Review: Where Death Meets the Devil by L.J. Hayward

Jack Reardon, former SAS soldier and current Australian Meta-State asset, has seen some messy battles. But “messy” takes on a whole new meaning when he finds himself tied to a chair in a torture shack, his cover blown wide open, all thanks to notorious killer-for-hire Ethan Blade.

Blade is everything Jack doesn’t believe in: remorseless, detached, lawless. Yet, Jack’s only chance to survive is to strike a bargain with the devil and join forces with Blade. As they trek across a hostile desert, Jack learns that Blade is much more than a dead-eyed killer—and harder to resist than he should be.

A year later, Jack is home and finally getting his life on track. Then Ethan Blade reappears and throws it all into chaos once more. It’s impossible to trust the assassin, especially when his presence casts doubts on Jack’s loyalty to his country, but Jack cannot ignore what Blade’s return means: the mess that brought them together is far from over, and Ethan might just bring back the piece of Jack’s soul he thought he’d lost forever.

Strap in, kids, cuz this one goes by fast!

I took a chance since Hayward was an unknown to me and I believe this is her first foray into MM, though I would never know it had I not snooped. I am beyond pleased that I clicked that request button because this is a Cupcake book! A blistering pace is set from the start that carries through to the finish.

Where Death Meets the Devil flip flops between events that took place a year ago and present day between Jack and Ethan. It's told entirely though Jack but I still got a great sense of Ethan, who is a strange brew of childlike exuberance, especially when it comes to his beloved cars, a dry sense of humor that oddly makes him seem very approachable and a cold lethality that makes him very dangerous indeed.

Jack works for a government agency called the Meta-State which is a collective and secret spy network between Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries who share intelligence in an effort to combat terrorism. He's ex-military and has some demons from his missions that crop up in organic ways. I like him. I don't know if I like him as much as a like Ethan but I'm a weirdo who digs assassins. *shrugs* Sue me.

One year ago Jack was undercover working for Valadian in an effort to gain intel on his involvement with terror groups when he wound up bound to a chair in a torture shack. In walks Ethan Blade, number 7 on the list of most notable assassins, and he figures his time is up. That would make for a short story and not nearly as interesting as the unholy alliance they form to get through the Australian outback relatively unscathed after Ethan helps him escape.

Skip forward a year and Mr. Ethan Blade strolls right into the super secret headquarters of the Sydney Meta-State offices and asks to speak to Jack.

This gif sums up my feels about this book around this time succinctly.

I'm not going to sum up the plot because it's best experienced firsthand but I will tell you some things to expect.

Expect lots of action-fight scenes, car chases, gun fights, dingoes... 
Expect sophisticated writing with gloriously fleshed out characters, complete with backstories.
Expect a fresh voice when it comes to MM romance.
Expect sex scenes that are sensual, lush and build intimacy.
Expect numerous acronyms.
Expect to be kept guessing by the players involved and the plot.
Expect a rude and somewhat needy camel.
Expect to be amused... 

"I miss food." Jack moaned. "Like the thick, juicy steak I had last night. So good."
"For the right price, I can make it your last meal."

This book is hard to classify. It's set in contemporary Australia but there are elements that are almost sci-fi or maybe cyberpunk? It's a little bit opposites attract with a sprinkling of enemies to lovers and heaping of slow burn or whatever you get when you stir those all together. Enemies attract burning? New category! I WIN! Whatever it is, I liked it and I want more of it.

Now for the question I know you're all waiting for, the romance. I would call this romantic suspense. There is a romance between these two, but it's non-traditional. They're not entirely enemies but they are at opposite ends of the legal and moral spectrum, so to speak. They do not trust each other. There are secrets and lies and omissions of truths galore between them and though they make great partners, I think it would've been disingenuous to these characters to bridge that divide and give them a big fluffy HEA. They have something and they both know it but will it stand the test of time? Who knows.

However, I'd be more than happy to take one for the team and read another of their stories to see them get a leeettttllllleeee bit closer to their own version of an HEA, because I'm a giver. 😬

My only quibble is something involving the case but I can't seem to muster up enough care to lower my rating over it.

Recommend to action, suspense, thriller and fans of gritty romance.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley.


  1. Oh my, this sounds really good! I haven't read anything by this author so this will be a new experience1