Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Most kids grow up with the iconic story of Peter Pan, but Gina L. Maxwell’s Hook has reinvented a classic with a decidedly adult spin. While this is book #2 in the Neverland Series (mental note, I need to obtain book #1 immediately), it also works perfectly as a standalone book.
There is a TRIGGER WARNING, but it's included in the first page of the author's note, and she considerately provides warning well in advance. Rather than having readers be forced to read potentially triggering material, she offers a link that provides the scene set up, followed by the rest of the chapter. Fair warning - there are graphic descriptions of sex, substance use, and references to physical abuse, self-harm, and rape included in this story. None of it is gratuitous, and it is handled sensitively.
I went into reading this book with two preconceived notions. 1) I was absolutely convinced that it was going to take place on a pirate ship. It doesn't, although Hook does live above a bar called the Jolly Roger, and 2) It was going to be an amazing book. It was.
Hook is Captain of the Pirates, a crew involved in criminal activity. He’s a bad guy and a loner. He pushes people away when they get close to him, especially Officer John Darling, who is a perpetual optimist. Hook has tried to avoid John for years, but now he needs John’s help to save his brother’s life and take down Fred Croc, a monster from Hook’s past, who happens to also be his current boss. John goes undercover as a member of Hook’s crew and moves into Hook’s loft, so that he can have a shot at taking Croc down from the inside. But sparks fly between Hook and John.
John is a Task Force Officer with the FBI, protecting the innocent and falling in love with the villain. He’s had a crush on Hook since he was a kid, waiting for Hook to notice him. But Hook never did, until he became the best chance to save a member of Hook’s crew and get Croc behind bars. Now that he’s living in Hook’s loft, it’s hard to ignore him and the desire in his eyes. It’s hard to keep secrets when you’re living together, and when those dark secrets come out, getting rid of the evil in Neverland isn’t John’s only mission. And he’s focused on making Hook realize he’s not the villain, but the hero of this story.
Judging by the cover (OMG drooling), this book is obviously a steamy romance novel. But … it’s so much more than that. I already knew it was going to be a hot story, but I didn’t realize that there’d be so much substance to it. Wait a minute, let me back up a bit and wipe up my drool.
Okay, that’s better. I’m focused. So in the original story, Hook is the bad guy, no questions asked. Gina turns that premise upside down here. She starts out with Hook seeming to be the same bad guy in the prologue. He’s committing a crime in the first page of the book. Bad, right? Well, not exactly. He has plenty of great reasons to commit that crime. As the book goes on, he stops seeming like a bad guy within about 2 pages. He starts seeming like more and more of a good guy, and I really actually like the guy. He’s basically a cinnamon roll wrapped in a tough shell, and he has more than enough justification to be the way that he is. John’s not bad himself, but Hook is definitely the star of this book.
I’ve read a lot of romance novels in my day, mostly in my younger years. The plots aren’t always thrilling, since they tend to be utterly predictable and more of a vehicle for delivering steamy scenes using ridiculous words for genitalia that no one ever uses in real life, like throbbing member, or honey pot. I've stayed away from them in later years, mainly for this reason. When I heard about Hook, I decided to give the genre ONE LAST CHANCE. And I'm SO GLAD that I decided to be a tiny bit open minded. Because this book was not one of those fluffy, cheesy romance stories of my younger years. It promised a genuinely intriguing plot from page one, and followed through all the way to the very end, which only took me one day, since I couldn’t put this book down. The gritty action, emotional highs and lows, and genuine character voice really had me feeling this book from start to finish. Ultimately, it’s both a thrilling crime story and one of romance, redemption, and hope.
The sexual tension between Hook and John simmered throughout the book, and the sex scenes were so hot! I loved how consent, boundaries, and safety were explicitly discussed. It made everything more believable. This book is definitely a great one, and I’d highly recommend it.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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