Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2
It doesn’t matter that I entered Lexi Blake’s Masters and Mercenaries series with her spin-off, Masters and Mercenaries: The Forgotten. There are clearly books to be read and stories to inhale, but jumping into this series midstream has only whetted my interest in the series as a whole. Charmed, the newest novella from 1001 Dark Nights, is the type of story that feels like an extra cherry on a huge hot fudge sundae. Without having read the other Lexi Blake novellas in the 1001 Dark Nights series, Charmed reads as essential, but also tertiary to the Masters and Mercenaries world, and it’s perfection in its ability to grab your attention from the first page.
I read this novella in an afternoon, caught in the grasp of Nina and JT’s sultry romance. What does Lexi Blake do well with this story and the other Masters and Mercenaries stories? For one, she grabs your attention with the suspense side of her plot. Nina is a former agent for Interpol who has begun working for the security firm of McKay-Taggart. She has been brought in to help JT’s family’s company determine who has or is committing corporate espionage. Initially, she is tasked with acting as the CEO’s assistant during a corporate retreat; however, when the CEO falls ill, his son, JT, must step into his father’s role. Without having met JT or seen pictures of him prior to her meeting, she doesn’t realize that the one-night stand from the night before is JT, complicating their mission. Even more, when a mix-up occurs, their relationship becomes characterized as a fake engagement, not an assistantship. This makes Nina question her ability to complete the mission.
Secondly, Blake keeps you engaged in the progression of her story. Charmed is equal parts suspense and romance. This means the characters are either hitting the sheets or seeking out the bad guys. This is unendingly riveting. Thirdly, there is an emotional gravitas to the story in the characterization of Nina. This woman is complicated because her past has changed her perspective on life, her present is complicated by a hero who wants all parts of her, and as a woman, she fights for her equality in a male-dominated career. Blake uses Nina to engage in a discussion about agency and due respect when the alpha-JT tries to undermine it. This feels key to liking Charmed.
From start to finish, Charmed is (1) $exy, (2) suspenseful, and (3) entertaining. I ate up this story, hoping for JT and Nina to find their happy ending. Even more, many of your McKay-Taggart agents are found in the pages of Lexi Blake’s Charmed. It’s everything you love about her books in a bite-sized form.
In love and romance,