Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dual ARC Review: Wild Ride by Julie Ann Walker

Series:     Black Knights Inc #9
Pub. Date:April 4, 2017
Publisher:Sourcebooks Casa.
Length:384 pages

Hiya bambinas!
Julie and I are doing another dual review today of the latest release in this long-standing series by Julie Ann Walker. I haven't read the earlier books, but have been wanting to try out this author for quite a while. Julie convinced me that I could start here without being lost, so keep reading to see how that panned out.

Bambi's Review

I'm late to the game on this series... not because I was not interested but because I haven't had time to add the 8 previous books to my reading calendar. I finally decided to jump in with the current release and read the stories out of order (even though that drives my reading OCD a little bonkers). So while I don't have the backstory of Black Knights Inc. (BKI), I managed to get through Wild Ride without feeling too lost or uninformed. If you have not read the earlier books and want to jump in and test the waters with this book, I think you will be fine.

From what I understand, BKI is a group of covert operatives working as a strike force directly for the White House and Joint Chiefs of Staff. Based in Chicago, the group runs a custom motorcycle shop as a cover for their clandestine government activity. In this installment, most of the team is away overseas on a mission, so I only "met" two team members and some of their wives.

Our hero is Ethan "Ozzie" Sykes, a charming ladies man and tech genius. I really liked this hero. He was fun and flirty, but with a good dose of vulnerability that made me want to hug him and pet him and squeeze him... and love him forever. I don't know how much of Ozzie's backstory was given in the earlier books, but I do believe his injury by IED was a major event. Now Ozzie is scarred and in pain, and feeling down in the dumps with the state of his personal and professional life. But no matter his inner turmoil, Ozzie learned from a young age to be outwardly charming, particularly to women. My heart ached for Ethan, the child, and I understood how his early life has had lasting affects for Ozzie, the man. 

Samantha Tate is an investigative reporter always looking for the truth and the next big story. I admit that I groaned when I realized our heroine was a reporter... I don't typically enjoy reading reporter heroines as they always seem more concerned with their story than the people, and jump to the wrong conclusion way too often. So I had some bias against our heroine, and her actions early in Wild Ride did not endear her to me. Luckily, she had her come-to-Jesus moment early on and her characters smoothed out a bit after that. I won't say that I ever fully liked her, but she was tolerable after we got past her first mistake.

I can't say that the relationship between these two was instalove, because they have been hanging out as friends for a few months. All of that activity pre-dates this story, so I am not sure how much of it appeared in earlier books. So this is somewhat of a friends-to-lovers romance, but I would be hesitant to call Samantha a "friend" of Ozzie when she suspected him of being a criminal for the duration of their friendship. I did enjoy the banter between the couple, and the suspense plot. The humor and banter contrasted to the suspense to give this book a lighter feel than I was expecting from a romantic suspense story. The danger was not overblown or extreme, as the focus was more on building the relationship than a sense of impending doom. 

Overall, I enjoyed this story and the concept of the series. I am definitely interested enough to go back and read the earlier books (as soon as I can fit them in). I recommend this to readers who enjoy a lighter romantic suspense, or fun and flirty heroes. I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Julie's Review

Recouping from terrible injury after the groups' last mission, Ozzie is struggling to figure out where his future lies with BKI (Black Knights Inc -a covert ops group for the POTUS that poses as a custom bike shop.) Will he be allowed to stay on even though he can't actively go on missions due to his injury? His other problem? With most of the BKI team in the field, Ozzie gets the glorious job of distracting BKI's resident pain in the backside- Samantha Tate, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune- from delving too deep into BKI's facade.

Samantha Tate is a bulldog when it comes to finding stories. She's been a thorn in BKI's backside from the start, trying to discover a way to expose whatever the group is hiding. She smells a Pulitzer Prize story, she just needs to get someone to actually answer her questions. She has a good friendship with Ozzie and wishes they were a little more than friends, but he's a womanizer and horrid flirt. In previous stories, Sam has been the annoying reporter, constantly peppering the team with nosy questions. In Wild Ride, we get to see the real Samantha-her vulnerability with relationships, her sassiness, that fiery temper, and her quick intelligence that draws Ozzie's attention to her and makes her more than a job for him. 

Ozzie (aka Ethan Sykes) has been my favorite character since the start of the series because he's a geek! His laid back attitude hides keen intelligence and his hacker extraordinaire abilities. He also loves to spout pop culture references, digs big hair '80's bands, and all things Star Trek. His infectious personality is hard to overlook-he's the go-to guy for laughs and witty quips. Getting to the core of him was fascinating because I never saw the secrets he had coming! 

Ozzie and Samantha getting together was one of the best match-ups in the series (since Ghost and Allie because yes, they were my favorite couple until now!) I loved their friendship and their chemistry. Six years in the making, I was happy they finally had a chance to explore their relationship. Minimal angst because of lack of communication between the two gave the usual relationship hiccups, but overall, Ozzie was as honest as he could possibly be considering the secrets he was keeping from her.

Book nine in the Black Knights Inc. series, Wild Ride was just that- a wild ride! Samantha having to hide from the local MC gang after they kill her witness, Ozzie providing bodyguard duty, steamy chemistry, and the double speak the team dishes to hide their true purpose from Samantha had me captivated until the end! Getting the deets on Christian (Ozzie's team member) and Emily (former CIA and new receptionist at BKI) were a bonus, and I am looking forward to seeing those sparks fly in their book! If you haven't read the series, I feel Walker did a fair job explaining Ozzie and Samantha's background comfortably enough to read Wild Ride as a stand alone, however, the teasers about everyone else should be enough to tempt you to check out the rest of the series!