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Aussie Book Review: Under Cover of Dark by Juanita Kees (Tag Raiders Book 2)

“New Australian romantic suspense follows Under the Hood, about a Western Australian drug gang, the teenagers they recruit, and the cop who wants to bring them down.

When Mark Johnson delves deeper into his investigation into the murder of Tiny Watts, and the involvement of a teenage gang with sleazy lawyer Gino Bennetti and his drug world ties, the last thing he expects is to be interviewing Gino’s widow, a woman in a world of trouble.

When her husband is shot and killed, it is both a relief and a disaster. Lily has her son to protect and secrets that run deeper than the scars she bears. Mark Johnson is the last person she wants uncovering those secrets, especially the truth about her son Luke’s involvement in Tiny Watts’s murder.

As the investigation continues and Lily’s wounds begin to heal, she finds the detective easy to trust and the friendship between them blossoms into more. But the secret Lily holds places everyone in very real danger. When it is finally revealed, Lily will lose everything: her son, the man she’s grown to love, her freedom and her life.”

A violent husband, a dirty lawyer and a woman who’s as cold as snow! These three people have the power to make Lily Benetti’s life absolute hell and hell hath no fury like a mother whose child is in danger!
When Liliana (Lily) Bennetti once again finds herself and her son Luke at the receiving end of domestic violence perpetrated by her husband, Gino, things quickly spiral out of control and it’s not long after that he finds himself on the receiving end of a fatal bullet.
Still going through various notes concerning the investigation of Tiny Watts’ murder, Detective Mark Johnson is called to interview Luke Bennetti who has been brought in for questioning. After a short court appearance pending his trial and sentencing, Luke is released on bail but signed up for an apprenticeship program at the Tiny Watts Teenage Rehabilitation Centre run by Scott and TJ Devin, but things are far from over with Nic Albero, Gino’s business partner, on the prowl and Lily doesn’t know if she can trust Mark enough with the truth that she hides.
Seeking solace at the rehab centre after her home is destroyed by a gas explosion (in which she narrowly escapes becoming another statistic thanks to Mark), Lily becomes fast friends with TJ and soon begins to help out around the centre in an effort to keep busy.  When she begins a project clearing one of the gardens, however, she unearths a tin of documentation regarding Tiny and his heritage possibly placing her in even more danger. With the documentation safely in custody, Mark tries to find the missing pieces of the puzzle which have begun to point to a common denominator, but the threats, harassment and imminent danger from Nic eventually force Lily and Luke to flee from their safe haven.
I’m a die-hard lover of Romantic Suspense but it’s been some time since I read one. So, when I saw Juanita Kees’ latest on NetGalley, I didn’t hesitate to request it even though she is an author I haven’t read before. Needless to say, it won’t be my last by this Ruby Award winner and fellow ex-South African.
Juanita sets the stage well for what’s to come in Lily and Luke’s life. Giving us image-provoking scenes right from the first page, the drama and suspense is well done with the romance aspect built in at a leisurely pace as she fleshes out her characters by giving us glimpses into their pasts – from the fragile, fearful character of Lily who has endured years of physical and emotional abuse and is now trying to hide a secret for fear that Luke will be implicated; to Luke who has been damaged by bearing witness to crimes committed by his father; and Mark, burnt-out from his job as a detective but who still maintains his loving and caring nature as he slowly falls in love. Then of course there’s the flippant Harold, Mark’s partner, who brings a dose of humour with him. And, for those of you already familiar with her previous work, her returning characters can surely only enhance the connections that develop between them and the reader.
The romance is sexy and mildly sensuous with the desire between Lily and Mark fairly dripping off the pages as their frustrations at having to keep their distance from one another comes to the fore.
With a well-crafted plot, believable characters and her relaxed way of writing, I think Juanita is well on her way to proving she has a gift for romantic suspense as she manages to capture her audience by keeping us in suspense while Mark ferrets out the truth.
I wish to thank Escape Publishing for providing me with an ARC e-Galley of this novel.
A Little About the Author
Born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and now proudly Australian, Juanita is a freelance editor and proofreader. She escapes the real world by reading and writing romantic fiction.
The year 2012 was a turning point in her writing career, with her debut novel and prequel to the Tag Raiders Series, Fly Away Petabeing released in August.
Her short story Rough Diamond also made the finals in the Romance Writers of Australia Little Gems competition and was published in their Diamond Anthology.

Under the Hood, her third novel and the second in the Tag Raiders Series was released in March 2013.
Juanita is a keen volunteer and member at the Romance Writers of Australia. When she’s not writing, editing or proofreading, she is the cleaning fairy and mother to three boys (hubby included, his toys are just a little more expensive).
Her not-so-miniature dachshund, Sam, is her critique partner and keeps her company while writing.

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