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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee comes the steamy first novel in her new adrenaline-fueled Richter series.

As an employee of MacBain Securities and Solutions, Claire Kelly can certainly hold her own. Armed with an impressive set of covert skills, she’s more than prepared to tackle any job that comes her way...except one involving Cooper Lockman. 

Cooper and Claire used to work together before his feelings for her sent him packing to Europe for six long years. But now he’s back and determined to ignore the still-smoldering heat that lingers between them. 

Their current mission: go undercover together at a California high school to root out the mastermind behind a prostitution ring targeting young girls. The closer they get to the truth and the closer they get to each other, however, the deadlier their task becomes. As Claire and Cooper risk their lives to bring down their target, will their hearts be the final casualties?

©2021 Catherine Kimmer (P)2021 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

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Cooper & Claire Bring Down A Trafficking Ring!

Wow! This Is A Real Page Turner. Cooper & Claire Finally Get Their Own Story As Cooper Returns From Overseas To Claim Her Love After Six Years’ Absence. MacBain Security & Solutions Comes To The Rescue As They Help Bring Down A Child Trafficking Ring in L.A.


This is book one of the Richter series. Fans will be thrilled with this new series that has some familiar names: Neil MacBain and Sasha Budanov. Though this book is a standalone, reading the earlier books will enhance the reading experience.

In book three of the Weekday Brides series, Fiancé by Friday, Marine veteran Neil MacBain works as a bodyguard for a beautiful British aristocrat, Gwen Harrison. Gwen is in the US on business and as a client she is totally off limits, but when danger strikes, romance sparks a flame.

In Say it Again, book five of the First Wives series, Sasha Budanov returns to her strict German military boarding school for some answers about her childhood. AJ Hofmann wants answers too following the death of his sister and some other students at Richter. It turns out that Richter is full of secrets and hidden agendas, and the pair joins forces to unravel the truth. Cooper and Claire appear frequently in this book – and their story is book one of the Richter series. Other MacBain team members that appear include Lars, Isaac, Jax, and of course Neil himself, who plays a big role here. Olivia Naught is an important part of the story and shows up in the Richter series as well. Her story is in book two of the Richter series, A Thin Disguise.

Though he only has a minor role in this book, Rick Evans is part of the MacBain team. The Marine veteran found love with Judy Gardner in book five of the Weekday Brides series, Taken by Tuesday.

IN THIS SERIES:

Richter, located in Germany, had been a very strict military boarding school. Students were trained in hand-to-hand combat and firearm usage. The school produced a veritable hotbed of potential assassins and agents, all ripe for the picking. It resulted in an environment of temptation and corruption. It was six and a half years ago that Sasha and AJ exposed its secrets.

Neil MacBain played a role in taking down Richter, too. He runs MacBain Security and Solutions. It is a small outfit based in the L.A. area, but there is also a London office. The company offers security detail as well as more complex security solutions. The team is diverse and includes only the best. Most are former military. Rick Evans is Neil’s right-hand man. Lars is one of the oldest employees. Isaac is also on the team. Cooper Lockman had left the group nearly six years ago to start up the European office for Neil, but he has just returned stateside. Claire Kelly joined the team six and one half years ago, right after leaving Richter. Jax Simon, her best friend from Richter, joined a semester later after her own graduation from the school. The girls worked for the company part time while attending college and have since graduated and received their PI licenses. They now work on the team full time. Sasha is also on the team, and her husband AJ Hofmann occasionally works for MacBain as well. Manuel is the newest hire.

IN THIS BOOK:

Claire Kelly, twenty-four, gets bored easily. She works at MacBain Security and Solutions, where she loves to be assigned to the jobs that give her a chance to get some real action – not stuffy and uneventful security detail that goes without a hitch. She may not be prior military like so many of her colleagues, but she does have extensive training. When Richter was exposed over six years ago, Sasha and Neil took Claire, a Richter student, under their wings. She was just graduating at the time and had no family of her own to return to because she had been given up at birth. Neil has since become a father figure to her. Sasha, who understands her so well, having gone through Richter herself, has become like a big sister. Even Neil’s wife Gwen plays a motherly role in her life, taking Claire to lunches and on occasional shopping sprees. Claire had once been alone in the world, but now she has a different sort of family, and it all revolves around MacBain. With her Richter training (including six languages), criminal justice degree, and PI licenses in six states, she is equal to her peers.

Cooper Lockwood, thirty, is finally back at MacBain’s L.A. office after nearly six years away. He had been fortunate enough to get assigned to opening up the London office and setting up MacBain’s operations in Europe. He was able to pick up some German while overseas, something he hopes to be able to put to more use. His good looks left him with no shortage of women over the years, but none had stuck. As much as he wanted to forget Claire, he couldn’t. He had left L.A. because he needed to, and because it was in Claire’s best interest, too. She was just eighteen when they met; he was twenty-four. At that time, the age gap was just too big and he knew it. She needed time to grow up, and he needed to give her that space. And he had – despite their flirty banter she hadn’t seemed to suspect his real feelings for her. Working with her and maintaining his distance had been proving impossible, and had he stayed in L.A. it would have broken him. Though they hadn’t spoken or seen one another in almost six years, he kept tabs on her through casual conversations with others at MacBain. But six years is a very long time, especially for someone as young as Claire. There is no way of knowing whether she might be receptive to the idea of dating him now even though their ages are no longer an obstacle. No sooner than he arrives, though, MacBain is asked to take on a job that promises to stall any progress that he might otherwise make with Claire.

Detective Thomas Warren is leading a local task force to weed out human trafficking in the school system. Concerned about a mole on the force, he turns to MacBain for outside help. There has been an increase in dropouts and disappearances in both public and private schools in the area. MacBain is tasked to infiltrate the staff and student bodies of two schools that appear to have a connection to a few disappearances. Auburn, a public school, and Bremerton, a private school, are targeted in the sting. It is common for athletes to move from a private school to a public school to increase the chances of getting an athletic scholarship, which is an obvious way in which the student bodies are connected.

Cooper goes undercover as a substitute shop teacher and track coach at Auburn, the public school they are targeting. Claire enrolls there as a student and signs up for the track team. She is supposed to be rebellious in order to attract the right kind of attention. Jax signs up as a transfer student at Bremerton. She is supposed to be unhappy about her father winning custody of her in her parents’ recent divorce. Finally, Manuel later gets hired on as a resource officer at Bremerton. The rest of MacBain backs them up in the office and in the field when necessary. Detective Warren wants them to identify at-risk youth and those that prey upon them. Their involvement is unknown to the local PD in order to help weed out any bad cops. Child trafficking is a lucrative business with a lot of money at stake. As MacBain gets closer to the ring itself, the danger they all face increases.

Wow! Cooper and Claire finally get their own story as Cooper returns from overseas to claim her love after six years’ absence. This is real page-turner. It is so dense with information that it does take some concentration to follow along. Cooper, Claire, and Jax get deep into their respective schools. There are a number of suspects as well as at-risk youth. It is fascinating to listen in as the group hashes out leads and suspects. They can go in several directions with the investigation, which seems to be getting nowhere even after a number of promising discoveries, but an outside lead helps direct the investigation and suddenly things really pick up speed.

This story is really about the undercover operation to bring down the child traffickers. MacBain runs a tight operation, and the group works well together under difficult circumstances. There are so many interesting characters (and potential stories to be told). This is also a romance – though that takes back seat to the trafficking storyline. Cooper and Claire’s slow burn is sweet to see unfold. It does have a few steamy moments. Cooper’s foresight and sense of responsibility are admirable and selfless. Uprooting his life for six years is a big sacrifice. He might have pushed the envelope and stayed since Claire was of age, but did what was right for her knowing she might reject him eventually. It was a big risk. Claire had been unsuspecting, and when she finally catches on to Cooper’s feelings for her she is the last. It makes her feel foolish and things get awkward. The undercover roles leave little free time to step out of character, so the tension builds between the two. Cooper and Claire eventually earn a happy ending, and the case gets some resolution.

The conclusion leads into book two of the series, A Think Disguise. That is FBI agent Leo Grant’s story with Olivia Naught, a former Richter student. Leo Grant appears in this story, and Olivia makes a brief appearance as well. She is also a character in Say it Again, book five of the First Wives series. Leo Grant and Olivia as well as McBain’s group get pulled into another child prostitution case as the story moves to Las Vegas.

MacBain Security and Solutions comes to the rescue as they help bring down a child trafficking ring in the L.A. area. Cooper and Claire go deep undercover as substitute teacher and student, just as he returns from overseas in hopes of claiming her love now that she is grown up. The story is well-written and researched. It is plot-driven, dense with details. The characters are interesting and well-developed (given the focus on the plot). The story is written in third person. The POV alternates between Cooper and Claire, with a few sections in Jax’s POV. I rate this book five stars.

As for the Audio: it is alright. There are many characters and several accents which make it hard to pull off with just two narrators. It is consistent with the book.

8 people found this helpful

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Exceptional Story!

Have been waiting a long time to hear Claire's story and this did not disappoint in the slightest! Catherine Bybee has done it again with a wonderful start to a new series and can hardly wait for the next book!!

The only suggestion would be to find a better female narrator as this gal was horrible, which completely surprised me because Catherine normally has amazing narrators, but this was a huge miss and took a bit to get past it to be able to enjoy the amazing story!

2 people found this helpful

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WOW - Not What I Expected

I own, read and listened too a lot of Catherine Bybee’s books. I own all of her Weekday Bride Series & First Wives. When you have books in a series, it is very important to be consistent with your performer.

This narrator was so far off, that I struggled to keep listening to it. I have always enjoyed her books and how she keeps the characters coming back. It would have been better with a different performer!

2 people found this helpful

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Young Adult

Narration by Joe Arden is wonderful as always. There just wasn't enough of him. Female narrator is trying.
I didn't realize this story was focused on young adults when I borrowed it from Kindle Unlimited. The main characters are in their young twenties. So for us older listeners, just not that thrilling. If you're a listener in the young adult age group, it might be more enticing. I returned without listening to the whole story because it just wasn't interesting enough for me.

2 people found this helpful

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Love these guys

I first fell in love with the wife by (day of the week) and so happy this rag tag group continue - so many opportunities with Oversees and Domestic offices. Can’t wait for more!!!

2 people found this helpful

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Great story

Catherine weaves a brilliant story and characters within the backdrop of a serious topic. Definitely looking forward to the next in the series.

2 people found this helpful

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Happy reader

Excited for the next one. I was happy to find out this book is somewhat connected to the other series involving Neal and Sasha.

2 people found this helpful

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Plot was a bit icky

Trying to create a romance while also trying to stop human trafficking at a high school was just icky. Human trafficking is serious and i just thought it was inappropriate to create a romance in the midst of it. Joe Arden is a great narrator but Lori Prince’s male voice came off like a dude in a frat and it was jarring after hearing Arden’s deep, mature masculine voice. I usually really like Bybee’s books but this one was a DNF for me.

1 person found this helpful

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Good story

Female narration not the best, story was interesting though! First time I listen/read anything of this author’s writing.

1 person found this helpful

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Struggle

So I have loved every book I have listened to by Catherine Bybee and the narration has always been great. I really wanted to like this one and I think I could have gotten into the story better had I been able to get past the female narrator. It was such a struggle. Human trafficking is a huge problem so I think the book would have be much better to read than listen too. I enjoyed reading about a few of the former characters like Neil and Sasha but I don't know if it has been long enough for his daughter to be a teenager? I do wish I heard more about everyone else but that is because I loved those books. I also was curious about Sasha and AJ did they get married or have kids, I need to know 🤣

1 person found this helpful

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  • Misty
  • 04-05-21

Brilliant

So good I listened to it 3 times in a row as you always miss something the first time. Great story that had some parts where you laughed out loud and others that made your skin crawl. So good I have already ordered book 2 and hoping there is more than 2 books in the series.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-28-21

Absolutely fantastic

I have many audiobooks on Audible however this is the first one I’ve ever managed to listen to completely. I was hooked and managed to get in finished within a couple of days.

Interesting, gripping and well written. The readers of the book spoke with fantastic expression and made it so enjoyable to listen to!

Can’t wait for the next one!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ferbooks
  • 05-29-21

Throughly immersive and completely captivating.

I have read many books by Catherine Bybee and this one is my favourite so, it is so immersive. it captured my imagination so completely that it was ad if I was watching a movie. It is very descriptive and brilliant written. I completely enjoyed reading it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Laura
  • 07-04-21

Absolutely brilliant

This isn't the sort of book I would have picked up normally but when I saw a 5 star review on Instagram, I was intrigued. It deserved all the praise in that review and so much more. Loved it and can't wait for the next one.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-21-21

Good story, bad female narrator

I love all Catherine Bybee's books. Have listened to them all. But this one's narrator was really hard to listen to. Fine if normally voicing Claire but anything with an accent or male voice and it was awful.

Catherine Bybee usually has fantastic narrators so I was shocked about this one.

Still excited for the next book, though!

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  • Alison
  • 04-23-21

fast pace

This one had lots going on & kept you on your toes all the way through with a touch of romance on the side!!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Zelda
  • 04-11-21

Too longwinded

This could have been an awesome story but was too longwinded and the characters too convoluted and confusing. There was so much empty conversation and only in the last few chapters did things start coming together and a little action at the very end. Personally I did not like the use of 2 narrators either. I almost gave up before halfway. Yet it is an important topic in our society.