My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
It’s been a while since I’ve read any Bonnie Dee book, so I had to rectify that as soon as I could. Beloved Killer is a typical novella-length story; good but not great. Generally, I love Bonnie Dee’s stories and her heroes almost always win my heart over. So I wasn’t surprised to find myself falling for a hitman, the H of this story, Jacob or as he simply went by, ‘J’.
J is a hitman, a henchman, a killer, whatever you like to call him. Working for the local mafia boss for as long as he can remember, J’s existence has been all grey. He has no noteworthy past, no family to speak of, only that Kuypers, the mafia boss, saved him and took him in. He was fed, tutored and trained to become the perfect killing machine and Kuypers’s bodyguard. He has done whatever his boss has asked of him, always thinking he owes Kuypers his life. But J’s unwavering faith in his mentor is put to test when one Nikki Larson is thrown their way.
Nikki is your proverbial spitfire heroine with a smart-mouth and fast talk. Her father just passed away, leaving her a rundown bar with a huge debt hanging over her head. Though she could’ve sold and left the town, Nikki decides to take up on the challenge to keep the bar afloat as well as try and repay the debts as best as she can manage. Unfortunately, one day, karma comes knocking at the door. Apparently, her father got entangled with the local mafia and money exchanged hands. Now the man wants the money he owes. Late at night when no one is near to save her, Nikki finds herself being trussed up like a turkey by the mafia boss’s equally creepy looking henchman. What Nikki doesn’t know that the henchman has seen her picture, and fallen hard. Just like that. No questions asked. He’s just... done, literally.
J was such a complete mystery to me. He has done despicable things in his life, never enjoying a minute of it. I kept wondering, how can a man who killed so many, still possessed such innocence to fall so irrevocably in love, then make me believe in that love too? Somewhere in his subconscious, J wanted to change so bad that it pulled at my heart. But the opportunity never arrived, until Nikki. J knew he can never have Nikki. No one wants a hitman with no past, nothing to give, not even good looks. All he has is a tall, rangy body trained to kill. Yet J couldn’t help himself. After they met, he spends trying to prove this to her, even through all the bad things that was happening to them; from Kuyper’s blackmail and subsequent drug smuggling, to shootouts and killing around Nikki’s bar that transforms hers from a somewhat peaceful life to a complete and utter disaster.
Entangling with the mafia does that to a person.
Nikki, on the other hand, started despising the man from the beginning. You would find her pinching and jabbing at him, hurting J in the process more than once. Whereas it’s granted that she had every right to be angry for what had happened to her, many-a-times, I just found her to be rude and annoying with a big mouth.
After the smuggling business using Nikki’s bar went down, J and she are forced to run together. They hid away for a while and come closer, through Nikki taking care of a wounded J, time spend in talking and getting to know each-other. Then, at one point, some kissing and fondling too. Nikki tells herself that she’s crazy to be feeling any kinda attraction to a killer, yet even she couldn’t deny the pull and that something about him. I mean, what girl can ignore when a man stares at her like a lovesick puppy when he has no business of looking at her like that, not to mention who kisses like he has been starving just for her? No, I didn’t think she could just ignore it all.
But danger would follow them no matter, J knew this and whatever it takes, he’d keep Nikki safe, even if it means betraying the man he had once thought to be a father figure. Somewhat at least. The rest of the story unfolds like one of those action movies; fast and thrilling, with gunfights and dead bodies, from which a wounded hero emerges victorious.
It seemed like they were saved, but that was not the end of Nikki and J’s story. She doesn’t run to him with undying gratitude and they don’t walk away into the sunset, all happily-ever-after. Nikki and J, in fact, don’t see each-other for a couple of months. J takes this opportunity to start anew, with only one thing in his mind. I’m sure you know who or what that was. Then one day, he tracks down Nikki and stops by for a visit...
I’d definitely recommend Beloved Killer if only for J. I mean, seriously, he just made my heart ache with his quiet and lonely existence, waiting for a little love and affection. Acceptance. The title aptly expresses what I thought of him. Nikki may not be a favorite h of mine, I was still glad that she accepted J’s love and made him a happy man. Though they were taking baby-steps towards a better future when the story ended, I closed it wishing them all the best. 3.5 stars.