Full disclosure: I read an early version of this book and loved most of it. I read the final novel for this review and loved it even more.
4.5⭐️ – Don’t pick up this book on any given day. Choose the right time. It’s not an easy read. There’s a beautiful love story but there’s also a lot of hard, depressing things happening. It’s written on the cover, Worth the Risk is a “gritty psychological romance”. You’ve been warned. It definitely is gritty.
After a huge mistake that almost cost her team an arrest and ended with her getting shot, forensic psychologist Grace never expected the Covert Intelligence Squad (CIS) to want her back. So when her former colleague asks for her help on a case, she’s wary but intrigued. Even more so when it turns out she won’t be guiding an undercover agent this time, she will be the one going in.
Depending on your willingness to believe in the human soul’s weakness, you might have to suspend your disbelief. I went along, but I can see why not everyone would. Because yes, Grace will fall for the suspect even though she’s a professional. But nothing is what it seems in the world and the villains might not be the designated ones.
If you’ve read Crystal Chard’s debut, Rough Around the Edges (if you haven’t, you should), don’t expect more of the same. I loved both books for very different reasons. What they have in common is good writing and characters you can’t help loving. Grace’s smarts and ability to read others are not foolproof and is it okay to do the right thing for the wrong reasons? Nadia’s been through so much and she appears emotionless, but Grace, with patience, empathy, and that little je ne sais quoi that makes two people connect despite everything, will get her to open up, and that’s when her strength will shine.
I’m not going to delve too deep into what I love in this book because it’s very easy to spoil and we can’t have that, can we? I’ll just say that it hurts, in that the heavy topics I alluded to at the beginning of this review are very real. Crystal Chard didn’t have to make up any of the awful things her characters are up against, and some of the horror is described on the page. The fact that I believe these sections are necessary doesn’t make them any easier to read. Humans suck sometimes. Violence and cruelty exist. If you’re looking for escapism, keep this book for another time. If, however, you’re willing to dive into the darkness of the world, Grace and Nadia make it all worth it. They’re flawed, they’re hardened, they’re strong, they’re endearing when you least expect them to be. Though my favourite character may very well be Leslie, Grace’s sister, whose immaturity sometimes gives way to the most accurate albeit surprising insights. This book is a reminder that while there are a lot of awful people doing awful things, there are also a lot of people fighting the good fight, and winning often enough that it doesn’t all seem pointless. Grace’s former colleagues are a good example of what I like in secondary characters. They’re complex, have their own motivation, and feel very much like people I could know.
It wouldn’t be a romance if it didn’t end with hope. Grace and Nadia get their perfect happy ending in an imperfect world. I could totally picture them coming back for future world-saving adventures.