I had pretty high expectations for this book having read the Artists Series, Javier the main character from this one is a big character in that, which could have left me with the mild dissatisfaction I'm feeling now. Dirty Angels was a good read, just not spectacular.
Javier, our favorite drug lord, decides he wants a bigger piece of pie of the dirty money business in Mexico. He decides this can be accomplished by kidnapping the new wife of Salvador, not our favorite drug lord. Luisa is to be that lucky kidnappee. Previously, Luisa had been minding her own business working as a former beauty queen waitress trying to support her blind mother and beginning stages Alzheimer's father. Salvador waltzed in one day, did some courting, and then asked her to marry him. He's a drug lord though, so the yes is really implied and Luisa doesn't put up a struggle as now her parents will have the money needed to see to their health and comfort. However, it turns out to be a really bad bargain for Luisa as Salvador beats and degrades her. On a night she decides to make a run for it, she is instead taken hostage by Javier's men. Javier plans to keep her for a week, each night carving one letter of his name into her back, giving time for Salvador to pay what he is demanding to get Luisa back. Luisa doesn't think Salvador will pay to get her back, doesn't want to go back to him anyway, and lives expecting to be eventually killed by Javier. But, oh, what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive, huh, Javier?
This book has a lot of rough elements to it but if you have read or are a fan of Karina Halle, this should come as no surprise. What did surprise me was how this story dealing with drug cartels and Javier seemed watered down. This story is more emotional and dare I say romantic? Luisa and Javier are obviously two very damaged people, who while being rough with each other manage to bring out their softer side at the same time. I'm not sure I ever really understood their attraction to each other though; it was never explained, not developed well, and came on pretty quickly. They were slightly wooden characters.
It took until the book was half over before I felt into it; this is when the suspenseful/action side picks up more with will Javier let Luisa go, what happens if he does, what will he compromise to get her back, and a suicide mission. The pacing and writing are good, the story overall was just missing a spark for me. I'm still going to read the next in the series which will feature Javier's sister Alana and Derek who we got to see a little bit of in the Artist's Series. I'm trying to temper my expectations for that one.
A little sidenote, this is considered a standalone but if you don't read The Artist's Series before this, you will be missing a huge chunk of what makes up the character Javier. If you're looking for something a little darker and rough and tumble it's a good one to pick up.