I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Mali is in Hawaii doing research for a human rights study focusing on sex trafficking, when her principal investigator blows his alert whistle when her and her colleagues are out doing street interviews, she knows she's in trouble. Her former military sister Arin works on the island, so she calls her for help.
Raul has just been hired by Search and Protect Corps, a job his former colleague and friend Arin helped him get. When he gets a call forwarded from Arin's phone because she is currently on a mission and hears her little sister asking for help, he knows he has to act.
Mali and Raul both have trust issues but as they work to find out what happened to Mali's colleagues, the spark between them is getting harder and harder to ignore.
Her laughter faded, and her dark brown eyes sparkled with mischief. “Well, if you're going to get in trouble anyway...”
She bent then, leaning a hand on his chest, and pressed her lips to his.
Total Bravery, is number four in the True Heroes series but you would have no problem picking this up with no prior knowledge. I've only read the first in the series and I never felt lost. The story brings you into the action right away, which really worked for me in some ways and not in others. Raul's partner is a German Sheppard named Taz and, something that I thought was missing from the first book, the author utilized Taz wonderfully. Even though Mali is running and hiding, the way Taz brings Raul to her started the story off cute and exciting. However, jumping right into the danger that sets up the action plot didn't allow for an introduction to Mali's colleagues. When Mali manages to evade the ominous men in suits that caused the leader of her research group to warn people to run but her colleagues all get kidnapped, I didn't have an emotional stake in their danger or any future reveals pertaining to the characters; nixed a supposed surprise ending thread.
A cold nose touched her thigh, and Taz slipped his head under her hand. The big dog pressed against her leg. Raul murmured gently, “We won't leave you.”
Mali was the stronger of the two characters because of getting more background information on her. She grew-up protected by her older sister and this caused her to look up to her but also have some fear towards the violence Arin exhibited in front of her. We get a scene between the sisters where Mali learns that Arin thinks of her in a way that Mali was clueless about and bolsters her confidence. I wish we could have gotten more scenes between the two because their uneasy but loving relationship provided great complex emotions. The same with Raul and Arin, I would have liked to see these two friends together. As the new guy on the job, Raul didn't have any connections and he didn't seem to have family or other friends than Arin, this left some of the different layers of his character blank for me.
She was doing research because she believed people were worth saving. He'd spent the better part of his last assignment proving to people that there was a hell, and it didn't take demons to send them there.
Mali and Raul had a cute start, even though their first kiss happens very quickly and as Mali's character gets revealed more, it made the first kiss seem out of character for her. Their romance felt pushed to the side a bit too much in favor of the plot to find out who and why Mali's colleagues were taken. The villains behind the sex trafficking plot felt a bit whiffed on with their structure and reveal but maybe since they're close to the Search and Protect corps they will show up again. I'm a dog person and I adored the relationship between Taz and Mali and how Taz worked with Raul; Taz made this book for me. I thought the writing was smooth and the author handled the moving parts well, research felt evident in how scenes and characters were conducted, most importantly, it kept me wanting to read but I didn't fully feel the love building between Raul and Mali. Even in the later half of the story Mali was still not thinking a relationship with Raul would be serious. I wish the ending text messages that Raul sends to Mali would have been shown so we could read and feel more of an emotional connection between the two.
She stared up at him. “I am so glad you're here.”
He smiled then, slow and incredibly sexy.
Each book in the series has a main character paired with a dog (keep hoping for a Rottweiler someday!) and I love that. Trust me, you're going to love Taz, the moment where he shuts a car door during a mission was ridiculously cute and high training impressive. This was the second book in the series I've read and even though I thought the romance relationship between the two could have been better, I enjoyed it even more than the first.