Book Review: Dealing in Death by L. J. Hayward

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Ethan Blade—assassin extraordinaire, cold-blooded killer, heartless monster, and . . . retiree?
I’ve spent my whole life dealing in death, efficiently eliminating targets while fighting to preserve a sense of self and morality, to avoid becoming as detached and ruthless as my siblings. I thought I had succeeded. Then I met Jack Reardon—contrary, handsome, forgiving, and far too good for the likes of me—and my life was tipped upside down. When he asked me to move in with him, he didn’t specify that I had to quit my job, but I wanted to—for myself, not for him. I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.
My old instincts—“Ethan Blade”—are soon tempted out of retirement by a job offer I can’t afford to refuse and by an old hook-up of Jack’s he’d be a fool to refuse. While falling prey to my own temptation, Jack struggles with his. Which is precisely when the true danger exposes itself—one of my siblings with no such sense of self or morality. Only pain. And he is prepared to rain it down on me and Jack, unless I can square the Ethan Blade I want to be with the one I need to be, in time to save us both.

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I have been looking for the next book in this series intermittently, but maybe it’s been a while and I completely missed that this novella was releasing at the end of August. Thanks to some of the author Facebook groups I follow for reminding me of it and I knew I had to read it immediately. (This review is posting on my blog a few months after I read it, and I hope you all don’t mind.)

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I was actually surprised to know that this novella is the story before and during the events of Why the Devil stalks Death from the POV of Ethan. I was a bit worried that it might get repetitive because I already know what happened, but I was also excited because I was going to get to be inside Ethan’s head the whole time. But the author really managed to surprise me. There are a lot of things that happened in Ethan’s life during the same time as the investigation in Book 2, and it was fascinating to read about it all. The pacing was very quick and it felt like I was piecing together a puzzle, trying to find answers to some of the lingering questions from the previous book. I also think it was nice to finally read a book in a single timeline, though I suspect we won’t be that lucky in the next installment. And of course it was wrong of me to expect a relatively peaceful ending, because a couple of things that happened here seem like an indicator of much more personal dangers coming the way of our protagonists in the future – and I can’t wait to read them about them all.

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We never really get to know Ethan a lot in the previous books, so it was a joy to read this book. His POV lays bare all his insecurities, his craving for affection, his unusual relationship with all his siblings, his desperation to want to be with Jack but also worrying if he is keeping the other man from true safety and happiness. The love that he feels for Jack is reflected in his every thought and action, and it made me very emotional to read his thoughts. Every time he felt that Jack might want to be with someone else, or he was endangering Jack’s life, I teared up and just wanted to give Ethan a hug. How far have I come from being scared of this ruthless assassin to being utterly and hopelessly in love with him. Their relationship is just perfect and the way the author described all the myriad feelings that Ethan felt during the “kiss” was wow!!!! What an amazing moment that was…

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Finally, this was a novella I didn’t know I needed but now can’t live without. Getting to know Ethan better is wonderful and I adore the author for making us care about this couple even more. I really hope the next book comes out soon, and maybe the author will take pity on us readers and give us a dual POV this time. And for anyone out there wondering if you should read this series – If you love reading about emotionally closed off lethal killers finding love, chapters full of cliffhangers that’ll keep you at the edge of your seat, and the refreshing setting of Australia, this series is perfect for you and I think you should start reading immediately.

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