4.5⭐️ – Rei Takeda loves her job protecting those who can’t protect themselves in a city where peace between four mob Clans is precarious at best. When she’s tasked with protecting the heir of the fallen leader of one of these Clans, she’s not happy. That said heir is incredibly hot doesn’t help when she’s also incredibly annoying. And bossy. And cruel. Which Rei knows from experience.
The first time the MCs meet (let’s call it that to avoid spoiling) is definitely not cute but just as definitely exciting and full of sexy promises. A lot of the excitement of this book comes from the relationship between the two main characters and their explosive chemistry, and then twist! In the last part of the book, the thriller takes over and it’s breathtaking, for new reasons.
Rei is the kind of character that is easy to love. She’s clearly one of the good guys but she’s not unidimensional. Compared to Sora, she may seem less strong, especially in the way she’s willing to submit to her without fighting her much, but over the course of the story, she shows herself to be at least Sora’s match.
On the other side of the equation, Sora really isn’t an easy character to love – she’s amoral, she can be downright cruel, she’s smug – but she makes up for it by being complex and fascinating. When she allows herself to be vulnerable, she’s magnificent. Having been groomed since childhood to follow in her father’s footsteps, she learned that love is a weakness and relationships aren’t to be taken too seriously. Faced with her own desire for more than fantastic sex, she’s like a wounded animal, dangerous and unfair, making the moment she finally manages to trust all the more satisfying. I love well-written morally grey characters, and Sora is definitely that.
This whole book is about chemistry. Sure, it’s also about family and gangsters and doing – or not doing – the right thing, but all these feel like excuses for the all-encompassing, almost electric energy flowing between Rei and Sora. And damn, it is hot.
Among the side characters, the most prominent are Sora’s brother Hino, who is also Rei’s boss, and his boyfriend Jax, who is also Rei’s ex. I enjoyed the complexity of the relationships between all these characters, and the not always covert jealousy between Sora and Jax brought comedic relief when needed.
With this powerful debut, Annelise Sorrell is already an author to watch out for. Holding Fire isn’t without flaws though, and falls into the category of “the words are good but they aren’t all needed”. It could have been shorter and still have told the same story, still been as compelling but faster-paced. Nothing a good editor can’t fix for future books, however.