If you’re looking for a romance with white-knuckle pacing and non-stop action, then I recommend Unbreakable by Stephanie Tyler. If you like plots that build slowly and characters who take their time developing, then this series isn’t for you. I enjoyed Unbreakable, but it never gave me time to catch my breath—it’s one of those books you either can’t put down or can’t get into in the first place.
Unbreakable is the second in the Section 8 series by Stephanie Tyler and picks up immediately where Surrender left off. Tyler doesn’t bother with a lot of backstory or recap of the previous book, so in order to understand Unbreakable you really need to read Surrender first. (Elyse's grade: B.)
The series follows a newly formed private mercenary group called Section 8. Most of the members worked black ops at some point but were rejected and left out to dry by the military or the US government.
Unbreakable stars Avery, the sister of the hero from the last book. Avery’s mother was a bounty hunter before she was killed, and Avery helped her mom chase skips. She’s tough as nails and more than able to hold her own against the tough, scarred men around her. In the last book Avery was trying to decide between Key (yes that’s really his name) and Gunner, two Section 8 members.
When Unbreakable opens up—in the midst of a bar fight—Avery has chosen Gunner, but he keeps her at arm’s length. When she comes to him one night, he rejects her, embarrassing her and making her question her choice.
Gunner was Captain Mysterious in the last book. He was a loner who ran a tattoo shop as the front for his less legitimate businesses. In Surrender he agreed to protect Avery only if she let him tattoo her body—he got to select the location and the image. Avery feels like Gunner has marked her as his and is surprised by his rejection.
Gunner really wants the sweet, sweet lovin’ with Avery, but his Dark Mysterious Past has caught up with him. It’s bad too. No, Gunner doesn’t have herpes or a sex tape of himself with a senator. He used to be an assassin for a man named Drew Landon. Gunner left the business and created a new identity for himself, but due to the events that took place in the last book (which I won’t spoil here) Gunner’s cover has been blown.
Now Drew wants Gunner, who was apparently the bestest assassin ever and also Drew’s sometimes lover, to come back to work for him. If he doesn’t, Drew will kill Avery and the rest of S8 to punish him.
Yes, that’s right, Gunner and Drew were lovers, I think. What was strange for me was that this was largely glossed over. There’s a line in the book where Drew says:
“He spent time in my life. My bed. I knew him intimately.”
I sort of thought the fact that they had been lovers might be explored more, but it was just left hanging there. Maybe it was the fever I was fighting off while I read this, but I’m still not 100% sure Drew and Gunner used to sleep together or what.
So Gunner goes to work for Landon, but makes one last appearance to say goodbye to Avery. They share a really steamy sex scene before he vanishes. Avery doesn’t give up on Gunner though. She and the rest of S8 dig into his past and realize that he’s being forced to work for Landon.
Avery and the rest of the team decide to help Gunner escape from Landon despite the consequences. Gunner has buried his feelings under a manly layer of tattooed muscle and tells them he doesn’t need their help, never liked them anyway, and isn’t inviting them to his birthday party.
Part of the book is spent getting Gunner to pull his head out of his ass, the rest trying to defeat Landon. There are some dark scenes in this book. At one point Avery is tortured. Gunner references violent beatings he endured in his past. If you like gritty, edgy stories then no worries, but if this stuff squicks you out, don’t read Unbreakable.
I liked Gunner, even if he was a douchebag for part of the book. I like the tragic, mysterious hero who must reject the heroine for her own good. I like the heroine who doesn’t give up on him anyway. Gunner is tough and sexy, and he has his own share of demons. We know he’s a badass because when he’s making dinner he says, “Got steaks. We’ll do rice. Fuck the vegetables.”
That’s right. FUCK THE VEGETABLES.
Avery is tough in her own right. She’s unwilling to give up on Gunner and she doesn’t quit when things get tough. We also meet a new, awesome character named Drea. She’s a doctor that they briefly kidnap to help treat Avery’s wounds. Drea is more pissed than afraid when they abduct her, and she joins the team for the finale, escaping her own past. I’m hoping Drea gets a book of her own.
Like I said earlier, this book moves fast. It’s basically non-stop action. I had to go back and re-read occasionally to make sure I was following what was happening, although that could have been the cold medicine. None of the characters stop to reflect on their past or muse about the present—it’s basically, go, go, go!
I did have a couple issues with the book, though. First, there is a character named Jem. Yes Jem. I kept thinking of Jem and the Holograms. I just assumed that Jem had a star around his eye and a pink, feathered mullet.
Also there was this scene:
Jem ran into the crowd of men and threw himself at them like he was a bowling ball and they were the pins. His body actually went sideways and he took down five of the six men, forced the sixth to trip a little.
I cannot make my brain understand how that works. How do you throw yourself into a group of men like a bowling ball? Is he Metroid? What the hell?
I was also thrown by the end. Again, cold medicine, so maybe this made sense but I was too heavily medicated to get it. SPOILERY BITS: In the end it is revealed that Drew Landon is not responsible for going after S8, but rather Landon’s twin brother Donal. Gunner reveals it’s Donal when he grabs Donal’s crotch, causing him to flinch. Donal apparently didn’t know his brother, Drew, was gay and would have welcomed Gunner’s advance. Yet in the quote I listed above, Donal (not Drew) remarked that Gunner had spent time in his bed. So he had to know that Drew and Gunner were lovers? Right?
Pink feathered mullets and Morph Balls aside (seriously, this book took me back to the 80’s) Unbreakable was a fun read. It moved along at a breakneck pace, and I enjoyed the dynamic between the members of S8. I’m hoping the next book features Drea and Jem, and that it’s called Outrageous.