Tag Team Review: Friendly Fire by Cari Z.

Elliot McKenzie is the king of reinvention. Five years after losing his job and his lover and almost going to prison, his self-help program, Charmed Life, is more successful than he’d ever dreamed. He thinks he’s put his sordid past firmly behind him, until he starts receiving cryptic threats . . . and realizes it might not be as over as he’d hoped.

Security expert Lennox West has been lost since a deadly skirmish in Afghanistan led to his forced retirement from the Army. His PTSD makes helping his ex raise their daughter a challenge. When his ex’s sister asks him to set her boss up with a security system, Lennox isn’t expecting anyone like Elliot McKenzie—a man who captures his attention and makes him feel relaxed for the first time since leaving the service.

But Elliot is dangerously stubborn. Even as the threats against him escalate, he refuses to involve the police, and Lennox fears that stubbornness could kill him. A battle of wills ensues that brings them closer to each other than either man expected. But if the threats turn real, they might not live long enough to get their future together.

Adam - 3 Hearts

After almost going to prison, Elliot McKenzie reinvented himself and put everything into his self-help program, which has grown to become a highly successful business. However, when he begins receiving cryptic threats, he realizes that his past might come back to haunt him. At the insistence of his assistant, Elliot turns to security expert Lennox West for help.

Lennox also has a past that he’d like to forget. His only goal is to be stable enough to help raise his daughter. When he meets Elliot, the mutual attraction is instant, and he finds it hard to resist. When the two give in, they realize that once won’t be enough. But the increasingly dangerous threats against Elliot make it difficult to think about romance.

Cari Z is a very versatile author. Whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, or contemporary, she can write different genres, and she can do it well. ‘Friendly Fire’, a contemporary thriller, was no different. It’s well-written, and captured my attention from early on.

Right off the bat, one thing I loved was that Lennox had a good relationship with his ex-wife and her family. It’s nice to see something positive, instead of the usual family drama in MM. I also liked Lee, Lennox’s daughter. She’s got some teen angst, but Lee was relatable instead of annoying.

Though both Elliot and Lennox have baggage, the start of their romance is fairly easy-going. They meet, feel an attraction, act on that attraction, and then go back for more. It was easy to connect with both MCs, and to understand what they saw in each other. Given their backgrounds, I was rooting for them from the moment they met.

Compared to the mystery aspect of the book, the romance was low-drama and low-angst, which worked well. Lennox and Elliot’s relationship was sweet without becoming fluffy.

It also didn’t hurt that Lennox and Elliot were on fire in the bedroom. If you’re a fan of dirty talk, you’ll like the sexy times in this book.

But I would say that the romance is secondary to the mystery in ‘Friendly Fire’. Elliot and Lennox’s relationship ends up taking a backseat, which isn’t a bad thing, but it did leave a few things unfinished. In particular, I thought they needed to work on communication, especially around Lennox’s PTSD. That’s one of those serious issues that can’t be swept under the rug.

That being said, this author knows how to build suspense and weave a mystery. I did have an inkling around the halfway point about what was going on, but I enjoyed the ride nonetheless. The resolution to it all was fairly believable, and didn’t go OTT.

Overall, I enjoyed ‘Friendly Fire’. Had there been more relationship development, I would have given this an extra star. As it is, it’s a sweet romance with an entertaining mystery. Recommended if you’re looking for something lighter on the romance, with a good plot.

Cupcake - 3.5 Hearts

I know a certain author type person was nervous about this one due to it being out of her comfort zone, but I enjoyed myself reading this AND I found the mystery storyline with its twists and turns gripping.

The thriller storyline was involved and kept me on my toes without overtaking the story. I’m a fan of thrillers but I REALLY like it when the mystery or event brings the two protagonists together which is what happens between Lennox and Elliot.

I like both characters but I found myself more drawn to Lennox. He’s a veteran who made a mistake in the line of duty and can't seem to forgive himself. He’s also a BAMF. You want him on your side in the event of a crisis. He’s a natural leader, observant, loyal and logical, so when the shit hits the fan he doesn’t lose his cool. I see him as the ultimate caregiver-very protective of those he cares for and willing to sacrifice himself for their safety if need be, but not recklessly.

The shit has definitely hit Elliot’s fan. He’s being stalked and terrorized, but can’t go to the authorities for fear of torpedoing his sister’s bid for DA. Again. I’ll come back to this. His company is on the brink of going next level with a black tie event that has the crème de la crème on the guest list, so negative publicity he does not need. His fireball of a PA, Serena, suggests her ex-brother in law install a home security system and flirting turns into more flirting.

It’s supposed to just be a come and go which, honestly, I never really got why Elliot was so set on but no matter, the universe has different plans for them. Their relationship strengthens as the thriller intensifies and they wend up living together for all intents and purposes.

There is heat and passion between them with great begging and dirty talk. *grunts*

But they don’t have that butterfly inducing intensity. What they do have is comfortable, like that old pair of jeans that just fits. Despite their relationship’s origin being so chaotic I’m convinced that it has longevity.

While reading this I was trying to pinpoint why it is that I like Cari’s writing so much. I’ve seen people describe writing styles as being “clean”. I admit I don’t quite know what that means but I’ve decided to appropriate it. She can convey a sentiment, an atmosphere, a feeling with a few carefully chosen words. She uses language with precision. Her usage of the excerpts at the beginning of each chapter was a clever way of introducing the MCs backstories without being info dumpy. And in the case of this particular story, I loved all the moments with Lee, Lennox’s daughter. Ordinarily, I don’t like books with kids in them, but her teenage characterization was perfection.

My one quibble is Vanessa and I don’t think this is spoilery, but here goes… Vanessa and Elliot had a falling out. Wait, let me back up. They *seemed* to be quite close as kids. She’s older than him and their parents are deceased, so they’re all the other has. Elliot fucked up. He’s not overtly culpable for what happened, but he knew what was what and didn’t say anything, so culpable by proxy in my book. After it all blew up he spun out and developed an addiction to opiates then wound up in rehab. All of this negatively impacted her and cost her the election for DA. She arranged for him to go to rehab and then cut all ties.

Now, I’ve got a whole gaggle of family most of whom have fucked up major at one point or another. There has been some tough love doled out on my part, but I’ve never cut them off. I get the whole every family has a different dynamic, but when that’s your ONLY family? It seems really harsh and I had a hard time swallowing it. However, I get why from a narrative standpoint that you’ve got to maintain the “he can’t go to the police” sentiment for it to work so... there is that. I just didn't like it and am hoping Lennox gives her the business at some point.

Regardless, it was an entertaining romance/thriller smashup that kept me guessing and I would recommend it to romance/thriller smashup fans or Cari Z. fans.

ARCs were provided by NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.

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  1. I enjoyed the post. I really appreciate the reviews!
    ree.dee.2014 (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. Thanks Ree Dee! To be entered in the giveaway you need to comment on that post though. Just use the link at the bottom of this post. :)