Book Review: On the Run, by Michael Mandrake (Rating: 2.5/5)

mandrake-on-the-runOn the Run, by Michael Mandrake (PROTEKT Series, Book 1)
Publisher: Pride Publishing (October 6, 2015)
Word Count: approx. 50,000 words
Genre: Gay (M/M) Action/Adventure, Romance

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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* I received an advanced copy of this novel from Pride Promotions in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

Hit men. Drugs. The Mob. Major League Baseball. It sounds like the plot of a high-budget action movie, and I was incredibly intrigued to read it based on the summary. Throw in two hot men who are instantly attracted to one another, and you definitely have my attention. But I think this novel would have worked out a lot better as just an action novel, leaving the romance behind.

Summary:

Aiden Moriarty is a Florida ‘herbalist’ who works with a performance-enhancing drug used by many athletes. One of them is baseball star Ivan Salerno, who was caught using the drug and is now on the brink of getting suspended. Because of Ivan’s connections with a rogue mob boss, Aiden is taken into a witness-protection program, working along with baseball higher-ups until he testifies.

The mob boss, Augustine Ora, has hired former British military officer and his best hitman Devlin ‘Brit’ Crawford to do the job. Ora has instructed Devlin to go to Miami, kidnap Aiden and take him to the local airport to be transported to Havana, Cuba, to be executed by Ora’s top officers.

The plot of this novel was actually pretty interesting. Aiden initially got into dealing drugs to famous athletes in order to make some good, quick money. The lifestyle of being the personal drug dealer to one of MLB’s biggest stars was enough to keep him from feeling guilty. But when Aiden has a change of heart and agrees to testify, he ends up in deeper trouble than he realized.

On the flip-side is Dev and his best friend Miranda. They’re British assassins-for-hire, and Dev’s next job is to get rid of Aiden before he can testify. But as soon as Dev sees a picture of Aiden, he can’t help but feel lust for the other man, and this kicks off a chain of events that leads to Dev, Miranda, and Aiden fleeing to escape Ora’s wrath.

But there are some serious, serious problems with the actual execution of this super interesting plot. Namely, the characters themselves, and Dev and Aiden’s “relationship”.

Look, lust is find. Instant attraction based on looks? Sure, I’ll buy it. But making a conscious decision to leave your job and risk your life for a man, just because he’s gorgeous? Um….mandrake-elsa-frozen-marry

Mandrake tries hard to make their relationship seem genuine. The issue is Aiden, who is uninteresting and has absolutely no skills. He’s hot. He wants someone rich to take care of him. He’s a sex fiend. That’s really about it for Aiden. Dev, on the other hand, is slightly more complex; he wants out of his job, and he dreams of retiring somewhere quiet to enjoy his life. He’s a big, black man in a world that negatively stereotypes big, black men.

People were always surprised when he said he lived in one of the most affluent spots in London. (ePub, page 11)

I absolutely despised Miranda. DESPISED. I’m sorry, there was literally nothing redeeming about her character. She is, to quote Dev, “crazy like a fox“, but I don’t think that’s a good thing. She constantly endangers their mission, she’s trigger-happy, and she has serious mood swings. This book could have done with 100% less Miranda, and 100% more actual strong, female character.

I give Mandrake credit for writing an interesting plot, and for trying to make sense of Aiden and Dev’s attraction. It almost felt, at times, like the author himself didn’t buy into the relationship, and had to justify it to himself and the reader.

“We haven’t had our first date, our first kiss, and I want this man more than I want to breathe. It’s something sexy about him other than his looks, charm and wit that I can’t quite place. It’s as if all of a sudden Cupid shot me with a bow and arrow. I don’t believe in all that instant love thing, Miranda, but I’m not thinking rationally when it comes to him.” (ePub, page 66)

In the end, this novel just really didn’t do it for me, but I think it made a valiant attempt at it!

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