Publisher: Dragonfly Press
Date of publication: August 2nd, 2022
Genre: Romance, Suspense, Mystery, Thriller
Series: Blackhawk Security
Once and Always—Book 6
Purchase Links: Amazon
Zoe was still in high school when she saw her father shot dead by a classmate obsessed with her, and then still a kid, witnessed the killer’s sentencing. A horrible tragedy, but now, thirteen years later, she’s thoroughly rebooted her life.
She’s the CEO of her own cyber security company, a celebrity in her field, and a speaker in high demand.
She’s just the kind of strong, self-reliant woman who can take care of herself in any situation.
Except the one she’s in.
She’s got a stalker.
And she already knows he’s a killer.
Given her background, Zoe knows instantly that she needs protection and she knows how to get it—her sister Mel’s the owner of Blackhawk Security.
But trust Mel to send Spence Flynn, the one agent Zoe can’t be alone with, but not because they don’t get along. It’s because attraction sizzles between the two of them like runaway electricity. And because they both know the last thing a body guard should do is get into a relationship with his principal.
It’s unethical and dangerous.
But how are they supposed to fight this thing? Spoiler: Good intentions suffer a knockout in the first round. And then, to the delight of the reader, the earth moves in the most delicious way.
Meanwhile, Zoe’s stalker is still sending her charms from a bracelet he stole from her thirteen years ago, the scariest being a heart he’s had engraved with both their names. Unnerving enough– and then he starts dropping off lunch for her, tailing her in a white Subaru, and trying to break into her condo.
Spence has his hands full in more than one way. And Zoe has a public appearance coming up. The perfect time for a stalker to strike.
His heart racing, Ethan Davies slowed his steps as he neared Zoe’s locker.Once and Always by Margaret Watson
If you have been following my blog long enough, I have a few authors I review regularly. Margaret Watson is one of them. I am a big fan of her books, and I always accept the invitation to review them when it comes to my email. When the invite for Once and Always appeared in my inbox, it was a no-brainer that I would accept.
Once and Always had an exciting plotline. At 18, Zoe witnessed her father killed by an obsessed classmate, and then she had to go through a trial. Thirteen years later, she has moved on with her life until she starts receiving packages. Those packages contain charms from a bracelet she lost around the time her father was killed, and only one person could have it—Ethan, her former stalker who killed her father. Contacting her sister, who owns Blackhawk Security, she is assigned a bodyguard until Ethan is caught. But when she sees who it is, she is slightly concerned. Zoe has been thirsting after Spence since he helped Nico the year before. The feelings are mutual, but Spence is there for a job: to protect Zoe from Ethan until he is caught. Will that happen? And will Zoe and Spence give in to their mutual attraction?
Once and Always is book 6 in the Blackhawk Security series. Once and Always can be read as a stand-alone book. But I suggest reading the first five books before picking this one up. That way, you know who the secondary characters are that are mentioned in Once and Always.
I will put a trigger warning on this review. The author did take great care to show sympathy and understanding for Ethan and made several references to mental illness reform (mainly about the facility he was held at for five years) and knowledge. There are mentions of attempted kidnapping. There are also talks about Ethan’s mental illness, and the author does show how he spiraled back into his delusions after his mother died. But, if these trigger you, I suggest not reading this book.
I did not expect to find sympathy for Ethan. The villains in most books are pure evil. But Ethan, well, he was different. The things he did to Zoe were terrible; there is no question about that, but knowing that he suffered a relapse after his mother’s death did soften my stance on him. The scenes in the cabin only cemented my opinion of him. I also liked that Zoe and Spence understood that after the fact. Their actions at the end of the book (which was discussed after the cabin) were proof of that.
I liked Zoe. She was a strong, opinionated, outspoken woman who knew her worth. Being a tech company CEO in an industry with few women shaped her. What also shaped her was what happened to her as a teenager. How could it not? I loved reading her scenes because she was always on point. She wasn’t afraid to share her feelings, even if she knew that the other person didn’t return them (the scene with Ron comes to mind, and a scene with Spence towards the end of the book).
I liked Spence, but I wanted to smack him at various times during the book. He was great at his job and would do anything to keep Zoe safe. But he wasn’t too good with personal skills or sharing his feelings. I did agree with him that they (him and Zoe) needed space, but I didn’t agree with how he phrased it. Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate how he treated Zoe after the scenes at the cabin. I talked out loud to the book and said, “Dude, you seriously didn’t say that to her!!” Spence had a lot of baggage he needed to lose, and I was afraid he would miss that ship with Zoe.
The secondary characters did make the book. These secondary characters flushed the book out and made the plotline more interesting to read.
I enjoyed the romance angle of Once and Always. There was a bit of Insta Love, but it was easy to overlook. It was an easy romance to read, and I liked knowing (well, for the most part) how Zoe and Spence would end up.
The sexual tension between Zoe and Spence was immediate from the beginning. It didn’t take long for them to end up in bed. The author raised the pressure by just having them look at each other. I loved it. I was a little meh about Zoe being a screamer during sex. She made Spence’s ears ring the first time she climaxed and every time after that. All I could think was, “What was her downstairs neighbors thinking” and “I hope the apartment is soundproof”….lol.
The mystery angle of Once and Always was also well written. It wasn’t too much of a mystery about who was sending the charms and why. The mystery, to me, was if Ethan would grab Zoe and when. The author gave several false leads, and I was kept on edge, wondering if it would happen.
The suspense angle was intertwined with the mystery angle. The author did a great job of keeping guessing at when (and if) Ethan was going to capture Zoe. I also was kept on edge by Spence and his decisions.
The end of Once and Always did bring tears to my eyes. While I was sad about how it ended, I loved how Zoe and Spence brought awareness to mental illness. I loved how the author wrapped up Zoe and Spence’s storyline. I am not sure who will be featured in book 7 (if there is a book 7), but if I had to guess, it would be Mel and her business partner. Either way, I am looking forward to it.
I would recommend Once and Always to anyone over 21. There are graphic sex, language, and violence. There are also the trigger warnings that I posted above.