I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Stripped by Tara Wyatt
Series: Blue Heat #1
Published by Avon Impulse on May 15, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Suspense
Source: the author
Barnes & Noble
Detective Sawyer Matthews isn’t just having a bad day—he’s having the worst day. His hunt for the criminal who killed his team member has stalled and now… he’s got to play nice with his new, totally unwanted partner. It’s not that she isn’t qualified, or that he doesn’t like her—it’s because he knows what she looks like naked. So very, very naked.
Brooke Simmons finally landed her dream job working for H.E.A.T, an elite undercover detective squad, and she’s not giving up simply because she had a one-night-stand with her sullen—but undeniably sexy—new partner. They’ll just have to keep it professional. Easier said than done, considering their first case requires Sawyer to infiltrate a drug cartel operating out of a male strip show. Watching him do his best Magic Mike impression every night isn’t just hot—it’s torture.
Sawyer doesn’t need any distractions, yet his attraction to Brooke is explosive and he can’t resist going for round two. Or three. Or four. But as their investigation progresses and danger mounts, they’ll have to put their jobs, hearts, and lives on the line to fight… for each other, for survival, and for justice.
This was one of those books where the conflict, in this case, the fact that it’s not permitted for partners to be romantically involved, seems to have a pretty clear resolution, so it’s frustrating when the characters don’t see it. Brooke and Sawyer have one amazing night together, then go their separate ways. They’re never going to see each other again, and it’s ok, it’s what they intended. But – surprise! Brooke shows up to start her new job on Monday, and Sawyer is her new partner. We’ve seen this set up enough that I think it’s fair to say, look – if you’re getting ready to start a new job or transfer schools, or whatever, just don’t have a one-night stand. There’s an excellent chance your new boss, partner, or student will be the person you swore to never see again.
Anyway – Brooke shows up for her first day at her new job and walks into a shitstorm. Sawyer’s previous partner, Ryan Walker, was recently killed in the line of duty. Sawyer’s not over it, obviously, and the other partner pairing they work with, Jack and Amelia, aren’t over it, especially Amelia, who was engaged to Ryan. Which goes to my previous point. Technically, the 2 partnerships were Sawyer and Ryan, Jack and Amelia. But the 4 of them worked all of their cases together, and Ryan and Amelia were engaged. So when it was clear that Brooke and Sawyer had feelings for each other, how was the obvious solution not to pair up Sawyer and Amelia, and Jack and Brooke as the actual partnerings with the 4 of them still working together on everything. It’s how it had been working for years, what was the difference this time?
There were a lot of parts of this book I really liked, and a lot I was more ambivalent on. I liked Sawyer and Brooke together as a couple; I thought they complemented each other well and had a real connection. As work partners, I liked them a little less. In fact, the entire mystery plot fell flat for me. The priority for them is to find Ryan’s killer, as it should be. They’re pretty sure they know who it was, they just don’t have the evidence they need to arrest him for it.
Sawyer gets a job as a stripper in order to get a line on the drug dealer they’ve been trying to catch for years. These scenes were really fun. Sawyer seemed like he was having a lot of fun with the undercover assignment, and Brooke was certainly enjoying her role as enthusiastic fan. Again, though, this part of the story struck me as a little easy. One or two “man, I wish I had more money” conversations from Sawyer, and the main dealer at the club was not only inviting him to sell some of the drugs himself in the world’s worst pyramid scheme but also taking him along to pickups with his own dealer and depending on Sawyer to be backup in shady situations. It was all just a little too easy.
Overall, though, I really liked this book. The case against Ryan’s killer seems like it’s not quite wrapped up, so I have to think it will continue in subsequent books. I’m not overly invested in that, to be honest, but I am interested in the stories of the other cops on the squad, so I’ll check it out.