BEWARE! This review may contain some mild spoilers if you haven’t read the previous McCloud books.
THE FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST
Covert operations are what Val Janos is all about. The man is mysterious and sinister, and lethally hot. Only Tamara can understand the strange intensity that drives him to win at all costs—and only she can match it.
Val has one weak spot: Imre, the frail old man who befriended him when he was a scared, hungry kid abandoned on the streets of Budapest. But Daddy Novak knows about Imre, and Imre’s head is on the block if Val doesn’t deliver Tam up to Novak’s tender mercies . . .
A white-hot passion explodes when Tam and Val get too close. They both have too much to be afraid of, too much to hide. And now, for the first time, too much to lose . . .
Tam Steele, a criminal who is making a living as a designer of (literally) killer jewelry, does everything she can to give her three-year-old adoptive daughter, Rachel, an orphan rescued from black market organ harvesters, a seemingly normal life. Little does she know her past is going to catch up with her. Mafia boss Daddy Novak wants revenge for the loss of his son and coerces Val Janos into delivering Tam to him in exchange for the life of Val’s former mentor and foster father Imre. But Novak’s former lackey and psychopath Georg Luksch, has hired Val to bring Tam to him so he can live happily ever after with her in his distorted reality where he believes Tam belongs to him. Val however decides to betray both “clients” and tries to help Tam and Rachel escape this nightmare. Under constant threat Tam and Val discover that it’s not easy staying out of the clutches of two mobsters out for blood and at the same time deal with the growing emotional bond between the two of them.
Tam Steele does her name proud. Nothing gets to her. She is sharp, sarcastic and despite her disguises what you see is what you get with her. She has no weaknesses, no mercy, and no compassion. At least that’s what she wants people to think. Since one of her rare selfless missions ended her up with battered and abused Rachel, she’s not so sure anymore. And when she starts falling for the man sent after her by men from her past, that’s when things get even more messed up.
Val Janos is the ultimate operative in covert operations. He can blend into any circumstance and has the looks to wrap any woman around his finger. Until he’s hired to bring in Tam Steele by one mafia kingpin and threatened by another to deliver her to him. He throws caution overboard and goes for the woman he wants with all he has in him. Val is tough, tenacious, enigmatic, gorgeous and intriguing. He is the perfect match for Tam.
Tam blew me away. She really did. I actually and honestly didn’t like her in the first two books of the series. I started liking her a little bit in Davy’s book (OUT OF CONTROL) and the deal was sealed when I read the end of EXTREME DANGER, the book before this one. Of all the McKenna heroines she is the toughest one and she has to be the most complex one. She is strong and vulnerable at the same time. Covering her vulnerability with lashing out, detachment and sarcasm. She is a true contradiction. One the outside she’s tough and emotionless. But inside, especially with her daughter, she’s a compassionate woman yearning for a kindred spirit. Her feelings towards Rachel and how she cares for Rachel, broke my heart from the beginning and in those moments I saw the Tam who was hidden deep inside, the Tam she would only let come out in the darkest of the night, when no one would see or hear her fall apart.
In a review of a previous McCloud book I said I was curious as to who would be the man to tame Tamara and Val satisfied this curiosity fully and exceeded my expectations. But make no mistake; Tam is by no means tamed. No one man is able to do that. Rachel made a start in thawing Tam’s ice-cold heart, leaving her susceptible to Val’s attack on her defenses. Val is the one who delivers the deciding blow to Tam’s robot bitch persona with his gentleness and his patience, showing her that there is a man out there who can handle her. He certainly is a man strong enough, both mentally and physically, to attract Tam’s attention and hold it, as no man has ever been able to. He has managed to capture her heart but he also accentuates and stimulates the kick-ass, tough-as-nails woman Tam will always be.
Tam and Val are so much alike it’s scary and at the same time it’s the only way to create a HEA of for Tam. She couldn’t make do with a sugary, docile man. She needed a strong man, not willing to take her crap and powerful enough to chase away the ghosts haunting her. Their pasts have parallels and their common enemies connect their present. They are both hardened by life and disappointed by people who should’ve protected them. And, before falling for each other, they’re both convinced that the part inside them for love and tenderness was broken long ago, but it wasn’t. It was just hidden, waiting for the right person.
Secondary characters were either the bad guys and their subordinates or the McCloud Crowd, as Tam lovingly calls them.
Where in the previous books the bad guys were usually pairs divided into the strong driving character and the other more subservient one doing the dirty jobs. In this one two former secondary bad guys who were in the background, work independently from each other, each with their own agenda but both out for either Tam’s or Val’s blood.
It was wonderful to catch some glimpses of the McClouds, their wives, and their babies and of course Seth and Nick. There roles weren’t big but when they were needed they were there and came through with flying colors for Tam, Rachel and Val.
With the previous two books Shannon McKenna lured me into thinking I knew where she was going with the story, because I’m familiar with her books and the way she plots now. Still out of nowhere she hit me with twists and turns I never saw coming. She set up a plot of which I in the beginning I was wondering where it was going. How was she going to get this together, it seemed impossible and if possible it would surely be an unbelievable plot? But she made me swallow my doubting thoughts because bit by bit it became clear and she blew me away with character-developments that were too out there to be real, but pulled it of. She ambushed me with love scenes that are in-your-face-real, raw and sensual that they leave no room for mushy romance, only bone-deep passion. She took my breath away with the nerve racking suspense and nail biting action scenes and she sealed the deal with a tear-inducing conclusion that was right up my romantic alley but still did justice to the tough Tam I’ve come to know and love.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared me for Tam’s story. Everything came together. Loose ends from previous books were tied together and I have a distinct feeling this part of the McCloud-saga, has come to a conclusion with Tam’s HEA. Despite the raw, dark, primal vibe this book had McKenna has delivered again! There isn’t a thing she can’t tackle and do well in this series. Because if there was one character least likely to have an HEA, it was Tam. The way McKenna pulled this of was nothing but genial.
She gave me a heart wrenching and believable story that was Tam-worthy from the first to the last page. It did her justice and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. She kept me riveted to the pages with a first class erotic romantic suspense story that threw me wide open. Every scene is emotionally charged to the fullest, occasionally not even giving me time to breathe before being plunged into the next wave of emotions. With each book in this series McKenna manages to amaze me more. When you think you’ve read her best, with the next book she takes it up another notch and leaves you wondering what else she’s going to overwhelm you with the next time.
With ULTIMATE WEAPON Shannon McKenna does what she does best, mixing emotions with eroticism and suspense to make your heart stop. I hope she’ll keep doing it for a long time.
The McCloud Crowd men folk were relatively intelligent, as men went, but they were all alpha dogs to the last woof, and as such, they all had that fog of testosterone obscuring their brains. Which made them prone to the usual arrogant, posturing male bullshit, for which she had no time or patience.
She wanted the life-giving elixir of his kisses, she wanted to wander through the boundless wilderness of him, to get lost in him. She wanted to devour him, soak him up, drink him in. She wanted to be devoured.