24-Karat Conspiracy (Precious Gems #4)

Author: E.M. Lynley

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 5 stars

Buy Links: DSP and Amazon

Type: Novel in a Series

Received from Publisher

 

Blurb: Former Ranger turned FBI agent Reed Acton faces his biggest challenge yet: a Christmas visit from partner Trent Copeland’s parents. He’s less equipped to handle hugs and holidays than the Taliban or international art thieves. When he’s assigned to track down a set of gold Babylonian artifacts looted from the Iraqi National Museum after the fall of Baghdad, things start to look up.

 This time, Trent’s part of the mission, which takes them to exotic Istanbul. The crowded streets and labyrinthine markets fascinate Trent, but soon murder is on their trail. The investigation continues as Reed goes undercover at a US Army base, with Trent masquerading as his spouse. Surprisingly, fastidious and ever-fashionable Trent fits into base life right away and soon takes one of the suspects’ wives under his wing when domestic abuse rears its head.

 Their faux marriage leads Reed to appreciate Trent in ways he never expected, strengthening their bond—until Reed has to confront the worst demons from his past: his relationship with his estranged family.

 

Review:  This is the fourth book in a series that must be read in order to appreciate the growing relationship between Reed and Trent, and, well, because these men and their adventures are quite simply awesome!

I’ve been hooked on this series ever since picking up the first book, Rarer Than Rubies, several years ago. It was easy to be drawn in thanks to the unique circumstances in which FBI agent Reed Acton, and romance author Trent Copeland originally met. The highly captivating, unique plots and settings surrounding their stories have continued full speed into 24-Karat Conspiracy.

Reed and Trent are somewhat opposites, yet they work so well together. Throughout the series, Trent has shown the most personal growth, including going from mild mannered author to FBI trained sidekick. However, in this book Reed makes some huge strides thanks to some revelations and confrontations of the family variety.

The set- up is well done. Reed’s reticence about his family, juxtaposed with Trent’s closeness to his own, is clearly put forth. Add to the mix, Reed sometimes feels he is competing with Trent’s deceased lover, Marc. Maybe living together in the home Trent had bought with Marc is not such a great idea. Trent’s parents want to get to know Reed better. Reed is feeling pressured, although Trent is not applying any. In fact, Trent is on some level prepared for Reed to say “it’s been nice,” and move on. This was all making me squirm a bit, hoping the guys weren’t headed for time apart. There were circumstances in the previous book that had them separated, I wanted them together damn it! Phew, I needn’t have worried as Reed’s boss at the FBI Art Squad had a mission for them to take on as a duo. In fact, there was going to be a few of them. Oh happy times ahead! Indeed, their sex life left no doubt as to how hot the guys were for each other. Steamy….I would have welcomed even more fog on my glasses. 😉

Reed and Trent are globe hopping masters, traveling many times to places the author knows much about first hand, and she also definitely does her research. This lends so much depth, color and authenticity to these stories. Following a lead that some gold Babylonian artifacts looted from the Iraqi National Museum have shown up on the black market, Reed and Trent are off to bright and bustling Istanbul. I found this to be an interesting art theft angle, tying in with current events and all. So much of the Turkish culture was woven into the relatively short period of time the men spent there. I felt as if I were there with them, exploring and investigating the dazzling, crowded market stalls.

Just when I thought the story was going to take place primarily in Turkey, Reed and Trent were back in the US and headed to Texas, following additional leads on the missing Babylonian items. They are inserted on to an army base undercover as a married couple. As one can imagine, the men needed to be convincing in their roles. The faux marriage tested their resolve. Would it strengthen their love, or ferret out major problems? Trent quickly becomes popular among many of the wives on base, Reed quickly comes face to face with the reason he initially balked on the assignment – big time. I love when a writer surprises me with plot twists! :-O This one is so good, and so profound. The mystery of the art theft, who was involved and how they were uncovered, is top notch. I was kept guessing with just enough questionable suspects, side issues and shady characters. It was satisfying to see Trent’s new confidence and ease in harrowing situations. Actually, both he and Reed demonstrated a depth of strength that truly surfaced when they were severely challenged or pushed by events. Forget gun toting bad guys, Reed’s biggest challenge just happened to be encountering his estranged father for the first time since he was in his teens.

This story is a great mix of action, adventure, mystery, self- examination and romance. Reed has always been an interesting mix of hard ass and vulnerable. Seeing him finally confronting and listening to what his father had to say made for some painful, emotional moments. It was high time in the series to find out more about Reed’s issues with his parents. I wanted to know and so did Trent! Lynley is not afraid to use unpopular plot devices. As long as it’s plausible – as it is here- and not done for shock value, I appreciate them. People do hurtful things. Some do evil things. This book deals with some of each. Reed’s father had hurt him badly, and for years never reached out, never appeared to care. I had a bit of trouble swallowing his reasoning once we learned it, with the complicity of his mom added on. Shunning a child is a personal sore spot for me. But, family can be messy. Hearing each other out can be painful – and cathartic. The author is very adroit at showing this here.

All of the story elements are masterfully woven together to lead to more than one end result. The case gets solved, there is a resolution of sorts for Reed and his parents, and a solidifying of Trent and Reed’s future. I absolutely love how Reed came to realize and embrace his true depth of feeling for Trent, how it clicked into place for him driven by conflict external to their relationship. They truly mesh together so well. The two started the story doing fine together, but ended up in a much more satisfying status. ❤

I highly recommend this entire series.

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