Nobody writes hotter than Maya Banks. And her Kelly Group International series is action packed in the bedroom and on the field of battle. A private group fighting to right the world's wrongs by taking down one bad guy at a time, KGI members face some seriously scary situations. So what happens when two of these soldiers attempt to find solace with each other? Is their relationship doomed from the beginning or can two scarred warriors make a team of two work? Read on to find out what RT's Morgan and Dawn thought of Banks' newest romantic suspense novel, Shades of Gray.
Morgan: I can’t think of a more unlikely place for a romance novel to start.
Dawn: Since we first meet heroine P.J. while she is at a seedy strip club having a beer, I will agree with that.
Morgan: As a sniper for the elite fighting force Kelly Group International, it makes sense that she needs a place to lay low after difficult missions.
Dawn: And really, there are worse places to hide than a seedy hole-in-the-wall bar.
Morgan: Except this night P.J. doesn’t get the quiet she is hoping for. Instead her ex-boyfriend, Derek, walks in and they get into a major fight.
Dawn: P.J. and her wicked right cross can handle anything that comes her way, but it is a relief when her KGI team member, Cole steps into the foray.
Morgan: Boy, she does not see him coming! One minute P.J. is dealing with her loser ex and the next thing she knows, she is locking lips with Cole, her oh-so-hot sniper partner.
Dawn: Derek backs down pretty fast once he thinks and P.J. and Cole are an item. And this leaves the couple alone to discuss what exactly is going on between them.
Morgan: P.J. and Cole have been working side by side for over three years, but they are essentially strangers since P.J. makes a very conscious effort to keep everyone at arms length.
Dawn: She does have the ice queen role down pat, but she defrosts pretty soon after Cole challenges her to a drinking contest.
Morgan: Tequila shots tend to have that effect on people.
Dawn: P.J. takes the dare, which is par for the course of her and Cole’s relationship. There has always been a simmering rivalry between the two.
Morgan: Rivalry yes, but absolutely no resentment. P.J. is an independent woman, taking on what has traditionally been a man’s job. However, instead of being ridiculed by her all-male team, they take her skills in stride.
Dawn: Cole, more than anyone, knows exactly how special P.J. is.
Morgan: And visa versa. It is so cute how much P.J. likes Cole, but refuses to show it:
He was the total package, not that she’d ever tell him so. It suited her purposes to keep him down a few notches. Wouldn’t do to have his ego blow up on her. She did have to work with him, after all.
Dawn: This is P.J.'s lighthearted take on why she shies away from becoming too attached to Cole, but her issues go deeper. Her ex hurt her badly by betraying her, so P.J. has adopted the attitude that if you don’t let them get close, you can’t get hurt.
Morgan: But she does let Cole close.
Dawn: Boy howdy!
Morgan: In the book's second chapter there is some serious action where Cole gets to see P.J.’s good luck undies!
Dawn: Black lace anyone?
Morgan: She is still a girl even if she does kick a little ass.
Dawn: I usually don’t like when romance couples rush to the bedroom, but the author makes it clear that while we are just tuning into this relationship, the smoldering longing has been happening between these two for a very long time.
Morgan: Unfortunately their interlude doesn’t last long before they get called up for another KGI mission.
Dawn: They have to stop a sex trafficking ring that is targeting young girls.
Morgan: While KGI specializes in hostage and victim recovery, this mission is a little different. The team doesn’t need a sniper to take out the bad guy, they need a spy.
Dawn: Someone who can distract the head of the organization and get him talking.
Morgan: Which means that they need a female someone. With great legs.
Dawn: And P.J. is nominated.
Morgan: Cue the makeover music!
Dawn: Instead of wearing her usual fatigues and carrying a scoped rifle, P.J. is dudded up in a short black dress and killer heels. Talk about being out of her comfort zone.
Morgan: Her comfort zone. Just imagine what Cole is thinking. His woman (yes, he has always thought of her as his) is going into a dangerous situation, unarmed, to face some seriously twisted men.
Dawn: This is something P.J. feels like she needs to do. She is the only one who can save the girls who are about to be sold.
Morgan: Yet despite her training and some careful planning, the mission goes to hell. P.J. is drugged, tortured and assaulted.
Dawn: It totally broke my heart when she realizes she has not only been physically violated, but she is “soul deep hurt.”
Morgan: It makes me want to go after those guys myself!
Dawn: You and the whole KGI army. But that’s not what P.J. wants.
Morgan: She decides that the vigilante justice she is about to mete out won’t reflect well on KGI, so she walks — handing in her resignation.
Dawn: Leaving her guys and Cole.
Morgan: But unlike her previous boyfriend, Cole sticks by her. He has P.J.’s back … or at least he tries to.
Dawn: P.J.’s pretty clever and when she wants to stay hidden. Let’s just say that nobody can find her.
Morgan: That doesn’t mean her enemies are so lucky. For six months P.J. tracks down the men running the trafficking ring and makes sure they suffer as much as she did.
Dawn: By the time Cole and KGI finds P.J., she is in the situation pretty deep. Things are a little murky legal-wise. And moral-wise.
Morgan: So reader, if you are looking for some small town, sweet romance, be warned: This is not it.
Dawn: But if you are interested in an action-packed story starring a tough heroine and her superhero warrior boyfriend, then you are in luck.
Morgan: Just be ready for some crazy shootouts, knife fights and some down-home justice, KGI style!