|Considering that Trace of Fever is definitely not the first novel Lori Foster has written, I’m very surprised that I haven’t read her books before now. She certainly knows how to pen a captivating read, and I’ll be following her work now that I’ve read one of her stories.
Trace Rivers is an good guy undercover in a very bad place. Trace’s sister Alani was kidnapped by human traffickers in When You Dare, Foster’s first book of the “Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor” series. Not having read that first book, it wasn’t hard to get the gist of Alani’s plight and rescue by Trace’s partner, Dare. Alani’s back home safely and recovering, but Trace is dead set on a self appointed mission to wipe out human traffickers any way that he can, and he’s found himself a prime target in Murray Coburn.
Murray Coburn is a nasty piece of work, a truly scary and unpredictable guy. He’s been running “product” – young women ranging from their teens to thirties, for years, and selling them to the highest bidders. He gets mad when his product is accidentally killed due to inhumane transport, because he’s going to lose money. He has raped, beaten, and tortured so many women that he can’t remember them all. His newest woman is the truly psychotic, twisted Helene. Helene mixes various drug cocktails to keep Murray’s cargo mindlessly obedient and pliant, truthful, or sexually aroused as Murray requires, and she really enjoys her work.
Trace infiltrates Murray’s office, working for him as a bodyguard. While he truly has to walk the line of impressing the very suspicious Murray by obeying some very shady commands, and keeping his eye on the goal of freeing the captive women while attempting to destroy the business, Trace has his hands full.
Then, out of the blue, Priscilla Patterson shows up at Murray’s office, demanding entrance. She says that she’s Murray’s daughter, and just wants to get to know her dear old Dad. Trace doesn’t believe that for a second, but he has no idea of Priss’ true intentions. He also doesn’t know if she is truly Murray’s daughter. He does know, however, that Murray will desecrate and abuse Priss’ sweetness and purity, and he feels like he has to protect her too.
Meanwhile, Priss is up to her own game with her own motives and version of justice, but she really didn’t realize how disgusting and inhumane Murray was when she mapped her course. She’s bullied into accepting help from Trace but soon comes to realize that she can in no way protect herself in the deep-stakes game she’s entered. She soon realizes that Trace seems like a good guy, but she can’t trust him completely and he sure doesn’t trust her at all. For the time being, they are stuck together in a deadly, deceptive, twisted sexual maze and they will have to rely on each other to get out.
Trace of Fever was wonderful. It was half Criminal Minds-style suspense with crazy bad guys, and half super sexy cat and mouse game. I really liked a lot of things about it, from the tensely unfolding, multi-layered drama, to the kicking chemistry between our leading couple.
Trace is a seriously Alpha male, and he is commanding, take-charge, and dynamic on every page. He thinks through his conflicting feelings brought up by Murray’s mistreatment of his product, and balances it with his charged up attitude to take down a truly bad guy’s empire. He never gets weak and babyish even though Murray throws down a tough gauntlet to keep Trace undercover. Trace’s friends, Dare and Molly, Chris, Jackson and Matt round out a side of Trace that we don’t see otherwise. He’s protective of his friends, but lets his guard down with them. He can talk to them and depend on their help to complete his mission.
Priss is a tough lady. While she’s intentionally thrust herself into an unknown world way over her head, she’s still sassy and occasionally violent when she feels threatened. Priss doesn’t shy away from the challenges she’s presented, both by Murray and Trace. She begins to trust Trace and confide her very personal background to him, which helps to make her more human, more vulnerable, and less of an idiot for jumping into a human trafficking ring, on purpose. Priss has led a very cloistered existence for most of her life, and she’s unprepared for an attraction to a man like Trace. Her very honest and open reactions to him from their first meeting on help make her a more believable girl.
The only part that stopped me from absolutely loving this book was that Priss’ naiveté and subsequent tough girl act grated a little. There were moments when she was so believable and really into understanding the dangerous situation she was in, and then it seemed like five minutes later she forgot and acted out ridiculously. It happened constantly that her opinions and her behavior would swing like a pendulum. While Foster writes that some of this was for Murray’s benefit, it was just too out of sync for me.
Other than that, it was a great read, and I’m looking forward to the next installment.