My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Return to Poughkeepsie was the much anticipated sequel to Poughkeepsie, a book I stumbled upon rather accidentally in 2012, yet ended up enjoying very much. Debra Anastasia was an unknown author to me prior to that. The storyline was very different than my usual read, as was the writing but the best was, I got hooked right from the beginning till the end.
In Poughkeepsie, we meet three ‘brothers’ Beckett, Blake and Cole. I put brothers inside quote because they’re not connected by blood but by circumstances, yet their shared bond for many years have proven to be stronger than any blood relation out there. All three were either abandoned or orphaned as a child, passed on into various foster cares as they grew up. This is also how they met. Lots happened since then. Beckett, the bigger and the stronger one, has always been the one to protect his brothers from harm. Blake is the one who seems more vulnerable because of his psychological problems. He’s not entirely crazy mind you, but some incidents can tick him wrongly, thus making him unstable. But he’s also very talented with a piano. Cole is the cool and calm one; the resident voice of reason.
So it happened, as time passed, Beckett became the biggest, baddest gangsta of Poughkeepsie, Cole joined the church as a priest and Blake... well, he didn’t have a specific calling but loved playing the piano. At one point he started living as a homeless on the Poughkeepsie station, which is how he met Livia McHugh, eldest daughter of the Police chief of Poughkeepsie. Livia is kind to Blake from the first moment, a thing Blake never had unless from one of his brothers. Their story in Poughkeepsie had its own ups and downs, with Livia’s crazy ex boyfriend trying to f*ck up with them. Livia’s father wasn’t that keen on the relationship either. In the end, Beckett had to take the matter in his hands, or so to speak, so that Blake and Livia can have their HEA. There was also the secondary romance between Cole and Livia’s promiscuous younger sister, Kyle with the super dirty mouth (yup, think I named the book ‘Slang Learning 101’ or something liket hat LOL). Their unlikely match surprised everybody. Kyle, harboring a hatred for their mother, who left her and Livia when they were very young, sought oblivion in meaningless trysts with various men. Things, once, even went out of hand when a tape of she doing ‘stuff’ surfaced. Well, it was a mess and she needed the salvation. One day, she goes to the church and meets Cole and bam! They’re into each-other ever since. Fell in love and after Blake and Livia married, they too were done with the job.
That left our gansta babe, Beckett, the all sacrificing one for his beloved brothers and their spouses. He calls each one of them ‘family’, and family means everything to Beckett. He was probably the most colorful character of book 1 and I instantly loved him. He might be a criminal, murdered people and has done many other bad things, including shagging whores whenever the mood struck him, Beckett has been rather one-of-a-kind. I loved, LOVED his wicked humor, dirty mouth (oh, yes!), insane dialogues and... just about anything that makes him him. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also very good looking. Then there was Eve, a gorgeous assassin working with him in disguise, who had her own agenda for seeking out Beckett and becoming a part of his rowdy gang. Eve had a sad past, a life with broken dreams, and inadvertently, Beckett was responsible for that. But when Eve lost her husband and unborn child, her life’s path changed. She trained to become a killing machine, revenge on her mind all the while. It wasn’t tough when she found that Beckett is totally into her… and it’s not only lust. You’ll enjoy their hilarious interactions all through the book, where Beckett would throw some dirty insinuations towards her and Eve would thwart it being cool. Her replies to his crazy SMSs were entertaining. But things don’t stay that way for long. Eve also begins falling for him, much to her surprise. She got to see a different side of Beckett protecting his family. Being with him each day, she’d find something to love about him, changing her impression of him gradually. Finally, they even profess their love and become intimate when things were about to go wrong...
In the end, after Beckett had to ‘take care of’ Livia’s ex, things turned out badly for him. He didn’t want to go to jail but he wanted to change for good, or try his best. Then he decides maybe it’d be for the best for everybody if he leaves here... and kills himself. We’re left to contemplate what might happen to him
When Return to Poughkeepsie starts, Beckett has been in hiding for about a year. Things were yet to change for him. He’s growing impatient, depressed and he hasn’t been able to kill himself yet. Then he stealthily returns and contacts his brothers. They pray together, Blake gives him the good news that Livia is expecting and they update about the other recent events. Beckett can’t help asking about Eve, who thinks Beckett is probably dead by now and that she’s doing her best to keep the family safe. Cole convinces him that he should give it a chance. Beckett decides he’d go somewhere else to start anew to see if he can change the course of his life. Live a life worth living. No more of the gansta sh!t. He knew if he’s in Poughkeepsie, where everybody knows him for who he is, he can’t do it. His brothers and their wives might be constantly in danger from one of his many enemies.
Before leaving Poughkeepsie for a journey towards the proverbial ‘unknown’, Beckett meets up with Eve for one last time, something Eve had no idea about. They had one night of explosive sex Beckett liberally vanishes from Poughkeepsie, and Eve’s life. On the way, he picks up an ugly looking dog from a pet shelter, giving it a new life as it was about to be euthanized. The dog, which he names Gandhi, and gradually starts calling it ‘G’, becomes his constant companion.
The story, then, jumps 5 years, leaving me really surprised. We are treated with the updates on the other characters lives. Blake and Livia now have two kids; the eldest girl, 4 yrs. old Emme and a new born, Kellan. Cole and Kyle are trying to have a baby but haven’t been successful. Kyle is often moody and depressed over this matter. She even starts blaming her ‘past’, breaking down in tears, when Cole would pick her up and soothe away her pain. He tried his best IMO.
Eve is trying to live her own life, doing a mundane job somewhere, where people don’t know who she has been a while back. She has tried her best to have a good life, but past often comes calling. And Beckett is always on the back of her mind. She’s pissed at him, not knowing if he’s alive or dead as he never communicated with anyone since the night he left. One day, she gets a call from Blake telling her that some unknown guy has been to Emme’s school, asking her various questions. Incidentally, we learned in book 1 that Eve is Blake’s relative. This news alarms everyone and Blake, Livia, Cole, Kyle… and now Eve, are worried. What’s this all about? In the meantime, things have been happening in Poughkeepsie with some new peeps popping up, trying to do crazy stuff here and there. Eve decides to leave her job and delve deeper into the matter. As I said before, her family’s safety comes first and foremost.
Eve is contacted by a man called Shark for an ‘assignment’; a woman named Mary Ellen is recruiting prostitutes and training them for God knows what... Well, Eve is the master of disguise (or should I say ‘mistress’?), so she takes up on it to find out if this woman is some way connected to the things that have been happening. Inside Mary Ellen’s mansion, she finds crazy crack stuff happening. The woman herself is nutty. Yes, there’s a chapter dedicated to her from Eve’s POV aptly called ‘The Insane B!tch’. You just have to read the insane psycho stuff she does throughout the story.
Then, when we get a glimpse of Mary Ellen’s life, it turns out to be anything but a fairy tale, even though she’s a super-rich man’s daughter. Her 80 something father, the Vitullo, is still reigning in Poughkeepsie as a crime lord, a weapon smuggler, though now the guy is sort of bedridden from a stroke. Mary Ellen has decided that this is the time to ‘prove’ herself to her father. When she comes up with this insane plot of making the Poughkeepsie’s crime zone as her own, and asks several other people in the same business to ‘help’ her in this endeavor, Eve knew this woman’s digging too deep; a straight way to her own grave. But it was apparent she’s a vacant woman who has no idea what she’s getting into. Eve even ends up saving her life a couple of times, but mainly because she needed to earn this woman’s trust to gather information she needed. Anyway, it got me intrigued about this woman and why she’s practically committing suicide this way.
Turns out, her father never gave a sh!t about her or what she wanted. She was always made to feel an unwanted, brainless thing. Her idiotic, whiny younger brother, Vitullo’s only male heir, has always been the old man’s priority. This does bad things to a person’s self-confidence. Then she was betrayed by a lover, another man in business, who preyed on her trust and ran with a huge amount of money. I actually ended up feeling really bad for Mary Ellen when Sevan, the a$$hole called her from some unknown vacation place he’s at, taunting her about her money and her expensive wine that he’s drinking, with bimbos at his side. The only thing I wanted was his balls chopped off. I wish I saw that happening at the end. *sigh* And so, we learn that it was because she wants to destroy this man, is why, Mary Ellen has gone down to this road of insanity. She thinks Beckett is dead, so it’d be easier for her. She even starts keeping track of Beckett’s family members, just in case...
Eve, at one point, is given the ‘assignment’ from Mary Ellen to cozy up with this cop, Ryan to become his girlfriend and leach information from him. Ryan was a good character, but I don’t know why he kept up with this crazy ex’s insanely ridiculous activities. Anywhere in the story where ‘Trish’ is mentioned, you’re bound to either laugh until you pee or you just read and re-read to see if you’ve read the lines correctly! Yep, she was one loco chick, jealous to the core… some of the things she did to Ryan or his apartment, or his laptop or his car were just......... umm, let’s just say that she was quite creative. But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t annoying and creepy.
Ryan also had his own agenda about Beckett, though he didn’t have any idea of Eve’s involvement with him when they met. Ryan is instantly attracted to Eve, so it wasn’t tough for her to get things started between the two. But, what happens is that, soon she figures out that Ryan is basically a good man. She begins trusting him, opening up about her agenda. They make a deal of exchanging information in the guise of a lovey-dovey couple.
Now, I was quite ambivalent towards Ryan. As you can already guess, there was no sign of Beckett in Poughkeepsie, I didn’t know if I should like Eve’s intimacy with him. No sex, mind you and I understood that she wanted to move on. Her reasons were not illogical. She was oh, so, tempted. Eve recognized that Ryan would’ve been that ONE for her, if she was the old, guileless Eve with the hopes and dreams. But that she also knew that that Eve would never return and Ryan definitely deserves a much better woman capable of loving him back. So even if they kiss and staff, Eve would keep him at arm’s length, cause it was becoming obvious with each day and each assignment, that he also cares for her.
We begin seeing updates on Beckett these days. He’s now a semi-respectable *snort here* shop owner in a small-town. His employees are, more often than not, washed out ex-criminals and socially deemed ‘losers’ but Beckett loves it that way. I always loved this about him, he accepted people just they are, as easily. And so, he also finds himself as an unexpected savior of a girl named Cherie who had no one to save her from her violent boyfriend, except for an autistic older sister, Vere. The moment Beckett saw her in need, he knew he had step in and take the responsibility, just like that. It’s a little weird, since he’s deemed as a murdered and a gansta, but he’s who he is, and that’s how I like him. Beckett does his best try not to return to his ‘old self’ and kill the a$$hole, taking Vere and Cherie in his big house that he, so far, only shared with his dog, G. He even dreams of Mouse one day (story in book 1), and I ended up missing Mouse so much that it made me cry. Their bond was something really special, much like the one Beckett shares with Blake and Cole.
Then things start happening fast. Some incidents occur one after another, thanks to Mary Ellen and her harebrained schemes. Lydia is kidnapped, Blake kinda snaps when she is. Eve gets down to the business of finding Lydia, Ryan her willing partner. Drama, drama, more melodrama….. it was kinda exhausting TBH. When things started to feel like dragging (c’mon I’ve waited wayyy too long for this)… Beckett is finally, FINALLY summoned in Poughkeepsie to find Lydia because, of course, no one knows the nooks and crannies (and the douchebags) of Poughkeepie better than Beckett. Finally, I get to see The Gansta in action! *confetti here* Eve is mad at him for showing up after so many years, never once telling her that he’s alive and well. Recently though, Eve has heard stories of him living in a big mansion with at least two women with him, and other gossips surrounding a ‘legend’ like him… and it hurt real bad. But if nothing else, Eve knows how to mask her hurt than anyone else. But that doesn’t mean she’s not angry at the sight of him.......
I will not go into the details of it all as it’s pretty much impossible. There were some gory stuff happening left and right, much like book 1, that I didn’t like. Especially the way Eve murders through Mary Ellen’s mansion and then gets rid of her too. That made me look somewhat green I’m sure. After you read such stuff, it’s tough to connect with that heroine. Just my honest feeling. But then, I knew Eve from book 1. She has been and still is, smart and strong, qualities I can’t but admired. Same goes for Beckett. They’re not perfect but they have qualities in them that you appreciate. In the midst of mad rush, that is, the stint of rescuing Lydia, Beckett gets another call. This time from Maryland, his new home and the douchebag he left there to take care of his shop and the girls. But some bad news comes forth, leaving Beckett sad and angry. We’re become the spectators of Cherie giving into ‘the madness’ and returning to her boyfriend. She knew she shouldn’t, yet she couldn’t help the pull... and ending up almost dying. Beckett gets there knowing he probably would be of no help to her. I didn’t want to read about it, but was absolutely relieved to know she wasn’t. The boyfriend faces his karma in the form of Beckett’s wrath. No one survives that.
The most frustrating matter, in this story, for me, was how long Beckett and Eve were kept apart in this book. Most of it I’d say and I wasn’t a happy camper about it throughout. And though I’ve enjoyed the overall storyline and remembering the characters, incidents from the first book etc., I still wished these two were together for a while. After suffering through so much sh!t, finally, FINALLY when they are together, the book ends, just like that. It was great to see what Beckett does for Eve, to save her from Vitullo’s rage but it wasn’t nearly enough for me. *sigh*
Now, there’s that excerpt of the next book (which I haven’t read) so we haven’t seen the end of this series yet. Not that I’m complaining... unless the wait is another 2 yrs. I hope poor Ryan finds someone to love and gets rid of Miss Loony-Toons once and for all. Someone needs to commit that girl to a mental asylum anyway. But... but, I’m excited! 4 stars, recommended if you’re looking for something different and don’t mind learning a slang or two along the way. :D