Published by Carina on February 22nd 2016
Genres: Romance, Suspense
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Ex–Special Forces agent Artem "Art" Diaz is tatooed, muscular and undeniably dangerous. He's also deep undercover, posing as mob muscle for a deadly bratva boss. His mission: gain the Russians' trust. Then lead the strike team that will kill them all.
Chef Hayley Baskov knows better than to get involved with someone with such close mafia ties, but the handsome bodyguard who brought her to this cold, sprawling estate full of ruthless mobsters is inexplicably kind. A little firtation may keep her safe amidst the growing menace.
As Art’s timetable for action escalates, so do his encounters with Hayley. Stealing what illicit pleasure they can keeps them both sane in the face of evil. But when things get dangerous, Art has to tell her about his assignment, bringing her deeper into the shadowy world of black ops...and putting her life on the line.
Now Art has a new objective: protect Hayley from the man they both call boss.
I think that if I hadn’t known ahead of time this was written by a dude, I’d have been looking around by the halfway point to find out. That’s not to say it was bad or horribly written or anything else. But there was something definitely dude-like about it.
So Haley Baskov is a chef. Importantly for this story, she’s Russian, and was taught all of the authentic Russian recipes that have been passed down through the generations. Which brings her to the attention of the Russian mob, who “invites” her to cook for them at a big week-long meeting of all the mob bosses. This invitation is delivered by one gorgeous specimen of a man named Artem “Art” Diaz. Art is half-Russian, half-Mexican, so he can’t ever be considered part of the in-group of Russian mob enforcers that he works with. Which is actually smart on the part of the mobsters, because Art is really there to take out the entire group.
The connection between Art and Haley happened a little too quickly for me. There wasn’t really anything to bring them together. I mean Art thinking Haley is hot is one thing. Him considering blowing his cover and risking his entire op based on nothing more than thinking she’s tough because she watched a fight and wasn’t bothered by the blood and violence was a little much for me to believe.
I think one of the biggest disconnects for me was the lack of dialogue. There just wasn’t very much of it. Haley and Art think about each other a lot, and they tell us that they’re falling for the other, but there wasn’t really enough dialogue or interaction between them for me to get it or see where it was coming from, especially because there’s no pre-existing relationship. They were complete strangers at the beginning of the book. They spent a surprising amount of time in the story apart from each other, so I just couldn’t see how they were each coming to the conclusion that they were falling in love.
I also wanted a little bit more of Automatik. Due to the nature of the story, Art and Haley are pretty isolated, and we don’t meet any of the other members of the black ops team until the big showdown at the very end. Even then, it’s just a few snappy one-liners they throw at each other and an epilogue where they’re having dinner with each other. This is book 1 in the Automatik series, and at this point, I couldn’t even guess who the next book is about or even name who I’d want it to be about.
The best part of this book for me was Haley in the kitchen. The descriptions of the food were amazing. I could smell them coming through my Kindle. I don’t think I’ve ever had Russian food, but this book had me wanting to seek out the nearest Russian restaurant and order everything. She was so passionate about her food. She was even ok serving Russian mobsters for a week because they were so appreciative of her food. Well. Maybe she wasn’t ok with it. But she found at least a little joy in how much they loved her food.
Overall, I thought this one was ok,, but not great. I haven’t read very many romances by men, and this book certainly wouldn’t turn me off of them. The next one in the series is out in July, and I have the ARC for that, and I’m excited to read it. Mainly because the cover for the next one is even more gorgeous than this one. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a great set of abs.