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Fatal Fidelity #1

Love Kills Twice

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She needs an assassin.
They’re the best in the business.
Falling in love was never part of the deal.
Desperate to escape her abusive husband, Justine hires a contract killer. Campbell’s services come at a high price, and their dark, seductive charisma leads Justine right into their bed. Hiding an affair while Campbell designs the perfect murder has Justine walking a tightrope of stress, but each time the two of them sleep together, it’s harder not to get attached. Campbell struggles with their own traumatic past, convinced that the truth will drive Justine away.
There’s a faint hope that things could work, save for one problem: Justine’s husband wants her dead too.
Revenge is easy—heartbreak could cost both of them everything.

Word Count: 36,000
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Tags: artist, assassin, bi, contemporary, dark, ex-military, guns, interracial, murder, murder-for-hire, nonbinary, pan, sexual tension

145 pages, ebook

First published January 18, 2021

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About the author

Rien Gray

16 books69 followers
Rien is a queer, nonbinary author of LGBTQ+ romance, erotica, and horror. They love writing charged sex scenes, consent-informed kink, and hot criminal love interests who revel in the above.

When not writing, Rien spends their time at the gym, making tea, or angling for yet another platinum trophy in a video game.

Newsletter: Rien Gray @ Tinyletter

Website: riengray.com

Twitter: @RienGray

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5 stars
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48 (19%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 73 reviews
Profile Image for Lex Kent.
1,682 reviews8,878 followers
January 17, 2021
3.50 Stars. A dark and steamy read. What happens when you fall for the assassin you hired to kill you husband? That premise was enough to make me say yes please. I love a morally grey main character and in this book we actually get two of them. And while I guess you could put the crime tag on this book, this really was a steamy romance.

While I was really excited about the premise, I was also happy that this was a romance between a woman and a non-binary character. I have read a few books now with non-binary characters but I think the writing here was really well done. The pronouns were seamless and even the sex scenes felt right. I think readers looking for books with non-binary characters will be happy here.

While I loved the premise and the overall feel of the book, it did have a few things that didn’t click as well for me. I struggled that the wife character would have to hire a killer. Her husband is a total dick, I get it, but you really have to have him killed? I think the problem is I didn’t feel her desperation enough that having him killed was the only way out for her. Her husband seemed more like the kind of loser you could crush and not like the scary husband in the movie Enough (I love that J. Lo movie:) On the other hand, I had no problems at all with the assassin character that actually killed people for a living, so what that says about me I’m not sure.

I also had a problem with the speed of things. From the attraction to the actual L word being said, it all seemed a bit fast for me. This is a novella or maybe a short novel, I don’t know actually where the difference is, but it’s a quicker read so I do get everything moving fast. I just think I needed a little more emotion and time together before I believed that the L word had real meaning between them.

This is a steamy read and the sex scenes were pretty well done. There is a slight kink to things with some dom/sub and even a little breath play. If you are looking for more of a vanilla romance that this is not the book for you.

While this had a few bumps for me, I still enjoyed the read. This was a solid debut for Gray. There is a sequel coming and I will absolutely read it. If you are looking for a steamy romance with some morally grey characters, then this book is for you.
Profile Image for Leah.
407 reviews157 followers
May 31, 2021
"Love Kills Twice" is a sexy and dark-ish romance about a woman and the assassin she hires to kill her husband. This comes with the slight twist that the same assassin has been hired by her husband to kill her as well and then the wife and assassin fall in love!

Justine, the wife, and Campbell, the assassin, quickly start an affair after payment is made for the husband’s murder. Justine is looking to be noticed after years of neglect and abuse from her husband. Campbell likes that Justine knows what they do and isn’t afraid or disgusted by them.

This was fun and just dark enough to be intriguing and keep me reading. My main issue was with how quickly the ‘I love you’s’ came about. It isn’t a long book and most is dealing with the affair and plotting the murder. There wasn’t a lot of them getting to know one another well enough for that kind of emotional attachment. However, this is the first in a series so I’m hoping we get a more in depth look later.

I really enjoyed the assassin aspect and getting to know Campbell’s process. I found their reasoning and history very interesting and hope to learn even more in the next installment. I did have some reservations about Justine’s justifications in having her husband killed. Reasons were given but they seemed pretty light when she could simply get a divorce. But to each their own, I guess.

There’s also a bit of breath play involved with the sex scenes. But it’s pretty slight if that would be an issue for you.

I can’t wait for the sequel and I recommend this for anyone who likes their romance with a bit of a darker tone.

I received an ARC from NetGalley and Nine Star Press in an exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jude in the Stars.
879 reviews512 followers
January 11, 2021
What are the odds of a husband and a wife both hiring the same assassin to get rid of the other? And what are the odds that the wife will fall for the assassin?

Love Kills Twice is a dark and very hot first book – its length puts it right at the limit between novella and novel, so call it what you will – in a new series and, I think, a debut (there’s a link to a very well-written short story on the author’s website).

The writing is really good and I absolutely loved the atmosphere. It took me a little longer to love the characters, for two reasons. The first is my own moral sense, which struggled with liking killers. I knew what I was getting into though, so once I got over myself, it was fine. The other reason is how mysterious Campbell, the non-binary assassin, remains for most of the story. I liked how they looked at and saw Justine (their client and potential victim) from the start but it wasn’t enough for me to get a real feel as to who they are. Which was kind of exciting in itself. There’s a capacity for passion hidden behind the cold facade that explains a lot once it’s unveiled.

Justine, on the other hand, is also complex but in a very different way. When we meet her, she’s already decided to have her husband killed, after years of him mistreating her, cheating on her and extinguishing her light and passion. So yes, she’s already decided to take action, in the most radical way. Yet as the relationship with Campbell evolves, we see her stand straighter, become more assertive, take what she wants.

As you’ll probably get from the premise, there are a few potential triggers in this book. Here are the warnings listed on the publisher’s website: on-page murder of a side character, cheating and power imbalance by a side character; off-page domestic abuse of an MC, mention of past war-time trauma of an MC.

A second book in the series is announced in a more or less near future. I’ll be very interested in seeing what happens to Campbell and Justine next.

I received a copy from the publisher and I am voluntarily leaving a review.
Profile Image for MZ.
425 reviews110 followers
January 17, 2021
3.75 stars. This novella is so hard to rate. I loved parts, but there were also parts were my rational thought interfered. The novella has a non-binary protagonist, lets us look through the eyes of an assassin and has this dark broody and very sexy atmosphere that I enjoyed immensely!

What the book comes down to; Justine hires assassin Campbell to kill her abusive husband, but she doesn’t know that her husband hired said assassin as well. Campbell is mysterious and sexy and there is almost immediate attraction between them and Justine which leads to some pretty hot sex scenes with light BDSM elements. The story is told in the first person with alternating POVs of Justine and Campbell.

So, what did I struggle with? My moral compass was spinning at times. That’s normal, you would think, you’re in the headspace of an assassin, but no, I loved Campbell and accepted their choice of a job (even though I know how weird that sounds). It was Justine that was messing with my morals. What justifies hiring an assassin? A bad marriage? There is a simpler solution for this, it’s called a divorce. While a reason is given, I was thinking if everyone in the world would act like Justine does, the world would be an empty place. Then there are some things she absolutely hates about her husband, like his infidelity, but isn’t she doing the same thing, but now it’s ok because he did it first, right? I won’t go further in detail, but there were a couple of additional things that made me frown. The book clearly is not meant to be taken too seriously in that regard, but I sometimes can’t just turn of my line of thinking.

The writing and the atmosphere were great, the plot is interesting and the story is fast paced and I commend Gray on taking a chance with this book (both in storyline as in gender representation). The wrap-up of the romance was a bit fast for my liking, but it is a novella and I think/hope the character and romance development will be extended in the sequel. This novella might not be for everybody, but if you can tune out some rational thought you can have a great time reading this book! I look forward to reading the sequel.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for S.
201 reviews15 followers
January 16, 2021
I was really surprised as to just how much I enjoyed this storyline. At first glance from the blurb I thought I’d enjoy another character on the outskirts of right and wrong (in this case, very wrong) but I was genuinely surprised just how much Gray hooked me into liking this premise.

The story centres on an assassin - Campbell - who has been hired by both a husband and wife to kill each other. The point of view in the book alternates between Campbell and Justine - the wife.

Whilst Justine is an interesting character, and the reasons for the hiring are explored in depth, Campbell is the interesting and intriguing part of the whole narrative for me. I’m keen for more non-binary characters and whilst Campbell is clearly deliberately kept a bit of a mystery to add to the intrigue there was enough here to make things really compelling.

The chemistry between the two of them is very hot, including some light BDSM and breath play.

I liked the addition of the lawyer character so Campbell doesn’t seem so completely out there, and the small glimpses into their past help with seeing why Justine could fall for them. I’m definitely hoping that we get to past more of the mystery surrounding Campbell in the second book.

The storyline does end quite abruptly, but the length of the novella/novel kept the writing really tight and I think it would have felt quite strange to have gone from where we end to the next step. The next part is due later in the year and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

If you’re fond of characters on the moral edge there’s a lot here to enjoy.

As you’d expect from the topic there are some potential triggers and the publisher has these labelled really well, including some past military trauma and some off page domestic abuse.

This does appear to be the first main published work from Gray, but there is mention of other work which I’m definitely eager to find now!

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for lauraღ.
1,593 reviews76 followers
January 14, 2021
My eyes drift across her skin, every inch that I’ve touched and learned. The difference between life and the end is an escalation of pressure.

I loved the heck out of this. A super sexy romantic suspense novel between an artist and the suave assassin that she hires to kill her cheating, abusive husband. The only catch? Her husband hired the same assassin to kill her.

This had me hooked from the very beginning, with smooth prose and compelling dialogue. I sympathised and identified with Justine so much, and omg Campbell. I fell head over swoon for them from the first moment. They felt dangerous but charming, and you really understood why Justine was drawn to them. This is a pretty short book, and I have to admire the character work that Gray does in so little time? Both characters are grappling with different types of trauma, and I love how they bonded and clicked. There was so much intensity between them, and it was sooooo good. This is kiiiiiiinda insta-lovey, but I don't mind, seeing as I enjoyed it overall so much.

The plot was really fun; I would have probably enjoyed it ever more in a longer book, but I did so enjoy what the author managed to deliver here. Even though the intrigue wasn't that deep, my eyes were still glued to the pages. The readers are aware of the double-hire twist from the beginning, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment at all. And I don't read a lot of suspense/intrigue/spy-esque stuff, so for me at least, it was all really refreshing and fun, and seemed well researched!

I didn't love how the ending wrapped up; it was just a teensy bit anticlimactic? And I did love the romance, but I wanted more, at least in the ending, to give a better sense of fullness/completeness.

But I still really really liked this! I think it was my first f/nb romance, and I'm super looking forward to whatever the author writes next. Serious kudos!

☆ Review copy provided via NetGalley.

Content warnings:
Profile Image for roma.
365 reviews88 followers
September 5, 2021
bisexuals falling in love with the assassin they hired to murder their husband? it's more likely than you think<3

rep: bi mc, non binary li, aroace and sapphic side characters
Profile Image for MEC.
390 reviews32 followers
August 14, 2021
I’m really not sure how I stumbled across Rien Gray’s Fatal Fidelity books – likely someone posted something about it and it stuck randomly in my mind. I am glad that I remembered it as I was really quite intrigued with the characters, the writing and the plots. It just goes to show that you don’t know what’s out there unless you start looking outside your normal reading parameters.

These books are published through Ninestar Press – a smaller publisher that has been impressing me quite a bit over the last year or so. They publish LGBTQ+ novels that have a bit of an edge to them – they can be diverse, quirky, dark and quite often quite steamy (okay, just about everyone book I’ve read from Ninestar is pretty heavy on the sex and usually has a bit of kink) but they are always distinct and original. They also have some of the most gorgeous covers out there.

Gray’s books are an homage to the noir and hardboiled genres. There’s moral ambiguity to the characters and their actions that Gray pulls off without making the characters irredeemably flawed or the story nihilistic. The result is a simmering story of vengeance and passion with a contract killer and the woman who hires them to kill her husband that sucks you right in.

Campbell is a sophisticated and urbane character – sharply dressed, charming and confident – but there’s also an underlying danger lingering in every word and action. Methodical and organized, they research and plan out the smallest detail to create the perfect murder with cold and precise calculation and total confidence in their ability. Beneath the self-assurance and polite veneer, there’s a vulnerability of guilt and rage that they keep tightly leashed which broadens the character and enhances the air of mystery around the motivations and allows Justine to glimpse behind the implacable wall of professionalism.

Justine is a successful art gallery owner who sacrificed a career as an artist to support her husband while he pursued his education. She has become little more than a trophy wife that Richard treats with disdain through infidelity and isolating her from friends and family. Over their marriage, he has insidiously undermined Justine’s confidence and self-assurance through years of psychological, emotional and physical abuse. Despite his efforts she retains a steel core of self that survives his campaign and she finally decides to end things. But Justine wants more than escape through a divorce, she wants vengeance. Once the decision is made, she’s resolved to see it through. That steely core is further stoked through her interactions with Campbell, with her confidence returning and allowing her to acknowledge her own wants and desires.

Murder for hire may seem tawdry, but the characters are sharp and complex, with the narrative and dialogue full of innuendo and charisma that tantalizes. There’s a sizzling energy between the characters from the outset and that chemistry boils over pretty quickly. I found myself completely invested in the two characters and eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

Love Kills Twice – Rien Gray

The first book is a novella, but it gives enough time and space to introduce the characters and has a nice neat plot to keep things moving along. Though it is short, the pacing is perfect – there’s just enough to hook the reader without bloating the story with angst or unnecessary exposition.

The story starts with a civilized dinner at a nice restaurant where Justine meets Campbell to finalize the contract and details around her husband’s imminent demise (at Campbell’s hands and Justine’s behest). From there the die is cast, and the two are drawn inexorably closer by a simmering attraction that provides more than enough steamy fodder for the reader.

There’s a dark undertone with a murder plot bringing the characters together, but that’s what makes noir noir – and when you mix moral ambiguity, implied violence and sex, you get a pretty explosive result.
Profile Image for Jamie (TheRebelliousReader).
3,505 reviews31 followers
January 16, 2022
4 stars. A husband and wife both hire the same assassin to kill the other. Wife ends up falling for said assassin. This book wins just for that bad ass plot. This was seriously so good.

I loved that Justine didn’t know that Campbell was hired to kill her. The dynamics between them was really hot. The relationship moves fast but it’s written so well that I found that I didn’t mind at all. Campbell is such a mysterious character and I’m glad that there is a sequel because I cannot wait to know more about them and their past. Justine is fierce in her desires and I loved that she wants to take back control of her life.

I will say that the reason that Justine and Richard (the husband) wants to kill the other makes no sense when they could just divorce and save each other the headaches but whatever. It’s still a really cool plot and it definitely delivers. It’s paced well, the writing is good, and there are some seriously steamy moments. I’m excited to see what happens next.
Profile Image for Felicia Davin.
Author 14 books161 followers
November 10, 2021
This is a short romantic suspense novel about a woman who hires an assassin to kill her abusive husband and then falls in love with the assassin. It’s dark and wicked and very sexy. I especially loved Campbell’s POV and all the little details they notice, like when they warn Justine to tuck her elbow in long before the restaurant server appears with a precariously balanced tray.
Profile Image for Bib.
294 reviews
January 30, 2021
Plot sounded intriguing to me, and I expected hiccups in the story flow. But it was well thought out, and book flowed way more smoothly than I expected. Great read, and author writes well. Love to read more work from them.
Profile Image for Lake.
376 reviews34 followers
July 16, 2023
Queer danger banging

An uneven read for me. When it was good, it was REALLY good. And when it wasn't, it crossed some big nopes for me.

237 reviews19 followers
June 28, 2022
I full on devoured this book, it is a kick ass noir thriller with two well written lead characters. Justine is sick of the life she settled for when she married lazy, philandering academic Richard. She sacrificed her dreams of being an artist to support his career and got nothing but contempt in return. What's a woman to do except hire an assassin?

The chapters alternate between Justine's pov and that of her hired killer, Campbell. Despite this they are a deliciously mysterious character and some awesome non-binary representation. Campbell is suave and elegant with just the right amount of dangerous charm to draw Justine in, unfortunately for her she doesn't know that her husband has hired the very same killer to do away with her.

This is a super sexy thriller that I can highly recommend.
28 reviews
May 7, 2022

Well that was a most enjoyable way to spend a few hours! I was drawn in from the “look inside” extract, and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished.

Both Campbell and Justine are just perfectly written, and the chemistry between them was palpable.

I’ve already downloaded book two!
Profile Image for Helen.
262 reviews159 followers
January 16, 2021
I received a free copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review – thanks so much to Netgalley for sending this to me!

Love Kills Twice by Rien Gray is a book so far up my street that I pretty much live there. We have a non-binary assassin who is hired to take out the cheating scumbag husband of an art dealer, only to end up seducing her at the same time – a concept that hits so many buzzwords it made my head spin. Vengeance on a terrible husband! Assassin! BDSM!! It’s like the author took my dream concept and made it a thing, and I was obsessed.

One thing I’ve come to learn about myself is that while I love romance with dark themes, I’m not a fan of Dark Romance. That may seem like a contradiction, but to me, Dark Romance is twisted, unhealthy, sinister in nature, and I’m not personally into that. I prefer what I think of as a more fanfiction-y take on things – yes, the love interest may be a murderer, or a thief, or an assassin, but they have a soft and squishy core. They’re not necessarily a good person, but they have redeeming features (other than being super hot) and while they may be twisted in some of what they do, when it comes to the relationship, they’re a good partner nevertheless. It’s not as realistic, but bold of you to assume realism matters to me. I like the debonair thief, the sensual assassin. I’m a sucker for it, and this book definitely delivered.

Love Kills Twice was honestly a pleasure to read. It was well-paced, constantly keeping me on my toes. It’s a very quick book to get through, almost an in-one-sitting kind of deal. The plot is simple but intriguing, and mostly a character study of Justine and Campbell. It’s a sexy, steamy rollercoaster, one that doesn’t require too much effort from the reader, just for you to go with the flow – in short, a perfect read for the current climate, when it feels like one’s head will explode if required to string together two or more coherent thoughts. The third-act twist was well done and made sense, which is always nice; it’s the make-or-break point of a romance for me, and I liked that it was reasonable and resolved quickly.

My one sticking point was that I felt the book was perhaps a little too quick. Justine and Campbell become very quickly entangled, but I wasn’t entirely sold on them as a couple yet – I felt they didn’t know each other that well and hadn’t really had the time to fully develop as a pair. However, this made much more sense when I discovered that this isn’t a standalone romance, but a series, and their adventures will continue for another instalment. I’m honestly thrilled about that, and I’m definitely interested in seeing where they go from here – they had a great foundation and I think there’s a really fascinating dynamic building here. I’d love to see where they go next, and I’m intrigued, because honestly I have no idea what the plot of the next book could possibly be. I sure hope I get to find out!

Overall, this was a really fun, solid book, I had a whale of a time reading it, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on what this author releases in the future.
Profile Image for Littlebookterror.
1,788 reviews69 followers
April 18, 2022
Campell if you’re reading this i am free on thursday night. if you would like to hang out i am free on thursday night when i am free to hang out.


If I had to describe this story in one word it would be meticulous. It describes the two lead characters, the suspensful plot and the incredible writing.
Profile Image for Joyfully Jay.
7,695 reviews441 followers
January 18, 2021
A Joyfully Jay review.

4 stars

Rien Gray is a new author to me and I really enjoyed getting to know Campbell and Justine. It’s a shorter book that moves quickly as revenge is played out. The book starts already in motion as Justine has already contacted Campbell to murder her husband. Campbell is an intriguing character and Justine is attracted to them from the start and Justine isn’t quite sure what to do with that. Campbell’s intense attraction to Justine surprises them and Campbell at first thinks Justine could be their next conquest, but it quickly turns into more than that. However, Justine isn’t aware that her husband wants her dead too.

Read Michelle's review in its entirety here.
Profile Image for Raquel.
158 reviews2 followers
July 19, 2023
This is the enby assassin I’ve always needed, I want to drown in this book so bad
Profile Image for Cathy Geha.
3,760 reviews80 followers
April 13, 2021
Love Kills Twice by Rien Gray
Fatal Fidelity #1

Dark thrilling romance that I was so happy to finally find hiding in my files. I thought I had lost out on reading this gem only to realize, once read, what I would have missed if I had not found it hiding in the files!

What I liked:
* Justine: a woman with revenge in mind seeking justice and complete and final severance from the man she was married to. An intriguing character I found compelling…in more ways than one.
* Campbell: ex-military, assassin, intense, bright, methodical, intriguing, HOT…
* Sofia: lawyer and connected to Campbell
* The way the story was told with just enough revealed at a time – loved this one – felt part of the story and could relate to more than one character.
* The vicarious thrills experienced while reading
* That it was dark…but with a bit of light
* Wondering what book two in the series might bring
* All of it, really, except…

What I didn’t like:
* Richard: Justine’s husband, professor, predator, abuser…easy to dislike him and the chairman of his department

Did I like this book? Yes
Would I read more in this series/by this author? Definitely

Thank you to NetGalley and NineStarPress for the ARC – This is my honest review.

5 Stars
Profile Image for Karina .
55 reviews2 followers
January 16, 2021
It was a really great book. Gray is a nonbinary author, and they wrote a nonbinary protagonist, an assassin. I really liked Campbell, they're misterious but have a good heart. Justine is an artist who is overshadowed by a husband who abuses her and cheats on her constantly, so she decides to have him killed, and that's when Campbell comes in. Only Justine doesn't know that her husband made the same deal with the assassin to kill Justine. The attraction between Campbell e Justine is off the charts, and the sex scenes are pretty amazing.
I always like characters who brings out the best of each other, but falls in love for exacly who they are, and it happened in this story. It'll probably turn in to a series, and i'm looking forward to read more.
I received a copy from Netgalley for an honest review. 3.90 stars!
Profile Image for Tuni.
615 reviews5 followers
February 7, 2022
I had added this to my TBR and then forgot any context as to why I added it. So when I borrowed it from the library, I was going in blind with just the summary. There was a very pleasant… wait a minute moment in the first scene when I realized the assassin was non-binary. Lol

And honestly that flawless rep is what makes this 4 stars. The insta-love romance and very bland MC Justine we’re not my favorite. There were also some hair cheese moments. But the ~spice~ was hot and Cambell is non-binary without being a spectacle. It’s never even outright stated. They just ARE and it’s so satisfying.
Profile Image for Josi.
195 reviews11 followers
August 27, 2023
Read for MM Summer Pride 2023

For the 18+ crowd!

This was a super quick and fun read. A bit insta lovey, but in the context of it only being 120 pages or so it'd probably be considered medium burn. I had fun with it tho!!

Obviously, check content warnings before hand!
Profile Image for Scarlett.
Author 41 books66 followers
September 3, 2021
Absolutely loved this one. A sexy, intense page-turner of a thriller. Justine and Campbell’s chemistry was off the charts!! Buying Book 2 now…
Profile Image for des.
400 reviews16 followers
January 9, 2021
the publisher kindly provided me with an arc through netgalley

I sped through this book, it took me a couple of hours to finish. I enjoyed this book, the premise was interesting. I think the characters were interesting enough. I'm not always the biggest fan of explicit scenes because often times I don't like how it's written but the author did very well. They managed to make it sexy and not cringy in my opinion. Sometimes you just need a book that isn't too complicated and this was just that. I saw there's going to be a sequel as we got a preview of that at the end of the ebook and I will definitely be reading this as well.
Profile Image for Traci.
592 reviews40 followers
February 17, 2021
Justine is a woman who has thoroughly had it with her abusive, domineering husband, so she makes the decision to save up fifty thousand dollars and hire an assassin. Campbell, the assassin, is mysterious and alluring and the more that Justine gets to know them, the more she’s interested. What she doesn’t know, however, is that her husband Richard is looking for an out and has happened to hire the exact same assassin. With the growing attraction between Justine and Campbell, how in the world is this situation going to play out?

I have a confession to make: I actually read this one twice before sitting down to write my review. It’s a short read—just under two hundred pages—so it didn’t take much extra time (or effort, because I thoroughly enjoyed this story). I wanted to make sure my feelings hadn’t changed before I put pen to paper about this one.

I very much enjoyed this. It’s steamy, but follows a fairly solid plotline, too—not just smut. It’s a contemporary romance plotline that I’d call somewhat predictable or at least easy to guess where it’s going—but it’s also unique, and sucks you in from the first couple of pages. It walks every line between enjoyable, familiar and intriguing, different. The relationship between Justine and Campbell progresses quickly but it follows a logical course of action. No insta-love here, but insta-lust, for sure. Which is totally different and much more realistic.

Did I mention that Campbell is non-binary? This is handled in such a flawless and smooth way and I loved it with every fiber of my being. Both Campbell and Justine navigated the romance between them in the most mature and respectful way and at the end of the day, this was just an enjoyable romance with a fun plotline, exactly what you’d look for when you‘re looking for a steamy contemporary that’s also a quick read. It happens to also include a nonbinary main character.

I was worried that the plot would unravel as the book went on. The assassin for hire by both parties in a marriage was interesting to me but I worried that the contract killer parts would get less and less realistic as the book went on and shifted from plot driven to relationship driven, but it didn’t. It stayed consistent through to the very end, as did the personalities of the characters and their reactions to all situations.

Overall, I enjoyed this story very much and can’t wait to continue reading the series. There’s a sneak preview of the next one at the end of this one and I have to admit that I read that too!
Profile Image for Jordan.
5 reviews
January 19, 2021
it's gay AND it slaps (ass)

Okay, now that the meme is out of the way: I'm giving it five stars because I got out of it EXACTLY what I was looking for, and am deeply satisfied for it.

The premise is simple but absolutely terrific, an assassin who is one of the best in the business and a woman who has been broken down to the point where a divorce wouldn't suffice, she needs all ties to her husband cut permanently. Anyone who's lived in close proximity to a destructive and abusive relationship's divorce can understand why. The story follows the two of them (Campbell and Justine) through the understandably wild and sexy path it takes to kill Justine's husband properly, without it tracing back to either of them.

Side note: it really is so deeply satisfying to see not only a non-binary protagonist, but how deeply respectful of their body the author is. You can tell Rien Gray is phenomenal at what they do by how comfortable a reading experience this was for me and hopefully any other non-binary readers out there. Also helps that it was SCORCHINGLY hot, with light nudges of SSC (safe, sane, consensual) kink.

These characters feel deeply, and immediately in a way that resonates with anyone who's queer/trans and survived some trauma. Sure things go a little fast from reveal to deeper emotions-- but doesn't it typically when queer couples jump off the diving board and show each other who they really are with no reservations? When you remember that and how they stewed on those feelings for almost a month in between the climax of the novel and when they finally meet back up for their happy ending, everything is so satisfying.

It's fantastic and deeply respectful for a romance and frankly I could believe more in it than I could in a lot of other media pieces I've consumed the past few years. This author is an insta-buy for me for the rest of their career from what I can tell.
Profile Image for AMHH.
93 reviews
February 5, 2021
There’s something very seductive about the narrative of this book, and it’s easy to get pulled in to the rhythm of the story: assassin Campbell is hired by both husband and wife, unbeknownst to each other, and finds themselves drawn to beautiful, vengeful Justine despite the very good reasons not to get entangled with a client/potential victim.

There’s a deliciously noir feel to the whole thing: Campbell’s identity, motivations, etc. are so opaque, and Justine herself has some serious femme fatale, or at least woman-scorned, dimensions-- she doesn’t want her emotionally abusive cheating husband gone, she wants him dead. In the world of the story, Justine’s murderous impulses seem almost benign, and they definitely take a backseat to her chemistry with Campbell. So compelling are the sparks between them, in fact, that the crime in progress aspect pales in comparison. As a love story, it’s unique, and all its sharp edges make for satisfying reading.

My only caveat here would be that some of the details of the plot don’t really hold up to intense, or even mild scrutiny. How did a women’s studies professor and art dealer find an assassin anyway? What are the odds that they’d find the same one? And why, in the name of all that’s careful, meticulous, and professional about Campbell, would they slip up in the way they do (that’s all I’m saying-- spoilers are the worst) other than to advance the plot? It works, technically, but it felt highly out-of-character nonetheless. A few loose plot threads aside, this is definitely an interesting (in a good way!) read, and I’m intrigued enough to be looking forward to the next installment in the series.

*I received an ARC of this book and voluntarily composed an honest review.
Profile Image for Rae.
80 reviews4 followers
January 17, 2021
*Thank you to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.*

Wife hires assassin to kill husband. Husband hires same assassin to kill wife. Wife falls in love with assassin and makes everything that much harder.

This book was different in many many ways. Firstly, it's the first book I've personally ever read that featured a non-binary character and I liked the fact that it wasn't a major focus. It just fit into the story and it read very well as a whole. Secondly, the premise in general was intriguing. The storyline drew in me from the very first page and that's because the author wasted no time in getting straight into it.

I enjoyed the fact that it didn't waste time dragging out the story for too long as I felt that may have ruined it a bit. It was straightforward, to the point and extremely sexy. The mature scenes throughout this book were written so well and it definitely made me feel a certain type of way so definitely a job well done there.

One thing I will say is that I sort of wished we knew a bit more about Justine and even Richard. We knew enough about Campbell because it was a major part of the story but it was like the description of Justine and Richard were so nonchalant and it made it difficult to connect to those characters, Justine more so as half the book is in her POV.

Other than that, I really enjoyed it and if it wasn't for the fact that I needed sleep, I would've finished this a lot quicker than I did.

This book had representation, mystery, originality and it's definitely bound to make you a little hot under the collar at points. Overall it was really great read and if you're looking for something short, sweet and sexy, I think you'll enjoy this one.
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