Friday, July 2, 2010

Review: Criminal Instincts

Criminal Instincts
Kelly Lynn Parra
Romantic Suspense
Carina Press/June 2010
Received from NetGalley/Publisher

From the author's website ~

Five years in prison or five years working as an undercover agent?

Not the easiest choice for Ana Moreno, who has a history of B and E convictions and a problem with authority. But it's a decision she and four other felons are willing to make to stay out of a jail cell.

When a deadly shipment of Ecstasy heads for San Francisco, Ana's team is sent to stop it. Ana's task: get close to the handsome and dangerous Jonas Saven, right-hand man of a suspected drug dealer with a deadly agenda. As Ana uncovers a web of secrets, betrayal and revenge, her heated attraction to Saven grows.

But with time running out to stop the dangerous drug lord, Ana must complete her mission—even if it costs her everything...

What got my attention real quick is that the heroine is a criminal. A thief. It's not a case of mistaken identity or anything like that, she really did steal and was caught. Like any criminal she had her reasons but nothing is sugar-coated, it is what it is. The hero is possibly a criminal too. He's believed to be involved in drug trafficking. I liked this darker side of the hero/heroine right away. They're not the big bad of the story but they do bend and sometimes break the law for their own sense of justice.

Ana Morena is a street punk. At least that's what some see when they look at her. She was moved around from one foster home to another with no real sense of security or family. She doesn't know much about her parents. Her mother was white and her father was Mexican and Ana doesn't feel like she belongs anywhere. She's had problems all her life with her Mexican heritage. It's obvious in her looks but she knows nothing about her father or his background. The fact that she doesn't speak Spanish is a sore spot with her. When we first meet Ana she's in bad shape, having been beaten and is now waiting to go to jail. It's then that she's given the choice - jail or undercover law enforcement. So undercover she goes. Her treatment is better than what she would find in jail but not by much. She's still looked down on and is constantly having to prove herself to her boss.

Jonas Saven is Ana's target. She's to get close to him and Raymond Brooks. Jonas manages art galleries, clubs and a variety of business for Brooks. Jonas also deals with some pretty unsavory characters in the drug world. It's there that he meets Ana. She not at all is usual type but he's drawn to her anyway. Jonas is very alpha to the point that Ana is sometimes afraid of him. He uses his money, power and influence to get what he wants and he wants answers from Ana. I didn't care for Jonas much. It took a lot for me to get to the point where I liked him enough to care what happened to him and what his motivation was. He's got a bunch of secrets and he's not easy to trust.

Ana is wary of Jonas Saven. She knows what his reputation is in the underground and she's not about to fall for his good looks or sex appeal. Ana is all about doing the job and not getting kicked off the team and sent to prison. Because if she's off the team then it's prison for her, no chance of freedom in sight. When she does start to question Jonas' guilt and his motives it causes her to question her loyalty to the team. I did like how Ana's loyalty was tested and how she had to battle her growing attraction to a man she thought was out of her legal, plus a possible suspected drug dealer. She gets a lot of conflicting information that she has to sort out and because of her criminal background, she isn't exactly considered trustworthy by her boss. She is street smart though and uses that knowledge when deciding who to trust.

Ana and Jonas have a strong attraction from early on. Neither one of them wants to be attracted to the other. Ana for obvious reasons and Jonas because he doesn't know who Ana really is and he doesn't trust her. He's not sure if she has ties to drug dealers or if she's just a user or if there's something else going on with her. Lots of questions for both Ana and Jonas. This was not a straight forward romance. They had a whole lot of circumstances to work through and major trust issues on both sides.

Ana and Jonas aren't the only ones who want information about the big Ecstasy shipment. Ana works with a team of misfit criminals that adds to the overall feel of a crime novel. They all have there area of expertise and I hope that we'll see more of them in future releases.

Ana has a major problem with her Mexican heritage. She lets this get in the way of developing any close relationships. Between her defensiveness concerning her heritage and her lack of experience with relationships, Ana had a hard time showing any kind of affection. When she did she was uncomfortable with it. I think Jonas helped her learn to show that she cared about people. Jonas learned to put his personal relationships ahead of his business and need for revenge.

The romance doesn't take center stage. It's there but it must share the spotlight with the suspense and cast of characters. Ana and Jonas do have some steamy scenes but neither is thinking too far into the future regarding their relationship. I do wish Ana hadn't dwelt on being half Mexican so much. It tended to get tedious. The final confrontation with the drug dealers and Jonas and Ana was a bit over the top with a few too many soap opera type scenarios used to tie up the various story lines. A solid read with a HEA and the possibility for more books in the same world.

Rating: B


  1. Leslie, this is a great review and the book sounds interesting and... different. I like those H/H's with gray areas and questionable pasts or in this case, present lives. Really interesting.

  2. Hils ~ I love when the gray areas clash with the black and white. Same way the heart and head can clash.

  3. Hi Leslie, I appreciate the review--thank you for reading CI and for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  4. Great review, Leslie. I, too, like books that feature one or more lead characters who are far from perfect and have shady pasts. It adds layers to the story and makes the reader formulate genuine opinions about the integrity of the character as they read ... as opposed to just approving of the H/H straightaway just because they're the 'good guys.'

    Mixed race and or ethnicity characters are always an extra plus for me, too! :)

  5. Kelly ~ You’re welcome. I hope to read more about the SIDE characters, especially Digit. :)

    Christine ~ Most of the characters have a shady past. Definitely made me curious about the secondary characters.

  6. So, do you know whether this is going to be a series or not? If it was, it'd sound good... Great review, Leslie :P

    I've always liked thief for some reasons...

  7. Nath ~ I don't know but I’m hoping it will be a series, it’s set up for it. I liked the thief too – that’s what pulled me in. :)