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Shades of Gray - Maya Banks This review was originally posted on my blog.

If I say that Maya Banks has huge brass balls, I say it and mean it with the utmost respect. The sixth book in this series is so different from its predecessors. The Kelly clan, as well as members from Rio’s team are still present, the action is still heart-thumping, but this book was so much more emotional than even Ethan and Rachel’s story. There’s one sex scene, and the rest is action and emotional turmoil, but it was to be expected, and I loved it all the same.

Over the course of the series, we’ve met Steele’s team, comprised of Baker, Renshaw, Dolphin, Cole and P.J. Former Navy SEAL David ‘Cole’ Coletrane and P.J. Rutherford are the snipers of the team. There’s always been friendly ribbing going on between them over who the better sharpshooter is. Although they’re a tight-knit group based on loyalty and trust, none of them know anything about P.J. outside of work. As soon as a mission ends, she’s out of there. The only thing they know about their intensely private teammate is that she used to be a member of S.W.A.T., but they have no idea what brought her to Steele’s team and eventually KGI.

Some women packed purses. P.J. packed heat.

Coming off the last mission, P.J. returns to her home in Denver for some R&R – seedy bar/strip club, loud, horrendous music, and alone. Just the way she wants it. When her ex-lover and S.W.A.T. teammate strolls in, we finally learn more about P.J.’s past. But when Cole walks in and they start drinking, inhibitions fall, and they finally put an end to the buildup of sexual tension that had been brewing between them since they first met. The awkward morning after is only interrupted by a call to gear up and move out. The mission is far from routine, and P.J. has to act as bait to reel in a child trafficker. Even though every precaution was made to ensure her safety, things take a horrifying turn. Filled with shame that her team may never look at her the same way again, as an equal, she leaves KGI to go on her own mission of one – revenge. But her team, least of all Cole is willing to let her go it alone.

I love any book with a strong, kick butt heroine, and P.J. is no exception. I’ve always been intrigued with her from the beginning. Like the rest of the guys, the secrecy and mystery surrounding her persona just made me hunger to know more about her. In this book we see sides of we’ve never seen before, but underneath her pain that tough warrior sill lurks. What I really loved about her was that despite her stubborn need to be independent, no not ask for help when she clearly needed it, she didn’t put up the typical girly fuss when she found herself falling for Cole. Her reservations were clear, precise, logical, but she was willing to work on her issues rather than keep pushing her away. I can almost see her shrugging as if to say “Eh, that’s just how it is.” Once she’s convinced that her team really does have her back, and that they’d honor their motto of “We live as a team and we die as a team” to the fullest extent, she finally learns to let them in. During the climax of the story, her bravery really blew me away.

Cole ….. sweet, hot, lovable, lickable Cole. He comes pretty close to utter perfection. Ladies, in the first few pages, when P.J. describes what he’s wearing when he walks in the bar … prepare to swoon! I loved his caring and protective streak. That really came out later after he gets P.J. back. He didn’t fight his feelings like most men would, and he didn’t go all Neanderthal on her either. That was actually very refreshing. It told me that he was very secure in his manliness, and he knew the fastest way to lose her was to try and stuff her in a box labeled “female, helpless, must protect at all costs”. I loved it when he had his little soul searching moment and came to terms with the fact that she was bad-ass, and she’d likely be saving him a couple of times. Their little power play remained on the level all the way through, and I respect the hell out of that.

Now I want to go back and re-read the KGI series all over again.

Favorite Quotes/Moments

“Nope. Ned about five more minutes. I didn’t even ask you how you like your meat.”

She choked and covered it with a cough. When she looked back up, he was giving her a glare of impatience.

“For God’s sake, you dirty-minded heifer.”

She laughed and kept on laughing. “Oh come on, Cole. You have to admit it sounded kinky. I mean, I could have said I like my meat hard.”

He sighed and shook his head.

“Why do you even want to be involved with me?” she asked. “I’m a complete mess. I don’t have my head on straight. I’m a master at fucking up everything’s that’s good in my life.”

“But you’re my mess,” Cole said quietly. “I don’t need you to be perfect. I just need you to be you because that’s who I care about.”