Thursday, February 1, 2018

TBQ's Review: Zero Hour

Zero Hour by Megan Erickson
Publisher: Forever (January 30, 2018)
Series: Wired and Dangerous, 1
Genre: Romantic Suspense

The Fast and the Furious meets Mr. Robot in USA Today bestselling author Megan Erickson's thrilling new romantic suspense series.

Hacker extraordinaire Roarke Brennan lives each hour - each breath - to avenge his brother's murder. His first move: put together a team of the best coders he knows. They're all brilliant, specialized, and every one an epic pain in his ass. Only now Wren Lee wants in too, threatening to upset their delicate balance. The girl Roarke never allowed himself to want is all grown up with sexy confidence and a dark past ... and she's the wild card he can't control.

Roarke might still think she's a kid, but Wren's been to hell and back. Nothing and nobody can stop her - especially the tatted-up, cocky-as-all-hell hacker. But when years of longing and chemistry collide, Wren and Roarke discover that revenge may be a dish best served blazing hot.

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Content warnings: Mention/backstory of women being drugged, assaulted, and raped, as well as mention of sex trafficking and illegal [non-consensual] porn.

My Review:

Over the years, I’ve went on quite the journey with Megan Erickson. I started with one of her new adult M/F titles [Make It Last], then quickly devoured all the M/M titles she started writing [Trust the Focus], including the ones she co-wrote with Santino Hassell [Cyberlove series]. Last year she started two new series – a post-apoc paranormal with werewolves (M/M so far) and a modern-day paranormal with vampires (M/F so far). I’ve loved all of those books; some more than others, sure, because that’s the nature of reading, period. Now Erickson is starting 2018 out by kicking off another series and subgenre: romantic suspense. After reading Zero Hour, I’m totally here for this and I’m looking forward to not only the rest of this series, but literally anything else she sends our way in the future. Erickson, at this point I will follow you wherever your writing takes you. (Well, as long as it's romance because that's my reading hard limit, tbh.)

Roarke’s brother, Flynn, was killed for knowing too much about his boss’s dark side. Now Roarke’s entire focus is set on getting revenge for Flynn and bringing down his brother’s boss and murderer. He’s good at what he does (hacking) but he’s still going to need some help to pull this plan off. He starts gathering his old hacker friends together as a crew for this project and everything is lining up – until two surprises show up. First, Dade, a rival/enemy hacker; he’s still on the fence about trusting this mysterious guy, though he can’t deny that he’ll be very useful to the crew. And second, Wren bursts in, demanding a part on the team. Wren is his best friend’s little sister, and she’s been off limits for years. He’s yet to shake those non-brotherly feelings for her, but he also doesn’t want her in danger. Wren’s not taking no for an answer, especially since she has her own reasons to go after Flynn’s murderer, and her own revenge plan to carry out.

Everyone thinks Wren is just a journalist, but secretly she’s been hacking for years. It all started after her and a friend had a terrible trauma happen to them in college (they were both drugged, and the friend was raped on camera; Wren was able to get away first). Since then, Wren has been looking out for Fiona and trying to catch Darren red-handed, so the authorities could stop him from doing this to anyone else. To do that, she needs to get into his computers and files to find proof. This mission will be a two-for-one deal -- if they can pull it off -- revenging both Flynn and Fiona. But things are not as easy as they thought, and it turns out they don’t know all the players on this chess board . . .

I love that this is a different kind of romantic suspense – at least, different from what I’ve read. There’s danger and action, yes, but it’s also set around hackers who can kick ass, rather than being set around current or former hyper-masculine military dudes. Nothing wrong with those RS titles, of course, but it was nice to get something else for once.

He was still a fine, fine man. 
His chest had filled out some since Wren had last seen him, and his posture was more confident. Standing there in a ball cap, torn jeans, bloody shirt, and a scowl, Roarke Brennan was a dream. 
Well, if a girl’s dream was a tattooed tech-head who was now glaring at her like he wanted her to disappear. 
Okay, so the dream needed work.

Wren is Korean American and has some tatts, plus the whole “hiding-her-hacking-skills-under-an-innocent-mask” going on. Roarke also has tatts – a lot more than she does, including some across his hands/fingers, which I hear hurts like a MOFO – and, like Wren, originally started hacking to protect someone he cared for. [Spoiler: it was for her. He started it to help her out.]

“I cared, Wren. Every day, all the time. I still fucking care. I told myself I wouldn’t…” He blew out a harsh breath, pupils dilating. “Fuck it. This is why it kills me to see you involved in this, because all I wanna do is see you safe. I cared back then when you were young, and I still care now that you’re back, all woman and hot as fuck and still so goddamn untouchable.”

They’ve both carried around some unrequited love for the other, but it still takes a good portion of the book before they act on those feelings. Which is understandable, considering everything they’ve got going on to pull this stunt off and not, you know, die. The romance gets put on the backburner for a bit, making it a slow burn. Again, that’s fine, I was okay with that, as I was also interested in the story and action going on around the romance.

And it doesn’t hurt that when these two do get together?

He’d never been one to talk much to his partners, but the sight of Wren had the words dripping from his tongue. “Oh baby.” He smiled. “That’s what you want, right? You want my hand on this wet, hot pussy?” 
Her mouth was open, her hands braced on his chest. “Roarke,” she gasped out.He yanked the fabric to the side and stared down at the glistening curly hair around her folds. He sucked his thumb into his mouth and placed it right on her clit. 
“Oh fuck,” she cried out, and rolled her hips harder. 
He was going to come in his jeans. The solid ridge covered with denim was wet with her arousal. He thought about pulling himself out and jacking off right there, but he didn’t want to take his eyes off Wren or interrupt her desperate chase to get off. 
He slipped two fingers inside her, and she gasped, stilling for a moment. She was picture perfect—tits out, skirt up to her waist, mouth open with kiss-swollen lips. A spot of red on the side of her neck, where he’d sucked up a patch, stood out against her light skin. Good, he hoped it was there for days. Weeks. 
Her hips swiveled, and he curled his fingers, possessiveness for her slithering into his blood every moment she let him touch her.

Oh. Yeah. They burn the pages a bit. First with a hot fingerbang while she’s grinding on him, later with a kitchen table quickie, and finally in an actual bed. Those scenes were excellent, and their chemistry and dirty talk made me a very happy reader. As always, Erickson did not disappoint.

One thing I do wish we could have seen somehow? Peeks into their teenage years, when they first started having feelings for one another. I’ve mentioned this before with many books that build the romance from a previous relationship the couple had in the past – even if it wasn’t romantic/sexual then. I want to see where it all started for them. We don’t get any of that here and between that and the fairly quick time frame for this story, I did feel like I wanted a bit more from their romance. It’s not that I was disappointed by what we got, but I would have liked a bit more to build up to their final  HEA, you know?

Later in the book, we find out that Roarke first started hacking to get back at a cheating boyfriend Wren had in school (he hacked into the guy’s computer at school and had it automatically play porn). I can’t say that I’m mad about him doing that, especially since that’s a pretty harmless thing. But here’s where I had a problem with Roarke’s actions: that wasn’t the last time he did something via hacking to affect her life. In fact, he’s been “hacking her life” ever since that day, everything from helping her to win a year’s supply of free gasoline in a contest one year to making sure that she got in at this place or that job or whatever. And he’s been keeping an eye on her in the years that she’s been away, also through the computer/hacking. When he finally tells her this, she gets mad – understandably! But after yelling at him for a minute, it’s just sorta brushed under the carpet and never brought up again. And THAT bothered me. Because there’s a difference between looking out for someone that you love, and trying to control their life behind the scene. To me, what Roarke was doing, even if everything turned out how Wren wanted her life to be anyway, it felt a bit too much like the creepy-controler hero side of it, rather than the protective hero side. I didn’t hate Roarke or anything, but I still had to give him a side-eye. Or twenty. And, as I said, the thing that really bothered me was that it wasn’t really addressed and is instead shrugged off by Wren after she yells at him for a minute.

So the chemistry was there, as well as the action/suspense, while the romance was a bit uneven for me, though still managing to be quite satisfying overall. There were some things kinda left hanging, or at least unclear, but considering this is the first in a connected series, I am assuming it’ll all play out in the future books.

All in all, this was a good start to a new series and I had a good time reading it. The thing I loved the most – besides the hot sex, obviously – was meeting the rest of the crew and having that moment of “Oooooooh. I WANT THEIR STORIES. COME TO ME, LOVELIES, AND TELL ME EVERYTHING.”

A wolf whistle sounded in the cavernous space, and he whipped his head around to see Marisol wiggling her eyebrows. “No one told me there’d be pretty eye candy on the team,” she said. 
There was a beat of silence before Wren started giggling. He narrowed his eyes at Marisol. “No fraternizing with other members of the team.” 
She rolled her eyes at the empty threat. “You’re a buzzkill.” She beckoned to Wren. “Come on over, sweet cheeks. I don’t bite, and I’m really good with my hands."
Roarke dropped his chin to his chest. “Fuck me.”

Seriously, they better all be getting their own book because the need is real. From Wren’s brother, Erick, to mysterious Dade, to kickass and sexually confident Marisol. And I can’t forget big, quiet Jock, who apparently has a military background and, I think, is going to be paired up Wren’s friend, Fiona. I love when that happens: when an author can create a cast of characters that you are excited to return to, and you have to find out their individual stories RIGHT NOW. And Erickson certainly did that here. I can’t wait for book two!


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I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.

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What was the last book/series that made you fall for the entire cast of characters?


Until Next Time,

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