Review: Black List by Lynn Raye Harris

Reviewed by Sara

Black List,  book 1 of Lynne Raye Harris’ Black’s Bandits series begins as Jace Kaiser, former Russian fugitive and now premier spy and mercenary for Black Defense International(BDI), joins the hunt for international assassin Calypso. After tracking her down at a Russian oligarch’s birthday party, Jace captures Calypso and ferries her away to BDI’s American headquarters. Unfortunately for Jace, the woman he brings back to the States isn’t Calypso, but American and Russian art appraiser, Dr. Madeline Cole. Oops!

Dr. Madeline Cole is a self professed nobody. Alone in the world except for her Grandmother who suffers from dementia, her best friend Angie and her long suffering cat, Kitty, Dr. Cole’s existence until her time in Russia has been pretty low key. Now, because of her similar appearance to Calypso, she’s jet setting all over the globe and being interrogated by handsome mercenaries. As much as she wants to be furious with Jace, she’s also sad to see him go once she’s released. It could’ve been the whole traumatic experience, but Maddy felt there might have been a spark of something between her and Jace.

Jace knows that Calypso likely isn’t done with Maddy and is determined to protect her even if it means going against all of his training or even sacrificing his life to keep the woman who’s stolen his heart safe. While Maddy, will have to decide if being with a man who’s past, secrets and even his real name are classified is something she can handle all while under the threat of constant danger.

I really enjoyed the beginning of Black List. I thought the premise of mistaken identity in the high stakes world of mercenaries, assassins and spies was a really cool concept and I was really interested in learning more about the main characters, Jace and Dr. Cole. I love the kind of alpha male and the nerdy, but sassy, female character pairing, but as soon as the action of the Black List’s beginning was over these two both went through a severe personality change. Jace quickly became more of a jerk than an alpha male. He flew off the handle more than once at Maddy, exhibited some pretty extreme anger, and ran really hot and cold when it came to getting intimate in a way that was less about nerves or wanting to take things slow, and more of a demeaning, “I know what’s best for you” kind of way. He also really infantilized Dr. Cole, constantly calling her sweet and innocent, making pretty huge decisions for her, and getting weirdly turned on by her using the word “fuck”. Jace’s character, to me, went from super, cool spy with a tragic backstory to angry, overbearing, creepy douche.

On the other hand, Dr. Cole’s character went from a smart, talented, well-travelled woman with a cool job to an obtuse doormat. After Jace and Maddy return back to the US and the romance portion of the book really kicks into gear, Maddy constantly refers to herself negatively. She calls herself “dull”, “nothing special” and she simply cannot understand why Jace is with her. Maddy is also really slow on the uptake on what dating a spy/mercenary while being under the threat of violence from another spy/assassin is going to be like. She is completely hung up on the fact that Jace won’t reveal his real name to her and brings it up several times. Maddy’s also put out that she’s not given all the information on her situation and is probably the worst person to guard because she does things that are in direct opposition to the goal of keeping her safe. Maddy goes from Dr. Cole, a character I want to see more of, to a whiny, self-deprecating, moron who can’t figure out why a spy might not give you his real name.

Another issue that killed Black List for me was the timeline of Jace’s backstory. I found that accounts of Jace’s past conflicted and didn’t seem to add up. I couldn’t pin down his age at all and he was either a really accomplished and skilled young man or someone a bit too old and battle scarred for Maddy. I don’t like math and the last thing I want to be doing while I’m reading a book is trying to sort out how old a character is.

The concept of Black List and the characters introduced in the book’s first several chapters were excellent, but as Black List progressed the story became less focused, the plot predictable, and the characters more and more unlikeable. Black List just wasn’t for me.

Rating – D

*ARC provided for honest review.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Black List
by Lynn Raye Harris
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Publisher: HOT Publishing

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