Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Girl Next Door - Cynthia Eden (HI #1480 - Mar 2014)

Series: Shadow Agents: Guts and Glory (Book 2)

He pledged to protect his neighbor

When Gabrielle Harper's gutsy investigative reporting attracted a serial killer, her new neighbor began keeping an eye on her. But Cooper Marshall was more than his chiseled frame suggested. He was an Elite Operations Division specialist who thrived on adrenaline, who always took risks, whose every instinct was geared to protect. Even if it meant breaking cover. Gabrielle wasn't the sort to hole up in her Washington, D.C., walk-up, waiting to be the next victim. So when the time came, he'd throw her on the back of his motorcycle and ride with a vengeance to save her life. Until then, he'd watch and wait, and try not to get carried away with attraction to the girl next door….

This sucked me in from the first page and didn't let go until I'd finished.  Cooper was checking up on an ex EOD agent who had been out of contact for awhile.  With agents being murdered his job was to warn them what was happening.  In this case he was too late, arriving just after the man was killed.  As he was investigating Gabrielle showed up and Cooper was barely able to escape without being seen.  When she then showed up at yet another murder scene, Cooper realizes that she's investigating the same thing he is and it has put her in danger.  He's determined to keep her safe even if he has to reveal some of his secrets.  And it would be all too easy to do that as there is something about Gabrielle that is really messing with his focus.

I really liked Gabriella.  She is determined, focused, and very smart.  Because of the violent death of her father and the fact his killer had never been found, she uses her investigative powers to help the victims get justice.  She had a relationship with a local cop that didn't work out, but she shares what she finds out with the cops to help them solve their cases.  She figured out a connection between murdered women and the agents (though she didn't know they were agents) that Cooper and the EOD hadn't because she was looking at a different angle.  All she knew about Cooper at first was that he was there when she needed him.  When she started receiving threatening calls and attacks, she asked for his help in keeping her safe.  She begins to trust him as she goes about checking out leads for her story.  There's also an intense attraction between them that is trying to distract her.  I loved her focus and the way she wasn't going to let anything stop her from finding out what she needed to know.  She knows Cooper is hiding something from her and when she finds out what it is there is a certain amount of betrayal in what she feels.  I loved the way she stood up to everyone at the EOD office, including Mercer.  I liked seeing her give Cooper the chance to talk to her about his past as things started spinning rapidly toward the conclusion, and she realized that a lot of her anger toward him was because of the way she felt about him.  

Cooper really surprised me when it came to Gabrielle.  When we met him in the previous book he was the typical agent - cool, in control and ready to do whatever necessary to get the job done.  In this book there are definitely cracks in that exterior.  He has been frustrated by his inability to warn the agents in time to save them.  Finding Gabrielle in the middle of both scenes wasn't doing anything for his peace of mind.  He is also under orders to keep her from finding out about the EOD, though that doesn't work too well.  He's pretty impressed by what she has found out so far.  When she becomes the victim of several attacks his protectiveness ramps up.  I really enjoyed his confusion over the way that she has got him wound up.  He is not used to feeling so out of control around a woman and isn't so sure he likes it.  As much as he'd like to lock her up to keep her safe, he knows that's not possible.  I liked seeing the way that he supports her with what she needs to do with her job even though it's really hard for him.  There was a great conversation with Mercer that really opened his eyes to what he was feeling and doing.  The final confrontation put the finishing touches on them.  There was a nice twist at the end that had been hinted at during the end of the previous book and is fully explained by the end of this one.  

I loved the suspense.  From the beginning there was always something happening that added to the tension.  It was interesting to see the two approaches to the investigation and how important Gabrielle's information turned out to be.  I liked the bits of the story that were from the killer's point of view because we get a little of what is driving him.  It also adds to the chance to figure out who he is.  There were a couple possibilities and I was happy to see I had picked the right one.  I'm really looking forward to the next one.

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