Friday, October 16, 2015

ARV Review: Barefoot with a Stranger (Barefoot Bay Undercover #2)

Barefoot with a Stranger (Barefoot Bay Undercover #2)

by Roxanne St. Claire 


Francesca Rossi might be the youngest in a long line of badass siblings, but this computer whiz would rather hack a database than pack a pistol for the family business in Barefoot Bay.  When an assignment forces her out of her comfort zone and into the field, Chessie decides to amp up the excitement quotient and has her first one night stand with a sexy stranger she’ll never see again.

Former CIA agent Malcolm Harris is fresh out of prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and knows the government is watching his every move, waiting for him to slip up.  But the only mistake he makes is to assume the sexy, sassy woman he seduces on the way to Barefoot Bay is a spy.  He learns too late that the beauty he’s bedded is really his best friend’s sister…and his undercover partner on a risky mission.

Chessie and Mal have to stay one step ahead of the CIA, navigate their way through a perilous country, and fight the insane chemistry that sizzles between them.  It doesn’t take long for this hacker and spy to discover the power of their unplanned partnership…and learn that falling in love might be the riskiest business of all.

Themes:  Contemporary
Rating:  4.5 stars
Heat Rating:

 I have long been a fan of Ms. St. Claire, voraciously reading everything she releases and falling more in love with her characters, her skill at building suspense and her ability to drag her readers right into the lives of the people that pour from her heart.  The Barefoot Bay series  and the spin-off Barefoot Bay Undercover series both hold special significance for me being set in an area I’m very familiar with and dealing with the kinds of drama and pain that are just too realistic to be completely called fiction.  Chessie’s story is one that I have been looking forward to since we met her in a previous series written by Roxanne, the Guardian Angelinos, where her family is introduced and we get to meet the whole fantastic group of beautiful overachievers and of course “Uncle Nino”, arguably one of the best characters to bridge these many series.  If you are coming to the party late, never fear you will learn plenty about this great family and still fall in love with Chessie and Gabe, but I promise you that if you go back and read the previous books revolving around the Rossi clan you will not regret it.  Barefoot with a Stranger is a work of art, truly bringing together all the best parts of romantic suspense and leaving you wondering how you will ever survive until the next book.  With the vivaciously sweet Chessie breaking out of her shell and finally demanding her place in life and the dark brooding Mal finally accepting that he doesn’t have to be the lone wolf forever, this story is truly one of redemption and discovery.  I can only say that if you are a Gabe fan be ready for lots of ups and downs and an ending that will leave you ready to kidnap Roxanne until she can tell you what’s going to happen. 

Chessie and Mal begin their relationship with a grand twist of fate throwing them in one another’s path before Gabe has a chance to introduce them and the fallout could be disastrous if they let it.  Heading out together on a mission makes things even more complicated as Chessie and Mal must depend on one another to stay alive and accomplish the most important mission they have ever been, one that could mean the ultimate happiness for Gabe or the end of his hope for the future.  I really enjoyed the flow of this story and seeing how Mal and Chessie work together to overcome the crazy twists that crop up for them.  Chessie definitely steps up and more than once shows that while she might be the quiet one in the family, she is a Rossi through and through and nothing will keep her from completing her mission—or from getting her man. 

Francesca “Chessie” Rossi has always been the Rossi that everyone protected and tried to keep in a bubble, but she has hidden in the shadows of her siblings and cousins far too long and is ready to find her own niche.  Her computer skills are second to none and she is determined to do whatever she can to help Gabe find the child he only recently discovered he has, but she never intended to be sent into hostile territory, especially not with a man that makes her crazy and continues to tempt her to forego her rules and succumb to the attraction between them.  Sweet and obviously loving, Chessie’s easily underestimated by all those she encounters, but at her core she is made of titanium and there is no one that will prevent her from keeping those she loves safe, even if she has to fight them every step of the way.  I really loved getting to know more about Chessie, even as she learned more about herself and discovered that she has maybe even been underestimating herself.  I also enjoyed seeing Chessie as she explored her attraction to Mal, bringing him around and making him love her more each day, healing his heart and showing him that being together makes them better than they could ever been alone.

Mal was an interesting guy in a lot of ways; a hero who fell on his sword for a woman in need and did time for a crime that he never committed.  Being on the other side of the law has given him a unique view of the world and a chip on his shoulder that would make anyone wary of trusting.  He begins the story as a bit of an ass, but quickly we begin to see that though his motives are sometimes questionable, he usually has a reason for taking any step he takes.  The curve ball that gets thrown into his life when he comes to Barefoot Bay to assist his old friend Gabe and instead finds himself faced with an intense attraction to Gabe’s sister, shows us how he really handles emotional upheavals and what kind of man he is—noble to a fault.  Obviously it could go without saying that Mal is sensually overwhelming a lot of the time, but for Chessie he seems to be the most powerfully attractive man she has ever encountered.  As we see him kicking butt and using his brains and brawn to keep both himself and Chessie alive and safe on their dangerous mission we fall more and more in love with Mal and the way he is able to deal with all the shit that comes at him.  I was thrilled for him in the end when he found a way to trust and really show his feelings, but I know he will remain just as much a badass as always, if maybe a little bit squishier on the inside due to Chessie’s love.

Barefoot with a Stranger is one of those stories that sucks you in from the very first moment and leaves you dying for more as you turn the last page.  Full of vivacious characters, flawless storytelling, and the obvious love between the characters, Roxanne manages to keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what will be around the next corner and how the H/h will cope with the next disaster.  Chessie is one of the best female leads I have found in a while, her strength and vulnerability matched perfectly by her wit and intelligence, she is simply the whole package.  Chessie really grows in this story as she discovers her abilities are not actually restricted to cyberspace and she can kick butt as well as the next guy (or gal).  Mal too is a great character, though at times readers will find themselves ready to punch him; he is the kind of guy that has been through so much all his life, but really just needs to embrace the love offered to him and find a way to accept that while his past definitely sucked, his future doesn’t have to.  A lone wolf finding his perfect mate, Mal is ready to be the true man he is ready to be once Chessie shows him his true place in the world—right by her side. The passion between Mal and Chessie is some of the hottest I have experienced in a while, but the love between them is what leaves a warm lasting comfort to the soul.   I and many of the other fans of this series are dying to read Gabe’s story and I am pleased to say it is coming next, sometime in early 2016 according to Roxanne, but the important moments in this story for Gabe will leave readers ready to tear their hair out.  The message I always share with new Roxi Fans remains true: “if you don’t want to go insane waiting, don’t read the Epilogue.” Because of course that is where Roxi likes to give us hints to the future stories that will make any true fan rabidly crazy waiting.  Barefoot with a Bad Boy is coming soon though and I for one will be first in line for a copy!

*eARC provided by author for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided.

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