by Lorie O’Clare
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Available: September 28, 2010
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Heartthrob bounty hunter Greg King knows how to work it—and he knows that he can have any woman he wants. But there’s more to Greg than meets the eye…and he’s still haunted by the memory of his beautiful, estranged wife. Much as he’s tried to move on, he’s never been able to stop wondering why Haley left him. Or what he could have done to make their marriage better—and make her stay…
After putting a vicious criminal behind bars, Haley King had no choice but to leave her loved ones behind and enter the witness protection program. Turns out that, in her new life, Haley has once again found herself in serious trouble—and needs help from the only person she can trust: her husband. Now, as old secrets threaten to tear them apart and danger closes in from all sides, it’s up to Greg to keep Haley safe…and convince her that this time, he’s playing for keeps.
Move over “The Dog” there’s a new bounty hunter in town. And while he’s big, broad and all alpha male, his overall impression left little to be desired for this reader. Play Dirty is the first installment of the bounty hunter series by Lorie O’Clare and unfortunately one that left me flat and frustrated.
Greg King, former police officer, now bounty hunter, thrives on the adventures his profession brings. Catching a criminal runs through his blood like being high on a drug and now both his sons Marc and Jake crave the same action the job brings. All three work together for King Fugitive Apprehension, a private investigative service founded by Greg. While on a routine stakeout for the latest criminal, Greg sees a woman down the street in the shadows who looks like his wife. He immediately knows it’s her, but does not know why she is there at the scene. Haley King (a.k.a. Hannah McDowell) left her husband Greg and their two boys after testifying as the key witness against a major drug lord (Perry Pierre). Without telling her family about her departure, she entered the Witness Protection Program, left Los Angeles and took on her new persona in Nebraska as a private investigator for Payton Investigative Services. Her boss and mentor John Payton has suspiciously gone missing at the same time Perry Pierre dies in prison. Now that Pierre is dead, Haley is back in LA after not having any contact with her family for six years.
This was my first read of Ms. O’Clares and while I had high expectations going in (particularly with such a hot cover), I was frustrated throughout the book. While I like the concept of a fiction based life of a bounty hunter, Play Dirty had a very unbelievable storyline. Ms. O’Clare tries to create a story of a loving husband and wife (former high school sweethearts) who are dedicated to each other and their two teenage sons. However, I found this entire plot hard to believe for several reasons. First, Greg and the boys (now men) were quick to accept Haley back into their lives. They almost treated her six-YEAR absence as if she’d only been gone for six-HOURS. As the reader, I struggled with the mentality that this was just a regular part of the job to leave your family for six years and them be okay with it. Second, it was unrealistic to me that both Greg and Haley knew exactly where the other one was during her absence, but did not contact the other or work out some way to be together. I was not convinced that Greg could keep tabs on Haley and her new life and not be endangering himself and the boys. Otherwise, why not join her in the Witness Protection Program to keep the family unity they both claimed to want. Third, Haley’s actions and words seemed to directly contradict any semblance of dedication she had to her family.
“Why didn’t you tell Dad?” Jake asked.
“Because he would have stopped me, or intervened, or forbidden me to keep working. I knew what I was doing was dangerous and I was hooked. There was no way he was going to take me away from my first bust.”
To me, it was obvious in the above quote that the thrill of the hunt was the most important thing to Haley. She chose the love of her job over her husband, her children and her life as she knew it. She made it clear that while she hated giving up her family and identity for six years, she would do it again in a heart beat to take down a major criminal. I simply cannot relate to this thought process and never would give up a life I made with a husband and children that I claimed to deeply love for a profession or “rush”.
Also, though Haley and Greg were high school sweethearts and married almost two decades, I never felt a true emotional connection between them. Their sexual moments seemed quick and detached – more of a “friends with benefits” feel and not really connecting in the intimacy of the moment or with each other which left me asking why was this couple even married when their deepest connection was to their profession. This leads me to the continued fight for control between Haley and Greg that grew very tiresome as well. Haley was constantly trying to prove to Greg that she was his professional equal. She wanted him to trust her at the helm in giving the orders when she had all the information. Greg was constantly trying to take the lead in the decision making and also assert the “alpha role” of dominance and protection of his woman.
While Play Dirty provided some suspense, it was a flat attempt and didn’t have me on the edge of my seat like I expected. The informant and the villain were predictable as well as the ending. Also the easy acceptance of Haley’s choice in leaving her family and the reasons behind it left a bitter taste in my mouth throughout the story. The overall family dynamics and lack of emotional depth definitely hindered my overall enjoyment of the story and left me questioning whether I will continue in the series.
Other reviews on GoodReads