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BOOK REVIEW ~ HARD EVIDENCE BY PAMELA CLARE

After the murder of a teenage girl, a mysterious man in a black leather jacket was seen lurking near the crime scene. Investigative reporter Tessa Novak has him in her sights as the culprit… That man was Julian Darcangelo, an undercover FBI agent working with the Denver police. He’s closing in on the trail of a human trafficker and killer. Tessa’s accusations could blow his cover, and he wants her off the investigation.

But just as Tessa has made Julian a target of interest, she is now a target of the killer. And as they are forced to trust each other, their physical attraction escalates as intensely as the threat from a ruthless murderer who wants to see both of them dead…

Continuing on with my re-read of this series!  I adored the first book which I thought was pretty suspenseful, but I keep forgetting that with each new book in the series, the author takes the suspense up a notch so plot-wise this was even better than Extreme Exposure! And then there’s the fact that the author has created this irresistible, protective hero Julian that I couldn’t help but swoon over…

“I’m half Italian.”
“Which half?” the words were out before Tessa could stop them. Was she flirting with him? She never flirted with men.
His lips curved in a slow, sexy smile that made her heart trip. “From the waist down.”

So this is book 2 in the I-team series and investigative journalist Tessa Novak’s story. I remember when I was reading book 1 for the very first time and saw that Tessa would be the next I-team member to get a book, I honestly wasn’t looking forward to it (I still thought the same while I read it now). Don’t get me wrong, she’s a wonderful heroine, really mature, and great at her job but there wasn’t anything about her that made her stand out from the other I-team members. She’s what I like to call a quiet heroine, and her sweet southern belle personality wasn’t something I was fond of. I like bold, outspoken, gutsy heroines and while Tessa was strong in her own way, she had a very timid side that the author captured in the romance aspect of the book. In short, Tessa is a pretty average heroine to me because she didn’t add anything to the story but certainly didn’t take away from it either.

The main highlight of the book for me besides the nail-biting suspense was definitely the hero Julian. I’ve said this so many times before but it’s worth mentioning again: this author creates some of the BEST literary heroes ever!! No matter their pasts, their occupation, their ordeals and tribulations, there is always this core code of honor each of her men have and this innate sense to protect. There’s no other way of saying it – her men are so male. Julian is all the above and more. I loved him when I read about his dedication to bringing down a huge sex trafficking ring and how that has affected him personally. I loved him even more when he willingly let his undercover agent persona get compromised if it meant he could protect Tessa. So yeah…while I wasn’t a huge fan of Tessa, I do have to admit she was perfect for Julian. His ugly, heartbreaking past is slowly revealed as the story progresses, and it made sense that a broken, but resilient man like him would be drawn to and find comfort with a sweet angel like Tessa.

Another thing that I have to mention is how amazing this author’s attention to detail is. Even down to the smallest things, nothing is left out but not detailed to the point where the plot is boring. It’s obvious that she’s done her research and I could really feel the love and passion she has for journalism and the topics she incorporates into the story. The writing flowed in a way where I’m eased into the story so not everything is thrown at me all at once. It’s just really well-paced!

For this series, it’s especially hard for me to pick favorites because I seriously love each book for different reasons BUT I’d have to say that I liked this second book a little less than the others. Don’t take that in a negative way though because I still really enjoyed it. What makes the difference between the really good books (which this book was!) and the stellar, outstanding ones are how strongly I feel about the characters. Julian shined brightly but because Tessa was an average heroine to me, the character dynamic felt unbalanced. I still recommend it though! The suspense, the well-researched sex trafficking aspect, and the amazing hero are all worth it. And of course if you don’t mind a more sweet and timid heroine like Tessa I’d say you’ll like this book just fine. As for me, I’m beyond excited to get to books 3, 4, and 5 because those were all 5+ star favorites of mine