Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book Review: Devil's Bargain (Red Letter Days Series, #1) by Rachel Caine

Devil’s Bargain (Red Letter Days Series, #1)

Author: Rachel Caine

Purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Synopsis: What's the price of a deal with the devil?

Playing by the psychic underworld's rules has cost.

Jazz Callender's whole life just got turned upside down. Her friend Ben's been convicted of a crime he didn't commit, and Jazz is determined to clear his name, even if it means enlisting the help of dark forces.

Enter James, a stranger with a mysterious offer. If Jazz pledges to work for The Cross Society, a shadowy secret organisation, he'll help her save Ben.

But as she's thrust into a world of psychic powers and dangerous magic, Jazz isn't just bargain for her friend's freedom. She's bargaining for her soul too.

And how high a price is she willing to pay?

Brought to you by TeamNerd Reviewer Annabell Cadiz

Side Note: This book was provided to me by the publisher through Netgalley but in no way had influence on my feelings and thoughts for the book.

Extra Side Note: This book is ADULT. There is violence, kidnapping, shootings, profanity, and minor sexual scenes.

Review: Jasmine “Jaz” Callender is sitting at a bar, minding her own business and determined to drown her sorrows. Her ex-partner was found guilty of murdering five people and she no longer works on the police force. But just as she’s beginning to settle in for a long night of drinking, she’s approached by a man whose wanna-be biker ensemble is better suited for a Halloween party than hanging out at a bar on the wrong side of town. He marches right up to her and introduces himself as James Borden, a handsome lawyer for a firm called Gabriel, Pike, and Laskins. He hands over an envelope to Jaz that holds one hell of a strange proposal: Jaz will be given money to start her own private investigation company and be fully backed by up the law firm if she follows two requirements, 1) she has to partner with a woman named Lucia Garza who was ex-military and 2) they have to give priority to all cases that come in from the law firm.

Jaz isn’t buying the proposal and has a mind to forcibly send James Borden to hell when she’s rudely interrupted by two big guys, drunk and looking for a good time. After knocking them around a bit, Jaz manages to escape with Borden but she can’t shake James off until she accepts to at least give the proposal some thought. Jaz does in the hopes of James going away. She checks everything out, including speaking with Lucia and after a series of events, they both decide to accept the proposal which leads them into far darker and dangerous waters than the two of them have ever handled before.

The Devil’s Bargain was in equal parts a fast-paced, action-packed, guns blazing type of book as well as a slow and steady one. The first chapter plunges the reader into a gritty, realistic world filled with hard truths and action than slows down for about the first third of the story, building up the characters and relationships and backstory. I liked the rhythm of it. My favorite aspect though of the story was the fact that it placed the two main leads as STRONG women. The men took a backseat to them, which was a nice change. *Go girl power!*

The best part of the book was the characters. There’s not one character in the book that you can’t help but either hate because he’s a villain of some sort or love because you can relate on some level to them.

Jaz is snarky, rude as hell, rough around the edges and has a fist as hard as her mouth. She makes no apologies for who she is and will knock you on your butt before you even know what’s happening. I LOVED her! She was absolutely HILARIOUS! Jaz is beautifully flawed. She doesn’t ever try to cover up the fact that she has insecurities or has made mistakes or how afraid she is to trust people or to get close to them. I loved just how human she was. She didn’t try to come off as a hero but as a woman who was desperately trying to find answers to save her ex-partner from a crime he hadn’t committed and free herself of the guilt she (wrongly) felt for it.

Lucia is beautiful. I mean the type of beautiful that instantly (but not purposely) makes every girl around her feel either inferior or bland. But don’t let the lovely face and designer clothes fool you. Lucia has sleuth like speed that would make James Bond melt with envy.  She has been trained in every possible type of law, security, enforcement type of training one could get and has accomplished over 800 criminal investigations. When it comes to Lucia Garza, you only mess with her if you have death wish. Lucia is incredibly patient, good at spotting a liar and loyal to the people she cares about. I loved the friendship that builds between Jaz and Lucia, how they learn to trust each other and take care of each other.

James Borden, Manny Glickman and Pansy act as the secondary characters and I heart each of them. James isn’t the cliché, full of himself, lawyer. He is definitely good looking but he’s gentle, kind and patient. He’s a gentleman which completely throws Jaz for a loop. He’s the type to open a car door for a woman and hold her hand to help her inside. I also really loved that James wasn’t afraid to get in Jaz’s face. He is honest with her and flirtatious but never disrespectful. Manny used to work at Quantico and had been working on a case about a serial killer when he was kidnapped by the very serial killer he was hunting, buried alive in a black box for almost forty-right hours, and had to endure listening to the recording of one of the victims being tortured to death the entire time. Jaz’s ex-partner, Ben, had helped rescue him and after that Manny started his own P.I. business but Manny wasn’t the same. He’s so skittish, untrusting and has his own state of the art warehouse underground with technology that would make Japan jealous. I just couldn’t help but love Manny. He’s slightly creepy and weird but he has this kid-like vulnerability and heart. Pansy was just as sweet as cotton candy and cute. She doesn’t have too much a role in the book but she was fun nonetheless. She’s so easy going it’s hard not to like her.

Another great element to the book was the action. Both Jaz and Lucia find themselves in dangerous situations on more than one occasion, particularly Jaz who’s the one being hunted after, and they’re both the type that if they have to go down, they’re going down in a hell of gun fire and taking their enemy with them. Jaz doesn’t always make the smart move when it comes to taking down a bad guy since she likes to hit first than ask questions if there are any survivors left whereas Lucia methodically and efficiently handles every situation.

There is also romance in the book but it plays a backseat to the main part of the plot which are Jaz and Lucia’s cases. I really liked the way the author approached the relationship between James and Jaz. Right from the beginning, you know something is going to happen with them, but James and Jaz don’t jump into anything, not until halfway through the book and even than it’s not much until practically the end. Jaz has all walls up, a chain link fence, and a security system to keep people at a long distance away from her but James has no problem with that because he’s a patient, understanding type of guy. I also liked what happens with Manny. The budding relationship though, that Lucia has with someone close to Jaz, felt like it came out of nowhere and I would have liked a bit of a better build up but I do like who she ended up with.

I was frustrated though with the reason behind the law firm for Gabriel, Pike, and Laskins--the ones who decide what cases Jaz and Lucia will take and who cover paying them and the Cross Society—the secret organization the law firm represents. Throughout the whole book, you know something dark and crazy is happening because of the law firm and the Cross Society, but the book never really does a good job of describing it. I’m still left trying to understand what the hell they’re about. I know that the leader has powerful abilities but the explanation only made things more confusing. I hope this is better explained in the sequel in a much smoother way.

If, like me, you have never read a book by Rachel Caine, I suggest you start with the Devil’s Bargain! Jaz and Lucia will not only keep you entertained but wanting to march off to a shooting range with your best friend and show off your guns (*hehe* Get it? *wink*).

Seriously though, the Devil’s Bargain was an easy read with a lot of blood pumping action, ridiculous humor and realistic characters. Any fan of suspense thrillers, detective type stories, and dark, gritty plotlines, will have grand ol’ time with this book! I cannot wait to read the sequel!

About the Author: Rachel Caine is a pen name for author Roxanne Longstreet Conrad and is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 internationally bestselling author of more than 30 novels, including the immensely popular Morganville Vampires series, the Weather Warden series, and the Outcast Season series. She was born at White Sands Missle Range, New Mexico, attended Socorro High School in El Paso, Texas, and earned a bachelors degree in Business Administration from Texas Tech University. She’s worked in many jobs, including accounting, graphic design, insurance investigation, corporate communications and web design, to name just a few. She became a full time writer in 2010. Rachel is married to award-winning fantasy artist R. Cat Conrad, and has two iguanas as pets: Popeye and Darwin.

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