February 6, 2015

REVIEW: Last Hit (Hitman #1)

Last Hit (Hitman #1), by Jessica Clare and Jen Frederick
Published February 3, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Format: paperback, provided by the publisher
Genre: adult romantic suspense/crime
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) Nikolai: I have been a contract killer since I was a boy. For years I savored the fear caused by my name, the trembling at the sight of my tattoos. The stars on my knees, the marks on my fingers, the dagger in my neck, all spoke of danger. If you saw my eyes, it was the last vision you’d have. I have ever been the hunter, never the prey. With her, I am the mark and I am ready to lie down and let her capture me. Opening my small, scarred heart to her brings out my enemies. I will carry out one last hit, but if they hurt her, I will bring the world down around their ears.

Daisy : I’ve been sheltered from the outside world all my life. Home-schooled and farm-raised, I’m so naive that my best friend calls me Pollyanna. I like to believe the best about people. Nikolai is part of this new life, and he’s terrifying to me. Not because his eyes are cold or my friend warns me away from him, but because he’s the only man who has ever seen the real me beneath the awkwardness. With him, my heart is at risk . . . and also, my life.

It always amazes me when I read books penned by two different authors. You would think you could tell. That there would be two different styles or two separate parts that clearly state "This was written by two people." If I didn't know that LAST HIT was written by two popular authors, I'd not have guessed it. Their writing melded together perfectly in this dark and dangerous suspense drama.

While on a job, Nikolai catches sight of sweet, innocent Daisy, and sees that she is everything he is not. He's dark, and she's light. And, he really wants some of that light to touch his life. He's tired of being a hired assassin with no ties to anyone or anywhere. He sees Daisy and wants her and everything she represents. But, he has a job he has to finish first, and then try and find a way to shake his past once and for all before he can really be with her. And, if she ever finds out what he does for a living, would she still want him anyway?

Last Hit was such an intense book! Nikolai really straddles the line between good and bad. He does bad things, but you get the impression that he's inherently a good guy. He's a bad guy with a conscience. He only kills the people that have done bad things. He's like the Russian Dexter. Nikolai is so adorable with Daisy. He hasn't had a lot of experience with relationships - with anyone. Male or female. Friends or girlfriends. So, this is uncharted territory for him.

It's likewise uncharted territory for Daisy. Because of a tragedy in her childhood, her father became an agoraphobic, and he kept his daughter inside with him. For 13 years she was barely allowed outside. She couldn't go to school or watch TV or have a cell phone. Daisy didn't have any relationships of any kind either, but she knows she's looking for a white knight to sweep her off her feet and take her away from her non-life. 

I want a hero. A big, strong, handsome prince to come rescue me from my miserable life. But since one has not arrived, I must rescue myself.

When she meets Nikolai, they have the lack of connections in common. Despite that, Daisy easily sees that Nikolai is way out of her league. She's not prepared at all for what she feels when she's with him. The only man she's ever even spoken to before is her father. So, when she finally gets away and starts a new life, Nikolai is the first man to engage with her, and she's totally unprepared for how to handle him. 

He has intensity. There is something so vibrant, so aware, so alive about him that it sings to me. I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Is it because my father has always been a shadow of himself and because he did his best to break me? Nick, I think, would never be broken. I like that about him.

Through all their fumbling and somewhat awkward encounters, they forge an unlikely relationship. Nikolai is protective and incredibly sweet. Daisy tries her hardest to maintain some semblance of herself while being swept off her feet by her very own prince. Which, has to be hard when she's only now trying to figure out who she really is. It's hard enough to find your place in a new relationship with someone, but when you're also trying to find your way in a new city, a new job - a completely new way of life - it had to have been disorienting for her. 

Nikolai lives an incredibly dangerous life, and as you would expect, it eventually bleeds into Daisy's. Nikolai has experience with thugs and guns and violence. Daisy does not, and despite his best efforts to shield her and protect her from it, he fails. The result is a nail-biting final 25% that shocked me in its brutality and harshness. And, Daisy comes face-to-face with who Nikolai really is and what he does for a living. I can't even imagine what all that was like for her. 

Last Hit is told in third person, so we get several peoples' POVs. Despite Daisy's lack of experience, Nikolai is a good teacher, and some of the scenes between them were super steamy and sexy. This was an intense, exciting, and at times, poignant story about two people trying to figure out how to love in strange circumstances. I'm looking forward to more stories in this world, and I hope we have a chance to catch up with Daisy and Nikolai to see where they are in the future.  

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