Illicit Intent

Romance - Suspense
364 Pages
Reviewed on 03/09/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Debbie Baldwin is a successful print media and television writer. She is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Virginia School of Law. Debbie and her husband live in Saint Louis, Missouri with their puggle, Pebbles. They have three children in college.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

Illicit Intent is a fast-paced, action-packed novel written by Debbie Baldwin that is bound to entertain fans of romance novels and thrillers alike. While working undercover for the hedge fund billionaire Phipps Van Gent, Calliope Garland, a journalist writing for The Harland Sentry, unwittingly comes into possession of two rare portraits stolen in Boston during the robbery of the Isabella Stewart Museum in 1990. As she finds herself chased by art thieves and mob hired assassins, Calliope finds unexpected help and security through Miller "Tox" Buchanan, an ex-Special Forces operative working for Bishop Security. While events continue to spiral out of control around them, Calliope and Tox steadily grow closer and find comfort and joy in each other's company. But their relationship is in jeopardy as the men tracking Calliope soon put everyone's lives in danger.

A steamy and seductive romance combined with an intricate plot involving art thieves, assassins, and undercover intelligence operatives make Illicit Intent a ravishingly entertaining read that hooks you in from the first page and simply refuses to let go. Author Debbie Baldwin's novel is a pulsating page-turner that I couldn't get enough of. Baldwin provides engaging backstories to her characters that make them relatable and come alive in a way that feels like a breath of fresh air. The chemistry between Calliope and Tox is palpable, and some of the scenes involving the two are intoxicating. I also found the familial dynamic between Tox and his team members extremely relatable and enjoyed every moment of it. I would highly recommend Illicit Intent to readers of romance-oriented thrillers.

Stephanie Chapman

What do a money launderer, a fixer, a government special operations specialist, a gang, and a philanthropist all have in common? Debbie Baldwin reveals in Illicit Intent that they want Calliope Garland. The young undercover reporter had just downloaded the contents of a computer when she trips a security system safeguard that erases the entire system. To add to her dilemma, a drunk Van Gents arrives in the office; he reveals his gambling winnings and tossed a white tube container on the floor. Calliope picks up the empty container and leaves. When she runs into the street, she collides with Tox. From previous encounters, she knows the special operations officer and ends up catching a ride home. There is a definite attraction between the pair. Despite showing her attraction to Tox, he avoids the topic even though he wants Calliope. When Van Gents is discovered dead, the reporter finds she has caught the attention of someone that wants what she took from the office, and they are willing to kill her for it. Tox and his security team have to keep Calliope safe until they can figure out what she inadvertently set into motion by erasing all of Van Gent's digital records.

Illicit Intent is a character-driven story that is hard to put down. I like how every character is fully developed and plays key roles that revolve around Calliope. The naive reporter's infatuation with Tox frustrated me when he constantly sent her mixed signals. The pace of the story is fast, and the timeline is easy to follow. I liked how each chapter was either from the chasing group's (bad guys) POV or the chased group's (good guys) view. Then Baldwin threw in Caleb Cain that had me questioning what side he was on. The ending of this book leaves no question unanswered. There are some explicit scenes, violence, and occasional profanity throughout the story, but I recommend this 5-star book to adults who love an action-filled mystery that involves an amazingly colorful cast of protagonists and antagonists.

Jennifer Ibiam

Illicit Intent by Debbie Baldwin is a combination of crime, adventure, espionage, suspense, and humor. It follows the life of flighty Calliope Garland, an investigative reporter for The Harlem Sentry. Her boss at work had a hunch that Phipps, the owner of the Gentrify Capital Partners, was shady. She was sent on a secret mission to unravel whatever he was hiding. Calliope sneaked into his office and nosed around, but something went wrong. This was the beginning of chaos in her life. Hitmen from multiple factions were after her, so much so that Tox's arms were the safest place. Tox, a former Navy Seal, will do anything to protect her, but is there more to his dedication? Who is after Calliope, and what do they want?

Illicit Intent by Debbie Baldwin gives action movies a run for their money. It will appeal to an audience that loves some action and thrills. I'll liken this work to "chaotic orderliness." This book had a complex storyline that was neatly tied together at the end. The plot was unique and unpredictable, with great depth. Development was exceptional, especially the switch between history and the present day. It helped me understand what happened in the past, and how it affected the present. Also, the characters grew on me, especially Miles/Cain and Miller/Tox. Twins who were on opposite sides, yet loved each other to the death. The incorporation of humor helped lighten the suspense in the novel. I enjoyed the writing style, which was simple, engaging, and fun. Debbie did an excellent job, and I want to read more from her.

Rabia Tanveer

Illicit Intent is the second novel in the Bishop Security Series by Debbie Baldwin. Calliope was not one to stick in one place or to keep friendships. But Emily became her one exception, and now she had a desk job. Her task was simple: gather important information about a crooked CEO and not get caught. However, things took a suspicious turn when the CEO was murdered, and Calliope became the owner of an expensive work of art and financial information that could get her killed. It seemed like no one could save her, except Tox. Tox was the only man who could keep her safe. He was the only man she could trust in a situation like this. Tox knew that he should have stayed away from Calliope, but he couldn’t do that when she was in so much trouble. Could Tox keep his head in the game and keep Calliope safe?

Illicit Intent was a ride that I loved even if it made me feel dizzy at times. The action was relentless, it was a constant companion that gave me an adrenaline rush at times. Tox was the perfect male protagonist for the story. He was mysterious yet vulnerable enough to grab my attention. This big, burly ex-Navy Seal had a heart of gold that beat very fast for Calliope. Calliope was smart and ready to stand up for herself. She knew when it was right for her to fight her own battles and when it was in her best interests to let Tox handle things. She wasn’t some conceited protagonist who didn’t understand her limits and got into unnecessary conflicts. The narrative and its pace were perfect for the story. It was fast, but not so much so that I had no idea what was going on. The chemistry between the two protagonists was off the charts, they complemented each other and looked good with each other!