic in the toughest part of the city. He always thought finding “the one” wasn’t for him…until he sees gorgeous, tough Siv in a killer red dress.
Now he’ll do anything to break through her prickly shell and convince her that he’s the man for her.
As homeless people start dying, and Ryder loses a good friend, Siv and Ryder must work together to find a killer. Going undercover as husband and wife, they have to discover who’s preying on the city’s most vulnerable before more people die. As they uncover a vast web of lies, Ryder has his work cut out for him. Not only to find justice, but to prove to Siv that he’ll protect both her body and her heart.

My Review:

This OMG 8th book in the Norcross Security series reminded me just how much I love a story when the heroine kicks ass and takes names every bit as well as the hero – or even just a bit better as it proves in The Medic.

After all, that’s what Ryder Morgan is, a medic. He was a combat medic when he served, and now that he’s back in civilian life he’s a paramedic who is serving, protecting and patching up on not just one but three different fronts.

He’s a part-time paramedic with the city of San Francisco who could be full-time if he wanted to. But he’s doing his bit of paying it both back and forward by working part-time at a clinic in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, providing free medical care to people whose circumstances have either led them or left them to life on the occasionally mean streets of this generally temperate (climatologically) city. It gives him an opportunity to treat some of the men and women who served just like he did, in places and circumstances that leave scars on the soul.

And he also works part-time and on call for Norcross Security whenever one of their agents needs more patching up than a first aid kit can handle. Which happens a lot more than he’d like, particularly since one of those agents is his brother Cam, newly returned from a war he hasn’t quite managed to leave behind just yet.

But those agents also include Norcross Security’s newest agent, Siv Pederson from Norway, a former member of Norway’s Special Forces. She’s come to San Francisco to make a fresh start in a place with no memories of a relationship that went bad. It’s not that she’s grieving or mourning her ex – more that she’s kicking herself for ever getting involved with an arsehole just like her dear old (absentee) dad. In other words, a lying, cheating, empty charmer who has nothing underneath and is threatened by her strength and abilities.

At the end of the previous book in this series, The Detective, readers had a ringside seat to Ryder’s first meeting with Siv. He tried to charm her – like he has so many women before – only to find himself measuring his own length on the floor after she showed him exactly where he could stick that charm and what he could do with it when he got it there. She decked him.

He never recovered – and neither did she. This is the story of how she got past her initial impression of Ryder, while he just kept leaning into his first impression of her. All the while, in the usual Norcross Security mix of action, adventure and car chases, they manage to bring down some bad people who thought they had the right to mess with Ryder Morgan’s friends – and Vander Norcross’ city.

Escape Rating A: One of the things that love in any romance is a relationship of equals – and that’s just what we get in The Medic. It’s not just that Siv can hold her own under any circumstances with the best of Norcross Security’s agents. The icing on this particular cake is that Ryder loves her for it just as she is. That he thinks it’s hot when she takes down the bad guys. It’s not a reaction that she’s used to from either her insecure ex or her love-em-and-leave-em sperm donor who is still harping on her to be more “feminine” and less capable of taking men down and seeing through their bullshit. Quite possibly because he’s afraid that she’s seen all the way through his.

But the strength those previous men in her life have tried to control, tame and even eliminate is the thing that draws Ryder to her like iron filings to a magnet. It’s something that is refreshing to see – to say the least – because so many women are stuck dealing with entirely too many people in their lives who see a woman’s strength of any kind as something to be denigrated at every turn.

I also loved in this particular entry in the series that Siv is always proactive and not reactive. It helps that the plot of this story does not start out with Siv being in jeopardy and requiring rescue. She is never a damsel in distress – not that she can’t be in distress but that she’s never damselfied.

One of the hallmarks of this series as a whole is that the Norcross Security operators are all former military in various stages of coming all the way back home – and both Ryder and Siv are part of that. This particular story in the series extends that outward, from the successful bunch at Norcross, to the work in progress that is Ryder and Hunt’s brother Cam, to the homeless veterans on the streets of San Francisco who Ryder is doing his best to help.

As he fully acknowledges that there but for the grace of God and the help of his family, he and his brothers would be also. So he stands for them when he learns the truth of how so many are being abused by the system yet one more time.

The crime that Siv and Ryder are investigating has a ripped from the headlines feel. The unexpected (at least to both of them) romance that has them ripping each other’s clothes off is hot enough to raise the temperature in their slightly chilly city. And the pulse-pounding conclusion to their part of this series will have readers on the edge of their seats.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s a bit of a teaser at the end – as their usually is with this author’s series – for the next Norcross Security case. It looks like Cam Morgan will be taking the series back to New York City, the stomping grounds of the Billionaire Heists series in The Protector. And I can’t wait to see what happens next!

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Anna has graciously allowed me to give a copy of the winner’s choice of either The Medic or The Detective as part of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week. The trick to this particular giveaway is whether or not the winner wants instant gratification or is willing to wait an extra week or two. Anna has copies of The Detective available now for giveaway, but if you can stand to wait just a bit longer, she’s more than willing to send a copy of The Medic to someone with just a bit of patience.

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Review: The Detective by Anna Hackett

Review: The Detective by Anna HackettThe Detective (Norcross Security #7) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, romantic suspense
Series: Norcross Security #7
Pages: 274
Published by Anna Hackett on March 1, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

She’s a woman on the run and desperate to avoid her hot, nosy detective neighbor.

Artist Savannah Cole has secrets. She can never stay anywhere too long or let anyone get too close. An obsessed stalker has her in his sights, and to protect her family, she can never go home, never share her art, and never fall in love.

But when she plays her music a little too loud, she collides with her good-looking, inquisitive, and far-too-hot neighbor, Detective Hunter Morgan. A man who makes her want things she can never have.

After an injury ended his military career with Delta Force, Hunt Morgan found his place at the San Francisco Police Department. He may not have been there for the men of his team, but now he does his bit to keep his city safe. But his mysterious, new neighbor is disturbing his peace. One look at the beautiful blonde and Hunt knows she has secrets…

When a spate of mysterious attacks threaten Savannah’s life, Hunt steps in. He’ll keep her safe and he’s not going to let her run again.

As Savannah’s stalker closes in, she finds herself with her own private protector. Even with his brothers and friends at Norcross Security at his back, she’s terrified he’ll become the next target. But Hunt isn’t afraid of her deadly stalker, because he knows the hardest challenge will be convincing Savannah to take the biggest risk and stay.

My Review:

I’ve been wondering when the Norcross Security series was going to get around to the Morgan brothers, and it looks like that time is finally here! I say I’ve been wondering because the Morgan brothers, or at least Hunt and Ryder have been part of the series from the very beginning – even if not exactly at the center of the fray until now.

The series initially followed the Norcross family – hence the series title – but the Morgans have been on the periphery of the action from the very beginning. Two of them at least.

Hunt Morgan is a detective in the LVPD. Specifically he’s THE detective in the Las Vegas Police Department who has been assigned to – or perhaps that’s cursed with – the task of cleaning up after some of Norcross Security’s messier operations. Not that Hunt ever does anything illegal – he really is a good cop. And the Norcross organization is on the side of the angels, no matter how much some of them occasionally act like devils both on and off the job.

But it’s Hunt’s frequently thankless task to take care of any paperwork, civilians and/or bureaucratic handholding that needs to be taken care of after the dust settles. Because the bad guys that Norcross is chasing after have an unfortunate tendency to inflict some, or occasionally lots, of collateral damage in the process of their criminal actions.

And Hunt has ‘white knight’ syndrome in a really bad way. He doesn’t just want, he actually needs to serve and protect – and that’s what gets him involved in the case of his new neighbor, Savannah Cole.

Or it is once he bangs on her door and barges into her next door townhouse. Because she plays her music really, really loud, really late at night – and the walls between his bedroom and hers aren’t nearly thick enough to block the sound. Or any sounds at all, as Hunt discovers later.

What he discovers at first is that Savannah is an artist, she likes to play VERY loud music while she works, and she’s much too aware of and wary of her surroundings to be exactly what she claims to be.

The art is real, the woman is beautiful, but something tells Hunt that she’s deathly afraid of something that she wants to conceal at all costs. But Hunt has seen the signs before, and is certain that Savannah is in big trouble with someone, somewhere.

And that he will defend and protect her from whoever or whatever that is – whether she wants his protection or not.

Escape Rating B: I loved the romance between Hunt and Savannah, but the whole stalker plotline is one of the tropes I hate the most – right up there with secret babies and mean girl bullying. It makes the heroine reactive rather than active, and it always ends up with her doing something really stupid that puts her in the hands of her stalker. I know this shit – and worse shit – happens in real life, but that doesn’t mean I want to read about it.

Which means I had extremely mixed feelings about this book. I could see the stalker plot coming a mile away – and I didn’t want to go there. At the same time, I loved the fuller portrait of Hunt that we get in this one. As I said, he’s been around for the entire series, so I’ve been hoping he’d get a story of his own.

I liked Hunt. He’s always been an interesting side character in the series, as a sometimes grumbling participant in the Norcross shenanigans and a surprising and surprised friend of Vander Norcross. And now family, as Hunt’s cousin Brynn and Vander Norcross ended up together after their adventure in the previous book in the series, The Powerbroker.

I also liked Savannah. She’s done a surprisingly successful job of running from her stalker for quite some time, and the cost to her has been high – and so has the cost to a whole lot of other people that Savannah didn’t know about because she didn’t stick around long enough – nor should she have.

I think the part of stalker plots that always sends me round the bend is the way that the heroines in these type of stories always reject any possibility of help and generally get in their own way when capable, qualified help appears. Also stalker plots tend to put the heroine in a reactive mode and I’d rather see them take agency.

My two cents, your reading mileage may vary, etc., etc., etc.

At the same time, I loved the romance in this one. It’s not rushed in spite of the circumstances, and I was absolutely all in on these two getting together and making it work, sometimes in spite of themselves.

As I said at the beginning, mixed feelings all around.

I have no mixed feelings about the teasers we got for the next book at the end of this one. The next story in this series, The Medic, is clearly going to feature Hunt’s brother Ryder. Ryder is the paramedic that Norcross calls on – all too frequently – when one of them needs patching up and they’re unwilling or unable to go to a hospital. Which means that Ryder has been “on call” in this series as much as his brother Hunt. I’m absolutely looking forward to this one, as I’ll be getting it for a birthday present. Literally. The release day, April 5, is my birthday. So if I say I can’t wait for this one, the double meaning is fully in effect!

Review: The Powerbroker by Anna Hackett

Review: The Powerbroker by Anna HackettThe Powerbroker (Norcross Security #6) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Norcross Security #6
Pages: 302
Published by Anna Hackett on November 5, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

She’s undercover in a dangerous motorcycle club, and her unwanted protector is the city’s most lethal man.

Police Detective Brynn Sullivan is dedicated to her job and living up to the memory of her cop father. She’s out to prove herself on her biggest case yet—stopping a dangerous drug from flooding the streets of San Francisco. She needs to go undercover with the city’s wildest, most dangerous motorcycle club, and that means using any contact she can to get in there.

Even the dark, powerful ex-military man who rules the city’s streets from the shadows—Vander Norcross.

After years fighting for his country as commander of a covert Ghost Ops team, Vander Norcross has built Norcross Security into a thriving business to keep his family and friends safe. He’s a powerbroker in San Francisco, with his finger on the pulse of what’s happening—both legal and not so legal. When his friend asks a favor putting a detective—a female one—undercover with the Iron Wanderers MC, Vander is not on board.

It goes against every protective instinct he has, but Brynn proves to be tenacious, annoying, smart, and far too tempting.

Brynn and Vander strike enough sparks to start an inferno, but when dangerous players up the stakes, they find themselves with a bounty on their heads. On the run, with only each other to depend on, Brynn discovers she has an even bigger battle on her hands—capturing the heart of a man who thinks he’s too dangerous to ever fall in love.

My Review:

Brynn’s words to Vander made the whole book for me, when she told him that she needed him to stand beside her, not in front of her. As a cop, Detective Brynn Sullivan brings every bit as much to the table of badassery as former Ghost Ops team leader Vander Norcross. Just as much skill, just as much fight, and just as much need to fight for those she protects and what she believes in.

That Brynn is a beautiful woman whom Vander wants to protect at all costs, even from himself, does not change Brynn’s perspective at all. She’ll stop being the woman who fascinates him if he lets him protect her. She’ll come to hate herself, and him into the bargain.

No matter how much it makes him clench his fists and grit his teeth whenever she throws herself into danger – usually head first and guns blazing. But then, he’s no different.

Both Brynn and Vander are people who have decided that they don’t have either the time or the inclination for a relationship. She’s too wrapped up in her career, and he’s still too tormented by the ghosts in his head.

He thinks it’s too dangerous for him to fall for someone, because if someone he loved were endangered, he’d burn the city down to save them and damn the consequences to anyone who got in his way – or his soul. Brynn can’t find anyone who can accept her as she is, that the cop part of her is every bit as important as the rest of the woman.

But when Brynn’s cousin Hunt, the detective who works with Norcross Security and helps to keep the police powers that be and Norcross from rubbing each other a bit too raw, asks Vander for a favor, Vander knows he owes Hunt big, even if he really, really hates the particular favor that the cop is asking for.

Hunt needs Vander to give Brynn an introduction to the Iron Wanderers Motorcycle Club, because someone in the club is bringing a deadly new designer drug into the city that Vander protects even if he doesn’t serve.

Brynn will be going undercover among some of the most dangerous people in the city to uncover the dealer and his supply chain in order to stop the drugs. Vander is all too aware that she’s walking into trouble – possibly more trouble than she can handle.

He can’t let her go. He can’t stop her, either. All he can do is step up and walk beside her, even if it breaks the heart he swears he doesn’t have.

Escape Rating B+: I loved Brynn, I adored Vander, but I definitely got a reminder of the things I don’t like about motorcycle club romances. Or perhaps that was just that the villainous dealer seems to have gotten entirely too many of his speeches out of the “Villains Handbook for Overdone Monologuing”. I didn’t like him – not that we were supposed to, but he was just a walking, talking, spouting cliché. At least Trucker, the leader of the Wanderers, had a tiny bit of nuance – or humanity – or both.

Obviously not my favorite setting.

But, but, BUT the romance between Brynn and Vander was smokin’ hot, and it had so many of the elements I really enjoy. Brynn was just awesome. I love a kickass heroine, especially one who makes sure that her love interest RESPECTS her at every turn. I particularly liked the way that Brynn was always an active participant in both the investigation and the romance, and NEVER played the damsel.

Also terrific was the way that Vander shied away from a relationship but not for any of the usual reasons. His logic was an excellent twist on the “I’m not worthy” trope that a lot of romantic heroes seem to fall into.

It’s never a question of whether he’s worthy – that doesn’t seem to enter his head. Instead, his concern is that he’ll go too far if something bad happens, because he lives in a world where things ALWAYS go wrong. He’s too well trained to let himself lose control out of a reasonable fear that he’ll leave a trail of bodies behind him and not care about the collateral damage. He has to prove to himself that he can keep a lid on it if Brynn is in danger – because he knows she will be. And that he not only can’t stop her, but that he shouldn’t.

I usually like the “leader’ romance in one of this author’s series even more than the rest of the series. There are issues with the conflict between leadership and vulnerability that often make that particular entry in a series a favorite. But Vander isn’t the leader of Norcross Security in the same way that Holmes was in Hell Squad or Galen was the Imperator of the Galactic Gladiators.

But I still liked this one a lot because of Brynn. A lot a lot because of Brynn. I just liked Brynn and her kickass and take no prisoners attitude, although my favorite in the series is still The Specialist.

It looks like Brynn’s story is going to pivot a bit more of the action of the Norcross Security series to the rest of the Sullivan family, with her cousin Camden joining Norcross at the end of this book. Cam’s brothers Hunt and Ryder need to find their HEAs as well.

I’m looking forward to watching them fall.

Review: The Hacker by Anna Hackett

Review: The Hacker by Anna HackettThe Hacker (Norcross Security #5) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance
Series: Norcross Security #5
Pages: 252
Published by Anna Hackett on October 12, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

She’s accidentally pregnant and someone is trying to kill her…and now her one-night-stand is her fierce protector.

Helicopter pilot Maggie Lopez is focused on building her helicopter and drone photography business—and she has the loans to prove it. She takes one night off to trade her jeans for a designer dress, and attend a fancy gala…and ends up spending a very steamy night with her panty-melting crush—Ace Oliveira. He’s tall, sexy, and the guru of all things tech at Norcross Security.

She wasn’t supposed to fall in lust, or fall in love, and she really wasn’t supposed to fall pregnant.

Ace Oliveira’s life is just how he likes it. After years protecting his country at the NSA, he now puts his special computer and hacking skills to good use at Norcross Security. He gets paid well. Has good friends. Enjoys the hell out of his carefree bachelor lifestyle. Relationships and kids are not on the cards for him—ever. He has his reasons.

But then feisty, saucy Maggie—who snuck out of his bed like a thief—drops a bombshell.

Before they can even process the surprise pregnancy, it becomes clear someone is trying to kill Maggie. A series of deadly accidents are all centered on her, and Ace will do whatever it takes to keep her safe. With the men of Norcross at his side, he’ll track down a killer, fight his own demons, and convince skittish, independent Maggie to fall in love with her baby’s daddy.

My Review:

One of the things I love about this author’s series (serieses?) is the way that each book in the series previews the coming attractions of the romance in the next book. So the genesis of The Hacker was foreshadowed at the end of The Bodyguard in the one-night-stand between Norcross Security’s ace hacker Ace Oliveira and Maggie Lopez, a helicopter pilot that Norcross Security regularly contracts with for some of their hairier jobs – especially the desperate rescues therefrom.

Genesis is certainly the right word to describe how this particular story starts, because that one-night-stand included some hot, up against the wall, unprotected sex. The result of which is that Maggie is avoiding the really awkward conversation she needs to have with Oliveira. A conversation that needs to include Maggie’s unintended pregnancy.

Maggie wants the baby. What she doesn’t want is to get her life tangled up with Ace’s love-’em-and-leave-’em lifestyle. Because there’s no love involved. Being a notch on his bedpost is bad enough, but there were two enthusiastically consenting adults involved in that particular scenario. Watching as an endless series of other women drape themselves all over him is not something that Maggie plans to sign up for.

They need to have a civilized, rational, adult conversation about the baby they’ve unexpectedly made. A dispassionate conversation they can’t seem to manage to have with all the passion that is still stirring between them.

And that’s before someone tries to kill Maggie and the “Peanut”, or whatever size fruit or vegetable is the current equivalent of the growing embryo.

As much as Maggie is afraid to get involved with Ace out of fear that he will break her heart, Ace is equally afraid to fall for Maggie because he’s afraid that once she gets to know the real him, she’ll run fast and far and not look back. He’s certain that he’s not good enough for either her or the Peanut, and that once she learns the truth she’ll agree.

But as the attempts on Maggie’s life escalate, Ace can’t stop himself from setting aside his nebulous fears for the future in order to deal with the very real fears that have intruded on the present. Fears that are filled with armed drones chasing Maggie down dark alleys leading to snatch and grab kidnap attempts that are barely thwarted by the efforts of the entire Norcross Security team.

In order to keep Maggie safe, Ace needs to let her all the way in, to his life and to his heart. And in order to let him help her, Maggie has to set aside all the lessons her father drummed into her about never letting lean on anyone no matter how much she hurts.

Escape Rating B: The Hacker is a solidly entertaining entry in the Norcross Security series. It’s not my favorite in the series (at the moment that would be The Specialist, but I have high hopes for Vander’s upcoming book) but a good reading time was definitely had by this reader.

Even though obvious villain was very obvious, and every bit as over-the-top as most of the baddies in this series. And the unplanned pregnancy trope is far from my favorite.

What I liked about this story was that Maggie has made a life for herself and that it’s a life she’s satisfied and happy with. And that while she does need help and protection in this entry in the series, she’s not stupid about it. She makes adjustments to keep herself and the Peanut as safe as possible, and doesn’t run around meeting mobsters and robbing estates on the sly. At the same time, she stands firm on needing to continue working and maintaining her independence.

That, in the end she doesn’t merely participate in but plays a key, professional role in her own rescue was a great antidote to some of the earlier books in the series where the heroines were all reactive rather than active.

At the same time, this book reads like the series is starting to wind down, which it is. There were lots of scenes where the entire Norcross Security team as well as their friends among the police were active participants in the investigation, the interrogations, and the rescue. Almost like a second-to-last-hurrah before the big finale that’s coming in the next and final book in the series, The Powerbroker, coming next month. (YAY!)

They say that the bigger they stand, the harder they fall. Throughout the Norcross Security series, Vander Norcross has always stood the biggest – literally – and been the biggest badass of all his brothers and of the security agency he founded. We’re finally going to see just how hard he falls – and I can’t wait.

Review: The Bodyguard by Anna Hackett

Review: The Bodyguard by Anna HackettThe Bodyguard (Norcross Security #4) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, romantic suspense
Series: Norcross Security #4
Pages: 306
Published by Anna Hackett on April 23, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

For a princess with a deadly stalker, the only place she feels safe is in the arms of her big, tough, and very off-limits bodyguard.
Princess Sofia of Caldova is in San Francisco to spearhead a fabulous royal jewelry exhibition and raise money for her charity...but danger has followed her. With an unhinged stalker hunting her, a dangerous international ring of jewel thieves targeting her exhibition, and her own secret task no one can know about, she's in need of security.
Enter big, grumpy, ex-military bodyguard Rome Nash. A man who's guarded her once before, and who she embarrassed herself by kissing...a kiss he didn't return.
After years on a covert special forces team, Rome Nash thrives on working for Norcross Security as its chief bodyguard. Driven by the losses of his past, he needs to help keep people safe. But guarding a beautiful, elegant princess who surprises him at every turn, and who he knows is hiding secrets, is testing his legendary self-control.
For months, all he's thought about is Sofia, and now that she's in danger, Rome's willing to cross all the lines to keep her safe.
As the exhibition draws closer, jewel thieves attack, Sofia's stalker strikes, and infamous thief Robin Hood enters the picture. Rome and the men of Norcross Security step in, and Rome will risk everything to protect his princess, no matter the risk, no matter the cost.

My Review:

The title for this one is a dead giveaway – meaning that there is, just occasionally, truth in advertising. The Bodyguard, the fourth book in the terrific action adventure romance Norcross Security series, is, indeed, definitely, absolutely, a bodyguard romance.

So if bodyguard romances trip your trope meter, then this is definitely the book for you – not that the entire Norcross Security series isn’t a whole lot of fun, and not that there isn’t an element of somebody guarding somebody’s body in every single story.

After all, that’s what Norcross Security does – secure, protect and guard precious things and even more precious people. Especially when they discover that those people are especially precious to them.

There’s a certain pattern to bodyguard romances, and that pattern is very much in evidence in this story – with just a few of this author’s signature twists and turns.

We met Rome and Sofie – and more to the point they met each other – in the previous book in the series (my personal fave so far), The Specialist. And they struck plenty of sparks off each other then, even though they weren’t the main event – more like the preview of coming attractions – pun fully intended.

Now that those attractions are very definitely here – the UST is such a big thing in the room that it just can’t remain unresolved for long. But the heart of this story is not about the conflict between Rome’s duty to remain objective so that he can put all of his focus on protecting Sofie.

For one thing, his focus is shot the minute she steps back into his life – and neither of them can step away in spite of the gulf of differences between them.

Not just because Sofie is Princess Sofia of Caldova is a real-life royal, but also because she’s also a real-life thief bearing the nom-de-plume Robin Hood – a secret that she can’t afford to let go of.

But whether she’s the princess or the thief, she is also caught in the cross-hairs of a stalker who plans to kidnap her, rape her and murder her while his gang steals the jewelry collection she plans to auction for charity. A charity that benefits abused women – women like the best friend that her stalker also kidnapped and raped.

Sofie’s out to make someone pay. And pay, and pay some more. The same someone who is very, very definitely out to get her. Rome can’t stop this collision course – no matter how much he tries – but he can be there to make sure that evil gets punished and Sofie walks away more-or-less unscathed.

If she’ll let him.

Escape Rating B: I have some pretty mixed feelings about this book. I’m kind of all over the map about it.

For one thing, if you like the bodyguard trope this is an outstanding example of it. Howsomever, if it’s not your fave – and I have to admit that it isn’t mine, at least in a contemporary setting – the patterns necessary to fit the trope are inherently too obvious for my taste.

But, as I said, if this is your jam it’s a very jammy jam indeed. It’s hard to do a contemporary bodyguard story well – and this is definitely done well.

On my other hand, I personally love the “it takes a thief to catch a thief” concept and pretty much have since the TV show all the way back in the 1970s – I watched it in syndication, so not the original run, but still a damn long time ago.

It’s just that, in this particular story, it jerked at my willing suspension of disbelief because Sofie was so damn good at it with not nearly as much training as it seemed like she would need. But mostly because the idea of breaking out of the house where you’re being protected from your extremely creepy and dangerous stalker in order to break into secure buildings where you might get into even more or worse trouble, when you know that your stalker is watching your current location seems somewhere past foolish.

I like my heroines with agency, but not the kind of agency that makes them look like idiots in desperate need of rescuing.

On my third, or perhaps fourth, hand – how many hands am I up to this time? – I do enjoy the setup of Norcross Security and I’m on tenterhooks waiting for the boss of this crew of ex-military badasses, Vander Norcross, to finally take the fall into romance that he’s watched his brothers (and sister) and his crew plunge into. I loved getting a glimpse of what the folks at Treasure Hunter Security are up to these days, and I liked watching the heat rise – and pretty much combust – between Rome and Sofie – so I’m still happy I read this one.

But, upon reflection, I think that this just wasn’t the right book at the right time for me. If you’re in the mood for an action adventure romance in general, or a bodyguard romance in particular, it might be the right book at the right time for you!

Review: The Specialist by Anna Hackett

Review: The Specialist by Anna HackettThe Specialist (Norcross Security #3) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance
Series: Norcross Security #3
Pages: 322
Published by Anna Hackett on March 26, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

She’s in danger and now her personal protector is her too handsome, totally aggravating billionaire boss.
Executive assistant Harlow Carlson is having a very bad week. Firstly, she’s been temporarily reassigned to work for bossy, workaholic tyrant, Easton Norcross. He might be sex in a suit, but mostly she just wants to stab him with her stylus. Secondly, her father’s in trouble and has gone missing. Lastly, when a strange man attacks her on the street, Harlow knows she’s in over her head.
That’s when Easton steps in. Now her boss is her own personal protector and he isn’t taking no for an answer.
After he left the Army Rangers, Easton Norcross found a purpose in building his company, Norcross Inc. He works hard, likes control, takes care of his family and employees, and thrives on making money. But his new assistant pushes buttons he never knew he had. Harlow’s smart, efficient, and not afraid to speak her mind. And her curvy body makes it very hard to remember that he’s her boss.
But when he sees she’s in danger, Easton is willing to break all the rules to keep her safe.
As danger swirls around Harlow and she’s sucked into her father’s dangerous dealings, Easton knows he’ll need all the specialist skills the Army gave him to protect her, as well as pulling in his brothers at Norcross Security. But the toughest job he’ll have is convincing his beautiful assistant to take the biggest risk of all—falling in love.
Note to readers: This is a sexy, fast-paced romance with lots of action-packed suspense, a heroine in danger, and a hot, billionaire boss who’ll do anything to protect her.
**Each book in this action-packed romance series can be read as a standalone.

My Review:

As much as I love this author’s blend of action adventure and romance, there’s always a special spot in my heart for the romance in each series where the boss of whatever the group is finally takes the fall into love. Ready or not, willing or unwilling.

Considering that being the bosses that they are, they are generally neither ready nor willing, it makes their inevitable fall all that much more delicious.

I also have a sneaking fondness in general for the slightly taboo thrill of workplace romance, particularly when that romance is between the hard nosed man in charge and someone he knows he really shouldn’t touch – like the assistant he can’t live without in the office but finds himself unexpectedly wanting to live with outside it.

The Specialist does a fantastic job of combining both of these romantic pleasures into one terrific story!

Escape Rating A-: I’m coming to the rating early because there was so much of this one that I so hard (there’s a pun intended here) and can’t wait to talk about the parts I loved.

Number one, in Easton Norcross the author has combined two of my all-time favorite romance heroes into one marvelous – and generally marvelously tailored – heartthrob.

As I said, I love this combination of tropes, the boss of bosses of an entire series (Team 52’s Jonah Greyson in Mission: Her Justice or Holmes in Hell Squad) with the falling for your boss, however reluctantly, trope. So this entry in the Norcross series gave me vibes of a story that I loved so much in this exact same vein – Rock Hard from Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss series.

For anyone who read that series – and if you haven’t please take a look! – Easton Norcross and T-Rex, AKA Gabriel Bishop, would be besties – once they stopped fighting over who was alpha.

But the descriptions of Easton, not just the way he looks but also the way he works, read like Easton is an Italian-American Roarke (of the awesome In Death series), just 40 years earlier and without the Urban Wars in his past. Just a different war.

So this is one where I fell hard for the hero. Maybe not as hard as the heroine, but damn close.

I also loved parts, but not all, of the heroine, Harlow Carlson, for her ability to stand in the face of Easton’s distracting, demanding, over-working and over-achieving hard-headedness in the office. In spite of the mess in her personal life, Harlow remains in control at the office, and never lets Easton steamroller her on the job.

As much as I enjoyed Easton, the one niggling little thing that keeps me from bumping this up to an A has to do with the pattern that is emerging in this series in regards to the heroines. Individually they’ve all been both likeable and worthy of the heroes, but they ALL seem to get in over-the-top, over-their-heads trouble from which they have to be rescued by the heroes. All of them seem to have either family or friends who do really dangerous and stupid shit that they can’t resist getting in up to their necks.

I really want to see at least one story where the heroine is equally – even if differently – badass, because these women, even Gia Norcross, veered a bit too close to damsel in distress territory.

But Easton was such an irresistible combination of Roarke and T-Rex that pretty much ate this story up with a spoon in a couple of very enjoyable hours.

This is a series where each story does stand alone, at least so far, but they are so long on fun and short on length that reading them all is a great binge-read for a rainy weekend. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here waiting for this author to give me her take on another one of my favorite romance tropes.

The next book in the Norcross Security series is The Bodyguard, taking up his duties in late April. I have a feeling that this will be grand!

Review: The Troubleshooter by Anna Hackett

Review: The Troubleshooter by Anna HackettThe Troubleshooter (Norcross Security #2) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance
Series: Norcross Security #2
Pages: 258
Published by Anna Hackett on October 18, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

Never, ever fall for your brother’s annoying, infuriating, gorgeous best friend.

Gia Norcross’ life is exactly how she likes it. She has a successful PR firm in San Francisco, a beautiful apartment, a loving family of overprotective brothers, and her fabulous designer shoe collection. Perfection. Sure, occasionally she has to deal with her aggravating nemesis who happens to be her brother’s best friend. Saxon Buchanan: tall, rich, handsome, bossy, and knows how to work her last nerve.

She’ll never, ever admit to anyone that most days, she isn’t sure if she wants to punch the arrogant, tattooed, suit-wearing know-it-all…or kiss him.

After a military career spent in a covert special ops team doing hard, dirty, and very classified missions, Saxon Buchanan is happy working at Norcross Security as the company’s top troubleshooter. He also enjoys the perks of civilian life. That includes sparring with smart, sexy Gia of the wide brown eyes, luscious curves, and sharp tongue. He’s spent half his life fighting the pull of his best friend’s little sister.

But seeing a man aim a gun at Gia changes everything.

When Gia’s troubled childhood best friend drags her into a really, really bad situation, soon bullets are flying, precious gemstones are missing, and Gia’s in danger. Saxon’s done pushing away the one woman he’s ever wanted. He’ll do everything to protect her, and he’s not letting anything get in his way: not the bad guys, not his best friend, and especially not Gia.

My Review:

This is the story I was expecting after the hints at the end of the first book in the Norcross series, The Investigator. And it was exactly the kind of terrific doozy of an action adventure romance that I expect from this author!

Gia Norcross has entirely too many brothers – or at least that’s how she sees it at least some of the time.

Not that she doesn’t love every single over-protective one of them. But they do have a testosterone-fueled tendency to try to protect her even when she doesn’t need protecting. And especially when she does.

As she does fairly often in this entry in the series.

Not, as happened a bit too often in the first book in the series, because the heroine couldn’t seem to recognize the obvious risks that she kept walking right into. But rather because Gia’s heart is very big and extremely loyal, and she’s unwilling to cut off one of her childhood friends. Even if that friend has become a liar, a thief, and a user of both pharmaceuticals and people.

And Gia is most often her target. Or her sucker. She’s someone who seriously needs some tough love, but Gia keeps on bailing her out of the trouble that she’s gotten herself into.

In this particular case, seriously big time trouble that follows her friend right to Gia’s doorstep. In search of the stolen jewels that said “friend” is letting Gia hide for her. Gems that are way more valuable – and chased by people way more deadly, than her friend is willing to admit.

Unlike her lying, using, so-called friend, Gia has some real badasses fighting in her corner. Because they’re her brothers, sometimes she’s fighting them more than the bad guys who are after her.

But one of those badasses is not one of her brothers, and in spite of the number of years they’ve been pissing each other off on a regular basis, she definitely doesn’t have any sisterly feelings towards Saxon Buchanan.

Occasionally murderous feelings, but even those are just a cover for how much she wants him and how long it’s been going on. But Saxon has been parading a seemingly endless stream of long leggy blondes through his bed, and Gia’s not remotely interested in being a notch on anyone’s bedpost. Especially not someone who seems to prefer women who are her exact opposite.

But, this isn’t the story of a rake reformed. Instead, it’s the classic story of the older brother’s best friend falling for his friend’s underage sister – who has grown up into the woman he wants but shouldn’t have.

Something about that damn ‘bro code getting in the way.

With at first one, then two and eventually three different sets of villains chasing after Gia for those stolen jewels that she doesn’t even have, Saxon Buchanan finally makes keeping Gia safe and making her his not just his top priority, but his only priority.

No matter what her brothers or any of those villains have to say in the matter. His real challenge is to get Gia to admit that she’s been on that train all along.

Escape Rating B+: I liked The Troubleshooter considerably more than I did The Investigator, so I’m really happy to say that the books stand more than enough alone that you don’t have to read the first to get into the second.

The reason I liked this one better is that Gia was a much more active character than Haven. Haven kept falling into trouble, and seemed to always be reacting to the crap that happened TO her.

Gia, on the other hand, felt proactive. Some of her actions didn’t turn out for the best, or didn’t turn out quite the way she planned, and occasionally the bad guys planned better, but it always felt like Gia was pushing her own action forward. She was never passive. She was not a passive person in any way, and she was always the prime mover of her own story no matter how much Saxon and her brothers tried to wrap her in cotton and keep her safe. Not always successfully. And that lack of success wasn’t remotely always Gia’s fault.

Instead, Gia’s fault isn’t a fault. Well, her temper is definitely a fault, but it isn’t what got her into this mess. Gia’s loyal, and always tries to see the best in people. As faults go, it’s a pretty good one. And it is one that gets her in trouble, but her actions, even when they turn out wrong, still keep the story moving and make her the prime agent of her own story.

I liked Gia a lot. She’d be a loyal friend and a whole lot of fun. But she’s also a serious businesswoman who has made her own way. There’s just a lot to admire about her character and I did.

I did enjoy the way that Saxon and Gia’s relationship exploded. Developed is not the right word, because it’s been there all along. Definitely exploded. They have explosive chemistry AND explosive tempers and they caught serious fire. Saxon is every bit as troubled as most of this author’s heroes, but the chemistry between them burned up the page and just plain worked.

One tiny thing niggled at me. In the previous story there was an evil old man who collected women to be his sex slaves. In this one there’s an evil old man who buys women to be sold as sex slaves. In neither case was the evil old lech the main villain. He felt over the top both times and I’m tired of reading about him. That’s my 2 cents and I’m sticking to it.

Howsomever, I’m definitely NOT tired of reading about the Norcross family. Especially as the hints at the end of this book promise that the next romance in the series will follow one of my favorite tropes, the falling for the boss trope. This time with the added bonus that the assistant is in no way intimidated by her boss’ power, or his money, or pretty much anything or anyone at all.

This is going to be so much fun!

Review: The Investigator by Anna Hackett

Review: The Investigator by Anna HackettThe Investigator (Norcross Security #1) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Norcross Security #1
Pages: 253
Published by Anna Hackett on September 15, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

It should have been easy. Stay away from her boss’ hot brother.
Museum curator Haven McKinney has sworn off men. All of them. Totally. She’s recently escaped a bad ex and started a new life for herself in San Francisco. She loves her job at the Hutton Museum, likes her new boss, and has made best friends with his feisty sister. Haven’s also desperately trying not to notice their brother: hotshot investigator Rhys Norcross. And she’s really trying not to notice his muscular body, sexy tattoos, and charming smile.
Nope, Rhys is off limits.
Investigator Rhys Norcross is good at finding his targets. After leaving an elite military team, he thrives on his job at his brother’s security firm, Norcross Security. He’s had his eye on smart, sexy Haven for a while, but the pretty curator with her eyes full of secrets is proving far harder to chase down than he anticipated.
Luckily, Rhys never, ever gives up.
When thieves target the museum and steal a multi-million-dollar painting in a daring theft, Haven finds herself right in the middle of a deadly situation. With the painting gone and Haven in danger, Rhys vows to do whatever it takes to keep her safe, and Haven finds herself risking the one thing she was trying so hard to protect—her heart.

My Review:

The Norcross family of next-level badasses/security consultants was first introduced in Mission: Her Safety when Team 52 needed some high-level intel on the villainous badass they were hunting for. They got in touch with Vander Norcross, and we got the seeds of this series of contemporary, high-octane action adventure romance.

Which does not begin with Vander’s romance. Instead we have his younger brother Rhys on the trail of a bunch of seriously high-end art thieves who have just stolen part of Monet’s Water Lilies series from the high-class art museum owned by business mogul brother Easton Norcross.

(Norcross is also the name of two towns in the U.S., one in Georgia and one in Minnesota. I live near the one in Georgia, so every time I see the Norcross name I have a bit of a giggle.)

This series opener introduces readers to the four Norcross siblings, brothers Vander, Easton and Rhys, along with sister Gia, whose new best friend Haven McKinney is the new curator of Easton’s museum.

You would think that Haven would finally have achieved, if not a happy ever after yet, at least a solid sense of life finally being unfair in her favor. She left an abusive ex and a douchecanoe job behind in Miami, while life in San Francisco has provided her with a dream job, a fantastic new best friend, and a whole lot of seriously yummy man candy in the persons of her boss and his brothers to drool over in private.

Because publicly she’s decided she’s over men. Mostly she’s still smarting after her misjudgment of the abusive ex back in Miami.

But it seems like the roller coaster ride of Haven’s life in Miami isn’t nearly done with her yet. She thought she was through with shit happening when she switched coasts, only to discover that all of the bad stuff she left behind has reached all the way across the country to mess up her life one more time.

Water-Lily Pond and Weeping Willow, 1916-19 by Claude Monet

Over and over and over again, just starting with that theft of Water Lilies.

But things are different now. In Miami she was on her own, and her best course of action was to flee. In San Francisco, she has the Norcross family in her corner. They’ll fight to protect her, because she’s theirs. And she’ll fight to stick, because they’re hers. And not just her bestie Gia.

Because Haven McKinney isn’t really over men at all. And she never wants to get over Rhys Norcross. Not ever.

Escape Rating B: I have to say that while I certainly liked The Investigator, I didn’t love it as much as I have most of this author’s previous series openers like Marcus (Hell Squad), Edge of Eon (Eon Warriors) and Mission: Her Protection (Team 52). Actually, this is an author I just plain like – and often more, period, so liking the book was a given. This one just didn’t have the something extra that wows me the way that her science fiction romance generally does.

But I still had a good reading time with The Investigator, and if you’re more into contemporary romance than SFR this would be a great place to start with Anna Hackett.

That being said, I have to talk a bit about why this was a like and not a love – unlike Haven and Rhys who are gone on each other long before either of them is willing to admit it.

As I was reading Haven’s story, it felt like she was someone to whom bad things kept happening, generally through no fault of her own. It felt like a “heroine in jeopardy” story where every single thing turned out to be yet another way for Haven to end up in such deep trouble that she needed to be rescued by the Norcross family.

Poor Haven often felt like a vehicle for the plot rather than a participant in the story. She isn’t in a position where she can act, she’s always in a position where she has to react. And after a story of Haven having one bad thing after another center on her, the final plot screw where the evil, villainous art collector takes one look at her and just HAS to add her to his collection pushed things well over-the-top, at least for me. It was just a cliché too far to maintain my willing suspension of disbelief.

At the same time, the walking, talking cliché that was Haven’s abusive ex-from-Miami played into all the stereotypes about men who are abusive, blame it on just how much they love the woman they’ve abused and expect to be taken back because they really, really love her, read like a terrific expose of just how rotten this stereotype is and just how entitled the male brat thinks he is. He read as a total jerk and Haven as utterly righteous for dumping him in the trash where he belonged.

That he didn’t stay in that trash is both an example of exactly what an entitled bastard he is AND the starting point for every single bad thing that happens to Haven in the story. Except for the cliché, evil, villainous collector of women as well as art. His attempt to collect Haven was entirely his own evil – except that he wouldn’t have met her at all if not for the ex and his stupid shenanigans. See, it does all come back that ex!

So, I had a good but not great time with this one. This series continues next month with The Troubleshooter. If that turns out to be Gia’s story, as the hints in The Investigator suggest (and it is! YAY!), I expect to be wowed because Gia is definitely going to be the star of her own story!