Read with: Amazon Kindle
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: I-Team, Book 2
Hero: Julian Darcangelo
Heroine: Tessa Marie Novak
Date of Publication: October 3, 2006
Started On: October 26, 2010
Finished On: October 27, 2010
Another sleepless night, and yep, not even one iota of regret. The I-Series is by far the best Romantic Suspense series that I have had the pleasure of reading and believe me, I have read tons of romantic suspense to-date though I have managed to review only a handful because I started reviewing books only around a year back. Having read Extreme Exposure I didn’t waste any time on starting with the second book in the I-Team series, all the characters of Ms. Clare’s dream team certainly endearing enough that they require a revisit every now and then. So onto my review of Hard Evidence and the dark, edgy and sinfully sexy Julian Darcangelo.
The Hero: From the moment I first encountered Julian Darcangelo’s name itself I envisioned a brooding, scarred and dark hero who could fuel any woman’s wildest fantasies. And Julian’s character represents that and much more. Six feet tall with long hair that he ties up in a ponytail and a rough stubble on his jaw from time to time *swoons*, Julian or Dark Angel as he is known in certain circles is working deep undercover to catch the worst type of scum on Earth. Julian’s childhood is a nightmare to read about. Julian had grown up thinking that its the norm to wake up in the morning to find half naked whores passed out next to his father on the couch. His mother who had been Irish, had divorced his father when Julian had just been two years old. Julian’s good for nothing father had fled across the border with little Julian in tow and had become the worst sort of pimp. Julian’s first love had been a Mexican prostitute his father had paid to screw him when he had just been fifteen years old. All illusions of love and romance had fled once he had walked into find her in bed with his father. Having had no love, nor tenderness in his life, Julian takes to the streets of Mexico to land in jail for 30 years for manslaughter for accidentally killing a man during a fistfight when he had been 17 years old. It had been Ed Dyson from the FBI who had saved him by making him an offer of a lifetime – put his fluent Spanish and Mexican street smarts to use for them or rot in prison. Julian had taken the offer and never looked back. Well-versed in Aikido and armed with his gun which is as much part of his attire as the shirt on his back, Julian is a force to be reckoned with. With the FBI, Julian had gone deep undercover to search out the worst type of trash there is – those responsible for human trafficking, child pornography and use of underage children in prostitution. Nothing about the dark side of human nature when it comes to sex shocks Julian anymore. And though he sometimes dreams and yearns for a normal life with a wife, kids and the whole white picket fence, Julian knows that he is too world weary and cynical to offer a woman what she deserves. Julian has made it his lifelong mission to hunt down and bring the leader of the gang to justice – a man who eluded him in a raid 3 years ago, the reason for which Julian had quit the FBI and started working solo. Constantly blaming himself for each life that his enemy takes down, Julian had been working for the past 4 months serving as the FBI liaison to Denver Police Department’s vice unit when all hell literally breaks loose and brings him in direct contact with Tessa, the woman who changes everything.
The Heroine: Tessa Marie Novak, a coffee addict with long curly blond hair (which earns her the nickname Goldilocks from Julian) and big blue eyes, Tessa is the cop reporter for Denver Independent’s elite I-Team. Tessa had grown up in Rosebud Texas with her mother who had born her when she had just been 14 years old and her drunken lout of a grandfather. Having never known her father, Tessa grows up amidst gossip and insinuations that her mother is actually her sister as well. Right after high school graduation, Tessa leaves her old life behind and totally makes a new life and name for herself. Ashamed of her roots, Tessa never talks about her past and hasn’t spoken to her mother in 10 years. Though Tessa yearns for the happily ever after that Kara had found with Senator Reece (in Book 1, Extreme Exposure), Tessa knows that she is not one to trust a man easily enough to find the love and companionship that she so sorely misses in her life. Having had only one brief affair during her senior year at college which had been 7 years ago, Tessa decides to concentrate all her energies on finding a good story as everything seems to have hit a stalemate for the past couple of months.
Storyline: It is Tessa’s craving for a cup of coffee that lands her in the midst of a shooting spree that kills a young teenage girl who comes in sobbing and screaming for help from the bad guys who were trying to kill her. Momentarily taken aback, Tessa is a helpless witness to a brutal slaying which changes her perspective on murder and her role as a reporter in investigative journalism. Vowing that the girl who had never had a chance wouldn’t be just a mere statistic, Tessa starts her own investigation into gang-related crimes which puts her in contact with the delectable Julian who sets all her senses afire. Tessa with her reports on the incident stirs the interest of a sadistic crime lord who takes perversive pleasure in hurting women and Julian can’t help his protective instincts that comes forth when it comes to Tessa who makes him defy everything he has believed of himself till now. As the danger escalates around them, so does the fiery passion that burns out of control whenever Julian and Tessa are in each others vicinity. Feelings that each had never thought they would feel come into play and make a situation fraught with danger and red hot passion that much more complicated – a complexity that I as a reader reveled in all throughout!
First Encounter: Tessa first sights Julian after the shocking murder that she witnesses. Tessa mistakenly thinks Julian to be the killer and later finds out she couldn’t be further from the truth. Their first encounter takes place within a cleaning closet at the hospital in which the other witness to the murder had been admitted. Still not knowing who Julian actually is, Tessa’s instincts to flee kick in which doesn’t do her much good when face to face with Julian’s rock hard masculinity pressed to her body from head to foot.
Time period: This story is set in the state of Colorado as well and has a contemporary setting to it.
Awareness between the hero and heroine: Julian at first thinks Tessa to be just another one of those reporters who is after a juicy piece of news that would make her career which makes him at times insulting which raises Tessa’s ire to no end. However Julian’s self-formed opinion doesn’t change his helpless fascination with Tessa. A kiss which Julian intends to silence Tessa backfires on him when he feels the tentative brush of Tessa’s tongue on his which breaks his ironclad control around women. Though both Julian and Tessa are as wary of one another as only two people with broken childhoods can be, the strong connection between them is just too enticing to ignore and even when they are apart from one another, the continuous foray of images of their encounters leave both of them wanting more, much much more!
The turning point: Though Julian knows that he is not the white picket fence kind of guy, Tessa proves to be far much more alluring than he can resist. Each time they nearly make it to the point of no return only to be brought back to reality by something or the other hardens Julian’s resolve to keep his hands to himself, that is until the next time he sees Tessa. When Tessa’s investigative reports nearly earn her an express ticket to the grave, Julian takes her into his lair whereby the constant proximity between them finally proves to be their undoing.
Ending: Before the story is through, Tessa is drawn into a web of deceit by people who are too close to comfort to Julian which in return forces Julian to accept the depth of his feelings for the woman who had torn apart the walls of steel around his heart. The bad guys get what they rightfully deserve, the whole operation of which is brought down during the next couple of days made me go “Yay!!” towards the end. And Julian and Tessa gets their much deserved happily ever after – white picket fences and all during the beautiful epilogue at the very end.
Likes: Dark Angel or Julian is of course the most favorite aspect of the novel from a reader who continually drools over heroes such as him in books. With emotional scars that runs deep within him, Julian is totally the type to bring a girl to her knees. I just want to run my hands all over him! *Winks*
I loved Tessa as the woman who shines light into Julian’s otherwise dark and murky world. Tessa whose world comes crashing down with boob grabbing stalkers after her, changes into the type of courageous yet vulnerable heroine who any reader can relate to. I loved the relationship dynamics in the story and absolutely approve of the fact that Ms. Clare doesn’t let the suspense nor the romance take the lead in the story, but rather keep the two going at the same pace which makes this book a winner on all fronts! And yes, I heart the cover of this one as well! Reminds me of the bathroom scene in the book! *Wicked grin*
Dislikes: Absolutely none!
Recommended for: Fans of romantic suspense and all romance lovers in general.
Tessa heard the door open behind her, felt the hot shock of his lips on hers, and in dazed disbelief realized what he was doing. He was trying to shush her, trying to control her. It was nothing less than assault, and it both stunned and enraged her. She pushed against his chest to no avail, tried to scream, but when she opened her mouth, hsis tongue invaded, turning her scream into a stifled squeak.
A bolt of heat, unexpected and unwanted, shot through her, and her insides seemed to melt as he attacked her senses, his tongue teasing hers with stolen strokes, his lips pressing hot and unyielding against her.
In one move, he had her up against the wall, her wrists shackled by his hands, her arms stretched out on either side of her head. “You’re right. That wasn’t a kiss, but this is.”
“Wh-what the – ?”
“Shut up.” He ducked down, brushed his lips down the curve of her cheek, ran the tip of his tongue over the whorl of her ear. She smelled good enough to eat, her perfume subtle and sexy and so female. Hungry for her, he sucked her earlobe into his mouth, pearl earring and all.
He heard her quick intake of breath, felt her body tense.
“I said shut up.” He released her right wrist, cupped her chin, tilted her head upward.
Then he kissed her deep and hard.
And she melted.
She hopped off the bed, cut him off at the door, her hand pressed against his chest to stop him. “Don’t try to push me away! It’s my time to waste.”
“Tessa!” One word, her name – a low growl of warning.
A muscle clenched in his jaw, his heart pounding against her palm.
She held her ground. “There’s nothing inside you that scares me, Julian.”
She saw in his eyes the moment his control snapped. In a heartbeat, she found herself pinned beneath him on the floor her arms stretched over her head, her wrists cuffed by one big hand. He glared down at her, an almost feral look on his face, his thighs forcing hers apart. “You really want to know what’s inside me?”
Then his mouth closed over hers in a brutal, punishing kiss.
Onto book 3, and hello another sleepless night!