Release Reviews: Darkest Before Dawn: Maya Banks

Darkest Before Dawn (KGI #10)
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Expected October 27, 2015

THE ALL-NEW KGI NOVEL from the “incredibly awesome" (Jaci Burton) #1 New York Times bestselling author of When Day Breaks.

The Kelly Group International (KGI): A super-elite, top secret, family-run business.

Qualifications: High intelligence, rock-hard body, military background.

Mission: Hostage/kidnap victim recovery. Intelligence gathering. Handling jobs the U.S. government can’t...

The enigmatic Hancock has been both opponent and ally to the KGI teams for as long as they've known him. Always working a deep game, Hancock's true allegiance has never been apparent, but one thing is for certain—he never lets anything get in the way of duty.

But now, his absolute belief in the primacy of his ultimate goal is challenged by a captive he's been ordered to guard, no matter how much she suffers in her prison. She's the only woman who's ever managed to penetrate the rigid walls surrounding his icy heart, but will he allow his perplexing feelings for the beautiful victim to destroy a mission he's spent years working to complete or will he be forced to sacrifice her for “the greater good.” 


A woman in need of rescue. A man with his own hidden agenda and questionable motives.

Honor Cambridge is a survivor. Despite living through a horrible event, she is fighting to stay alive and make it to safety in a treacherous situation. All she has left is her intelligence, pride, hope, and desire to regain her freedom.

The enigmatic, elusive Hancock is sent to rescue her, but by someone who has their own agenda. Little does she know freedom is not as close as she hopes.

Hancock is a trained mercenary, a ghost, and always focused on his end game of bringing down his sworn enemies for the common good. He is cold, aloof, deadly, focused, and does not get attached. He feels he  has no conscience, but that has been tested more recently as he has been involved in missions putting one person's safety as priority over the safety of the masses. He has his own sense of honor and sees the world in gray to black with little light.
He did not expect Honor Cambridge...nor did his men. She blindsides them with her tenacity, heart, selflessness, and courage and she earns a grudging respect. This leads to questioning their motives and trying to determine if the ultimate sacrifice would be worth it.

She is fierce, strong, and untrusting, but develops a fragile trust with Hancock and his men. She sees him as a man and not a machine. But will trusting them come with an even bigger price? Hancock is torn between his mission and this woman that has forced him to look at the world in a different light and is in the process of changing him. She makes him feel and listen to his buried conscience. But guilt and regrets of his actions are enough to gut him. He already thinks the worst of himself. Hancock is the baddest of the bad a**es, but under that tough veneer he finds he has a heart. But the decisions already set in motion and the secrets he keeps could destroy both of them.

Miscommunication, choices, and fear give away to serious dangerous situations. Hancock will have to pull in all of markers to try to rectify mistakes. But if trust is broken and forgiveness is not given...it might all be in vain. She has little reason to forgive him and he never plans to forgive himself. There will be times that survival is questionable and living with the consequences could be a fate worse than death.

Hancock? Who Knew? This "anti-hero" totally surprised me and I completely fell for him...his intensity, his depth, his strong emotions, and strength. I swear he brought tears to my eyes several times. He has not always been on the same side as the KGI team, but when needed they have used each other to meet their common goals. He has become one of my favorite heroes of this series. And Honor was such a brave, kick a** heroine, but she was also sweet and sometimes naive. I could not help but admire her, but at times she seemed to be too understanding and selfless. They truly were a match made in Heaven even as they went though Hell.They could really see and feel the other. And they were both stubborn, strong, and protective which sometimes worked in their favor and at other times not. 

I loved the "Titan" sidekicks Carson, Mojo, Henderson, Viper, and Cope. They all had strong personalities and were bonded by their history and skewed sense of honor. And I am always excited for more Kelly action with some of our fave couples! The Kellys are the heart of this series and I am so attached to all of them. I also liked getting more with Eden and Hancock's adopted family Big Eddie Sinclair, Ryker, and Raid  as well as  meeting her large family with plenty of intriguing brothers too. I could see some spin offs since some are cops and military.

This one started out somewhat slow for me with a lot of descriptions and initial Middle East stuff (it had action and drama but due to the explanations, descriptions, and some repetitiveness it felt like it dragged), but I was totally sucked in by the last half and was loving the feel of old school KGI with all of the suspense, action, team work, and feels. I was totally invested in this couple, my heart was engaged, and I was laughing along with the banter between all of the teams. This was a powerful story of spirit, hope, trust, love, and redemption, with a side of suspense, danger, and humor. This made me remember why I love this series and has been my favorite installment of some of the recent ones. I am also looking forward to Joe, the last standing single Kelly, finally getting his story, more with Edge and Skylar, and also Rusty and Sean's story since we have been waiting for them for a while.

ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review. 
Honor Cambridge is a strong, quick thinking woman with huge convictions and compassion. Working in a small village in an area without a lot of luxuries, with people who have little more than basic necessities, her time is spent caring for those the rest of the world has turned their backs on in an area the US has declared a lost cause. Prone to terrorist attacks, the area is full of tension and fear. The small comforts Honor can provide fill her with purpose and ingratiates her to the locals.

Hancock has long been a borderline adversary in the KGI series. He and his team have been cast aside by the military as being too off the grid to be protected. While they often work for questionable organizations, he has his own strong set of moral rules of engagement and his men trust him implicitly. But he has also been painted as a harda$, villain with no heart and no compassion.

His latest mission challenges every rule he usually places for engaging missions -- his target is a seemingly innocent woman and he is tasked with taking her to those who are chasing her.

This was a dark journey for both Honor and Hancock. As they would build trust, a betrayal would occur causing them to start over once again. Over and over again, they broke through walls only to have them drop right back into place at the worst moments. I was heartbroken multiple times watching as each handled the dangerous situation as best as they could.

I knew from previous books that there was more to Hancock than the hard exterior he projects -- he has shown his softer side with Maren and Eden over and over again, even as he bristled and butted heads with the Kelly men. And he did not disappoint here. His conflicted thought processes only fuel the misunderstandings between him and Honor and kept me turning the page to see how he would handle each new hurdle.

I loved Honor as a match for Hancock. It would take someone with huge reserves of compassion and altruism to crack through his hard exterior and see the man he refuses to acknowledge. Though she finds herself at one of her darkest periods of her life, she fights hard for what she believes and what she wants.

This felt separate from the other KGI novels in that KGI doesn’t come into play as strongly as usual. Since Hancock is not KGI, this is understandable. Darkest Before Dawn would be a great place for new readers to jump in mid-series before going back to catch up on the Kelly family story, but it is also a great experience for those who have watched Hancock in the background of other Kelly novels. 

ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I utterly adored the hell out of Guy Hancock. 

Maya stayed true to the detached, cold blooded, mechanical soldier we’d met in previous books. Hancock wasn’t like any other KGI hero she’d written. He definitely wouldn’t win any awards for flowery words, devotion, or adoration. Instead, he was often a complete and total… “bleep.” But if you dare to explore deeper, you’d find an underlying layer of compassion and vulnerability, which is why he was always at war with himself. For me, it was heart wrenching to witness Hancock, with his commanding presence and tight reign over control, wrestle between his inner demons and the actions he had to execute. This was a soldier—a man, who couldn’t see past his need to complete a mission at all costs. 

Hancock’s dedication was admirable when he wasn’t fully focused on the cause. It didn’t matter what he craved, needed, or wanted for himself, it only mattered what it would take to reach that ultimate goal. Hancock’s thought process was: what is the sacrifice of one person, no matter how selfless, when the weight of the world depends on their demise, especially if it is for the greater good? As you can clearly see, our hero had a backward sense of ideals. And because of this, I would describe him as more of an anti-hero than a hero. 

It won’t take long before you’ll find yourself at war over whether to hate him or love him.

Heroines have always been kind of a kryptonite for me. While I liked Honor well enough, she wasn’t my favorite heroine. She wasn’t easily relatable. Honor was so full of selflessness, perfection, and straight up goodness that my teeth ached from the sheer sweetness of it all. And trust me you’ll figure this out real fast; if you don’t, no need to worry, you’ll see this on repeat. It’s hard to connect to a chick who makes you feel like Satan to her Virgin Mary. It isn’t that I didn’t like her, I just couldn’t suspend belief enough to fully accept that someone would be so flawless and accepting of death. Mother Teresa wasn’t even that good. 

When we weren’t hearing about Honor’s pure heart or dealing with Hancock’s sense of betrayal, I found myself falling in love with this couple. They were unconventional, complex, and forbidden. Both were as opposite as they were the same. But it worked for them, they became a thing of beauty, especially in the end. 

Darkest Before Dawn was raw and gritty. In between some of the swoon worthy moments, were even more hellish ones, things you couldn’t imagine in your worst nightmares. Between Honor and Hancock’s lifelike depiction, I always felt like I was a fly on the wall, which was both a blessing and a curse. 

Another thing I really struggled with was how detailed and wordy Banks got. She provided way more information than I personally needed; e.g., vivid descriptions of the terrorists group, their background, and Honor’s selfless perfection. This went on for pages. Truthfully, it got bogged down; at times, I found myself skimming these sections. 

While I was not always happy with this series, Darkest Before Dawn turned out to be one of my favorite books by Maya Banks. I would highly recommend one-clicking this baby!

Thank you, PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW, for the complimentary copy of Darkest Before Dawn.

Maya Banks 
My name is Maya Banks and I live in Texas with my husband and three children and our assortment of pets. I’m more of a cat person, but my daughter became convinced she NEEDED a dog. So convinced in fact that it became her mission to convince her father and me. She prepared a two page handwritten proposal that detailed WHY she needed a dog, and well, after I sent her to her father (I knew he wouldn’t tell her no) we embarked on the search for the perfect dog. The journey that was two hours away and that I got pulled over for speeding while I was on the phone with my agent who had an offer from a publisher for one of my books… The officer wasn’t impressed. He wrote me a ticket anyway. Thus, I now tell my daughter that her dog turned into one very expensive concession! But isn’t he cute?
When I’m not writing, I love to hunt and fish with my family. We all love the outdoors and go on family hunting trips every year. We also love to travel. One of our more recent trips was to Scotland, which was every bit as comical as National Lampoon’s European Vacation. You know the part about “Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament” as they went round and round the roundabouts? Yeah, that was us, only we couldn’t even get out of the airport in Glasgow without hitting three of those suckers.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of a writing career is getting to meet so many wonderful readers. There’s nothing better than dishing books with someone who loves the romance genre as much as I do. Romance readers are passionate and vocal. We love our books, love our happily ever afters, and we love to spend time talking to others about our favorites. THIS is why I love my job so much, and I’m so grateful to readers who gave ME a chance when I began my career. So thank you.


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