As promised, Chick Kassie and Chick Lauren are back with their review of the newest book in the Evan Arden series – Otherwise Unharmed. We’d like to thank Shay and her team for sending us the ARC so that the girlz had the opportunity to read it in exchange for an honest review. Although, anyone reading their reviews of the first two books (here) will know there was little doubt it was going to be a positive one…
SYNOPSIS & ORDERING INFO HERE
So I suppose that we don’t have to hunt down Shay Savage to write a book 4 to the Evan Arden series. Even though we still want more of one of our favorite broken heroes. The cliffhanger she left us with in book 2 does find resolution, so I guess she’s off the hook…for now. Doesn’t mean we wouldn’t read more of this series, if she ever decided to continue it. *hint hint, Shay*
(video by the talented Jada D’Lee Designs)
The opening to book three has Evan in an extremely bad place, even worse than he was at the end of Otherwise Occupied. How, you may ask? He’s in jail. It’s not just that jail is such a horrible place, but while he’s there we learn more about Evan’s time in the Middle East and that puts him in a very tenuous place, mentally, when it comes to being locked up. A person doesn’t need a medical degree to know that a soldier who was a prisoner of war would not do well in certain situations.
At this point, Evan had hardly slept, had just come down from a nearly full-on rampage, and yet he is forced into solitude where he is shackled on a constant basis and mentally forced back into a hole in the middle of the desert. We know from Otherwise Occupied that Evan finds solace in having Bridgett, his not-always-so-trustworthy hooker-slash-girlfriend, sleeping with him. It allows him to rest his otherwise riddled mind. But she’s dead and he’s in prison, so his lack of comfort is palpable. His psychologist, Mark Duncan, visits him as a means to test his ability to be released into the general population of the prison and, on a grander scale, back into the public. Through their discussions, Mark’s concern over Evan’s inability to sleep grows immensely, as does Mark’s fear for Evan’s health and wellbeing, until again it’s the appearance of one person that changes so many things for Evan. Lia arrives at the prison to let Evan know that she’s taking care of Odin and that she is still there for him, and she is able to ease his struggle by allowing him some much needed sleep – even if it is on the floor of the prison interrogation room.
We don’t have to wait long before Evan is finally released from jail. He is forced into a corner between protecting the woman he’s grown to care deeply for and turning over his boss to the feds. But Evan, being Evan, convinces Agent Trent that he can be of much better service in bringing down the Greco family, the Severinovs, and all of their Russian associates in Chicago. Evan made the argument to Agent Trent that he would be better at bringing down all of the rivals of his boss, Moretti, rather than trying to fool his former boss and associates so he could take them down. We know of only a few things Evan truly cares about – his Barrett, his girl Lia, his faithful dog Odin, and his one and only father figure, Rinaldo Moretti.
Evan is, much like all of our favorite Shay Savage protagonists, a broken hero. He is good, although he does bad things. His refusal to work against his boss, Moretti, is one piece of evidence supporting this fact. The times when Moretti refers to Evan as ‘son’ are some of the proudest moments of his life. His loyalty to this man is to be acknowledged, even if his methods are not always the most sound. By trying to go the road alone, take down Greco and the Russians, and not involve Moretti in order to make it all look “real” to the opposition, Evan causes more problems than you’d think even someone looking to take down a mafia family would have. And that’s a lot of problems.
It is during Otherwise Unharmed that we also see Evan realizing that his feelings might actually extend beyond the selfish when it comes to Lia. In the beginning, for Evan, Lia is a piece of ass, a good lay, a way to get off. We see the inkling of his feelings when he leaves the note and the quarter in the cabin for her in Otherwise Alone. In Otherwise Occupied, his thoughts continually turn to Lia, even as he’s ‘seeing’ Bridgett. In Otherwise Unharmed, his desire to protect Lia and get her out of the insanity that is a mafia war shows his true growth, emotionally. He truly cares for Lia, whether he wants to put a label on it or not. He might even love her.
Lia coming back time and time again, even when Evan is at his lowest, his least proud, shows how much she truly cares for him. As much as she might not want it once she learns of his occupation, she is one of the very few constants in his life. In the end, however, she’s not there because he is forcing her to be there, as much as he might like that in some ways, it’s because she truly wants to be with Evan. He gives her an out so many times (I think we lost track of counting – lol), and yet she chooses to stay, showing how strong her feelings for him are.
Of course, like all of our Shay Savage reading material, this book definitely delivers on its more mature content. Let’s just say that we wouldn’t mind Evan pulling us into a dark alleyway and having his wicked way with us. We’ve been imagining what Evan looks like in our fantasies for two whole books now, and the cover of this newest edition doesn’t disappoint in bringing those images to life. Evan is much better at using his body to express his emotions than he is at using his words, and use his body he does. And we are lucky enough that The Savage Trainer allows Shay to use his body for us to enjoy as our very own Evan Arden.
While this book certainly delivers on the drama and the schmexy times, there is also comedy, like only Shay Savage can do. Mostly it’s Evan’s inner monologue that caused us to chuckle as he struggles to identify his feelings and argues with himself about what is right and wrong. Shay has a masterful way of mixing drama, humor, and everything in between into our lovely, broken heroes. None of her characters are one dimensional. We are thrown curveball after curveball when it comes to each character in this story. They’re not cut and dried, and that’s one of things that we find most appealing about Shay’s writing. You never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes those surprises make you smile. Sometimes they make you cry. Either way, you’re guaranteed to feel throughout the story.
If you have enjoyed Evan’s journey so far through Otherwise Alone and Otherwise Occupied, you will not be disappointed with Otherwise Unharmed. As with all of Shay’s work, the writing is descriptive and direct – a difficult combination to muster as an author. She is able to paint vivid pictures for the reader – pictures that pull you in and allow you to lose yourself in the world she creates. As an author, Shay has done extensive research when it comes to her characters and their world, including the descriptive locations where many major scenes take place. There are some places we personally had fun finding (as we showed you here) and other places we could only imagine in our heads. She has gone above and beyond when it comes to finding the right, and sometimes not-so-right, places for her stories. Her dedication to her craft is evident in every page, and to say we are constantly blown away by this amazing author would be an understatement. Go read! Go read, now! You won’t be disappointed!