Review – Countdown to Zero Hour (Black Ops: Automatik #1) by Nico Rosso

Reviewed by: E

Ex–Special Forces agent Artem “Art” Diaz is tatooed, muscular and undeniably dangerous. He’s also deep undercover, posing as mob muscle for a deadly bratva boss. His mission: gain the Russians’ trust. Then lead the strike team that will kill them all.

Chef Hayley Baskov knows better than to get involved with someone with such close mafia ties, but the handsome bodyguard who brought her to this cold, sprawling estate full of ruthless mobsters is inexplicably kind. A little firtation may keep her safe amidst the growing menace.

As Art’s timetable for action escalates, so do his encounters with Hayley. Stealing what illicit pleasure they can keeps them both sane in the face of evil. But when things get dangerous, Art has to tell her about his assignment, bringing her deeper into the shadowy world of black ops…and putting her life on the line.

Now Art has a new objective: protect Hayley from the man they both call boss.
This blurb came from Goodreads

Last year when I learned Rosso, whose sci-fi military and steampunk romances I have enjoyed was writing a contemporary romantic suspense I had mixed feelings. On one hand I really liked his writing but on the other hand I don’t have a good track record when it comes to reading and enjoying romantic suspense. So I held off for a while.

Then during RWA’s (Romance Writers of America) Annual Conference this summer I had an enjoyable conversation with Rosso and was reminded of how much I enjoyed his writing so I decided to trust my previous experiences with him and give Countdown to Zero Hour a try. I will admit the blurb and in particular Hayley’s occupation as a chef had already peaked my interest. I started reading on my flight home and I couldn’t wait until I had Wi-Fi access again so I could get my hands on the second book.

Hayley didn’t want to be a part of or support the bratva but she also knew how to make the best of a bad situation. I enjoyed how she refused to give up or change her standards in food preparation and flavor even while some of the other bodyguards tried to intimidate her in the kitchen. I like how she reacted to the other members of Art’s squad and her ability to think on her feet walking the line between knowing the danger she was in and also knowing what she needed to do to survive.

I also found Art’s conflicts very entertaining. He had to succeed in his mission, maintain his cover job, and the added need to protect Hayley. His ability to go from single-focused thug to a master tactician able to gain the trust and inspire confidence in Hayley under tense situations was very well done. I liked how their relationship grew slowly and it wasn’t under false pretenses despite the danger of revealing the truth. This was critical when the bullets started flying and Hayley needed to react without making the situation worse.

I am very glad I decided to trust Rosso would retain the same elements I enjoyed in other militaristic sub-genres in his contemporary romantic suspense. Countdown to Zero Hour was an intriguing high stakes read with an enjoyable romance. I also enjoyed the second installment, One Minute to Midnight, which will be reviewed at a later date. As a result I have strong hopes Rosso’s Black Ops: Automatik series continues to grow.

I give Countdown to Zero Hour a B+

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