Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: Too Hard to Handle (Black Knights Inc. #8)

Too Hard to Handle (Black Knights Inc. #8)

by Julie Ann Walker 


"The Man" is back
Dan "The Man" Currington is back in fighting form with a mission that takes him four thousand miles south of BKI headquarters, high in the Andes Mountains of Peru. He's hot on the trail of a rogue CIA agent selling classified government secrets to the highest bidder, when Penni DePaul arrives on the scene. Suddenly the stakes are higher, and keeping Penni safe becomes Dan's number one priority.
And this time she's ready
A lot has changed since former Secret Service Agent Penni DePaul last saw Dan. Now a civilian, she's excited about what the future might hold. But before she can grab onto that future with both hands, she has to tie up some loose ends-namely, Dan Currington, the man she just can't forget. And a secret that's going to change both their lives-if they can stay alive, that is.
Themes: contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Heat Rating: 
Dan's story has come full circle bringing love back into his life and reminding us all that the heart has an infinite capacity for love and affection. Readers of this series have watched as Dan's life was almost lost when his beloved wife was killed pushing him into the darkness found at the bottom of a bottle, all the way through his battle to return to the light and find a way to continue to serve his country and live his life.  But when he met Penni in the previous novel we saw the spark in him come back for the first time in years.  Penni never knew just how important their time together in Malaysia was several months ago, but when she returns to Dan to have an important talk with him she never imagined she'd be pulled into his work as much as his arms.  Walker has an ability to tug on your heart just as much as your libido with characters that are as varied and intense as they are sweet and sassy. The story continues as the Black Knights find themselves facing new enemies and dealing with old threats.  I am really looking forward to the future stories in this series, but I can foresee an end in sight soon if we don’t bring in some fresh blood and new knights. *hint hint, nudge nudge*
Dan and Penni had their encounter a few months earlier when they were on assignment together in Malaysia, but Penni still desires and needs him in her life.  When she heads to BKI to find him, she instead learns he is on assignment in Peru and sets out to find him there.  Dan is beyond surprised, and slightly terrified, when Penni stumbles into the middle of his mission, placing herself in direct danger from a madman out to kill them all.  As they battle together and repeatedly succumb to the outrageously intense attraction between them, Dan and Penni both come to understand that their connection means more than anything either of them have felt in a while.  Unfortunately, when Penni learns of Dan's tragic past, she is unable to accept that she could ever fill the hole left behind by his beloved wife, even though she brings a little something extra to the table with her.  Now Dan really has his work cut out for him, proving to Penni that she owns him heart and soul, and finding a way for them to build a life together. 
Dan's tragedy and subsequent withdrawal from life scared both his friends and the readers that have followed his crisis of faith, but seeing him finally come to life as he comes to terms with his desire for Penni was beyond amazing.  Truly heartwarming, Dan's desire and affection for Penni ultimately brings him back to life.  Dan is a serious bad-ass in the field, but seeing Penni place herself in danger again and again brings up serious issues for him as he comes to terms with the fact that his love for Penni is just as or maybe even stronger than the love that he had for his beloved late wife.  Falling in love has never been so painful, but seeing her in danger reminds him that life is short and he needs to protect and claim his woman if he ever hopes to have a moments peace again.  The sweet and funny side of Dan is apparent in the banter between himself and Penni, as well as his interaction with his brothers and sisters in arms.  In the end Dan must dig deep to find every ounce of his strength and power to keep himself and Penni alive so they can have the future together they were destined for. 
Penni never knew that Dan was the one man that could dig deep into her heart and find a home that she could never eject him from.  She desired him from the first moment they met, but passion can be quenched without a woman falling in love...right?  Unable to deny her need to see him again, Penni throws herself into his path and unknowingly into the path of danger.  Determined to prove her worth to him, Penni works with him and his team to bring in a traitor while keeping everyone safe and sound.  But the best part is that the passion continues to burn hot and true between them, leading to some sexy and fun moments, even at the most inappropriate of times.  Penni has her own insecurities, sure, but her determination to have Dan and share a life with him leads to some interesting choices that force them both to face and deal with some very intense issues.  Her sassy mouth and sweet heart are a perfect foil for Dan's gruff sensuality and ability to sweep Penni up into the maelstrom of his passion and intensity. As the full truth of their future comes to light, Penni's stubbornness draws a line that I didn't agree with, but thankfully they are able to get past their fears to find their love and happiness.
Dan and Penni's story was one filled with anxiety, passion, regrets, and the beauty of love leading to rebirth. There are seldom stories that show the way a person can come back from rock bottom, where a man has truly lost all will to live, to find a way to love again and devote his life to his work and the woman that has captured his soul. Dan has found a way to do the almost impossible and giving his heart to Penni is the final step for him.  His connection to her has been obvious since their first meeting and while he never quit thinking of her, he never imagined she would slam back into his life like a chambered .45 and lead to so many changes in him.   Dan's sweetly silly moments have been few and far between, but Penni brings out the softer side of this hard-edged and deadly operator.  Penni, the kind of woman that never imagined she'd fall in love, has found herself softening as she falls in love with Dan deeper and deeper.  Her sassy mouth and deadly skill set are just what she needs to make her life with Dan and keep them both alive.  I cannot wait for the next story, which I assume with be Chelsea and Zoelner's story, one that has been hinted at for a little while now, and if so that one stands to be even hotter and more dangerous than Dan and Penni's story.  Walker strikes gold again with the operators and their allies as these men find their mates and give their hearts in the ultimate war, the battle of the heart.

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided.

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