Apr 18, 2013

Posted by in Reviews | 6 Comments

Review: Against the Dark by Carolyn Crane (The Associates #1)

againstthedarkfinal4 star

Romantic Suspense
April 19 2013
258 pages
Received from author

Yummy Man – Cole Hawkins
Kick Ass Chick – Angel Ramirez

From Goodreads –

Angel Ramirez left the safecracking game five years ago, and she’s worked hard to make amends and build an honest life. But when a beloved aunt is kidnapped, she must reunite with her girl gang to acquire the unique ransom: Walter Borgola’s prized diamonds. It’s a simple job that turns into a nightmare, thanks to a surprisingly clever—and searingly sexy—security guard named Cole Hawkins.


Cole is one of the Association’s most brilliant agents, under deep cover investigating a ruthless killer. He’s also running out of time: hundreds will die if he doesn’t stop the plan Borgola’s set into motion. Catching Angel is the break he needed–he promises not to turn her in if she poses as his lover and uses her unique talents to unlock the sociopath’s dungeon vaults.

But as pretend passions turn real, Cole regrets drawing Angel into his deadly game…and danger is closer than either of them could ever imagine.


Against the Dark is the first book in Carolyn Crane’s new The Associates series.  This is a new direction for her as this is a romantic suspense series.  But fans of Carolyn’s work do not have to fret because this book proves that not only can she write an amazing urban fantasy tale but she can also write a gripping and exciting suspense story.

Exciting is a great word to describe this book.  The book starts off with Angel and her two friends posing as prostitutes waiting for the perfect time to steal something valuable from the extra slimy host, Borgola.  (I’ll talk a bit more about him in a bit)  Cole is there too.  He is working security for Borgola (undercover but he is the only one who knows of that fact) and can’t seem to keep his eyes off of Angel.  Is it love at first sight or is it the fact that he notices that she is carrying a concealed weapon?

Angel is a master safecracker.  She actually left thieving five years earlier but feels obligated to do this one job.  Aunt Aggie, a second mother to Angel, has been kidnapped and those who took her demand diamonds from the safe of one Borgola.  The safe in his home is not easy to crack with only a few in the world who are capable.  Luckily, Angel is one of them.  I liked that Angel wasn’t this crazy thief lady.  I believe I connected to her better because she really wants to lead a ‘straight a narrow’ life.  And she has.  She has made something of herself, not only in her job as an interior designer but also by working making amends with her family.  She now realizes that her past actions truly hurt sometimes innocent people and wants nothing to do with hurting innocents anymore.  Carolyn did a great job building Angel as a character.  You totally understand her and her motivations – she is strong, even though she doesn’t completely believe she is, and she is smart.  And for those of you who read my reviews regularly, you know by now that those are two ‘must-have’ qualities for me in a heroine.

Let’s talk Cole.  Holy crap on a cracker, Cole.  When I heard that the heroes in these books would be nerd-type secret agents (Cole even wears glasses) I was very excited.  I love heroes like that.  Mostly I love their awkward streak and the way they fumble a bit through life.  It makes them extra-lovable to me and in turn, makes them sexy in my eyes.  That is how all of the nerds I have read are but Carolyn managed to‘re-write’ the nerd persona for me with this character.  Cole is extra smart with a passion for logistics, always having to solve equations whether it be a person or a situation, but he is also sexy as hell.  And I’m not talking sexy in a ‘I’m so cute and sweet and fumbly it makes me sexy’ sense.  This guy is hot Hot HOT with a quick mind and a dirty mouth.  Again, Carolyn did an excellent job showing us why Cole is the way he is, what makes him tick.  I felt totally connected with both Angel and Cole and really liked them together.  They suited each other very well.

I mentioned that this book is exciting.  The beginning, as the story and the character are set up, is at a more ‘normal’ pace but as soon as Angel and her friends go for the diamonds, bam!  It’s go go go from there.  I find that many romantic suspense books are very predictable – and to me that’s okay.  As long as the story is well done and the characters are strong I’m good with a slightly predictable book.  But this one wasn’t as predictable.  My first idea of what would happen next didn’t always happen which was a nice surprise.  And the ending is great.  It worked perfectly with this story.

This book is not a light and fluffy read.  Carolyn manages to write a fun yet slightly gritty story here.  And all of that ‘grit’ is thanks to Borgola.  Here is where I talk about him and how I would love to see this scumbag die a slow and horrible horrible death.  Actually, horrible horrible isn’t horrible enough for him.  He is one nasty piece of work and I instantly despised him.  He is Sleaze with a capital S.  And to generate such a strong reaction from me means Carolyn wrote him very well.  You are meant to hate him and boy did I ever.

Carolyn also wrote Angel’s and Cole’s friends well.  I can’t say I necessarily liked Angel’s friends but I don’t feel they were meant to produce feelings one way or another.  I did rather enjoy all of Cole’s co-Associates, and that is a good thing seeing most of them will be getting a book of their own soon enough.  Macmillan, who was always the center of attention when he was in a scene, is getting his shot next.  Lethal Liaisons should be out this summer.  Without a doubt, I will be reading it.

Overall I was very impressed with Against the Dark.  Cole and Angel were excellent characters and the story was an absolute page turner.  This book shows us just how versatile Carolyn Crane is as an author and how easily she sucks us into her stories.  If you are looking for a high octave story that will keep you on your toes, this is the book for you.

4.5 stars



  1. I plan to read this. Does it release next week? Great review, Julie! smiles…

  2. Can’t wait! Love her books

  3. I wantz, I wantz, I wantz!
    Luckily, just one more day to wait.

  4. Christi – It comes out tomorrow 🙂

    Vicki – Me too 🙂

    Bookaholic Cat – I can’t wait to hear what you think. 🙂

  5. Great review Julie, I want to read this one!

  6. I didn’t know Caroly had a new series coming out! I loved her UF, so I will have to check out this since you rated it so high 🙂

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