Today it is time to take a look at a book which is perhaps a little different for me. Not massively so as it is a thriller, of sorts, bit one which lends itself to perhaps the sexier sides of crime thrillers. Today I am sharing my review of Ultima by LS Hilton, the final book in the Maestra series. My thanks to Emily Burns of Brandhive for inviting me to review and providing the copy of the book. Let’s take a look at what it is all about.
About the Book
The shockingly audacious conclusion to the international bestselling phenomenon that began with Maestra.
If you can’t beat them – kill them
First there was Maestra. Then there was Domina. Now – there is Ultima.
Glamorous international art-dealer Elizabeth Teerlinc knows a thing or two about fakes. After all, she is one herself.
Her real identity, Judith Rashleigh, is buried under a layer of lies. Not to mention the corpses of the men foolish enough to get in her way.
But now, caught in the murderous crossfire between a Russian Mafia boss and a corrupt Italian police detective, Judith is forced to create an even more daring work of art – a fake masterpiece she must take to the world-famous auction house where she used to be a lowly assistant and sell for $150 million.
For Judith the prospect of putting one over her loathsome former employer and the world’s art establishment is almost as thrilling as the extreme sex she’s addicted to – especially when the price of failure is a bullet in the back of the head.
But exposing her new identity to the glare of the spotlight puts her at risk of an even greater danger. Like a beautiful painting stripped of its layers of varnish, something altogether different could be revealed.
A truth about her past even Judith might find shocking.
I have to admit to opening up the cover of this book with more than a small amount of fascination mixed with a little trepidation. I have heard talk of this series quite often, starting last summer when I was told of a book, Maestra, which wasn’t exactly backward in coming forward when it came to the sex scenes but which was deemed to be a very, very good thriller. Having seen reviews, this has proven to be a marmite series, not just between those who loved and loathed the series as a whole, but even divisions about the quality of plot or story between books. So, me being me, of course I start my acquaintance with our heroine, Judith, at book three. Where else.
Now from the very off you are faced with the sex. It is perhaps not for the prudish – Judith seems to be having a grand old time of it to be fair – but if you can move past the odd spattering and casual use of the ‘c-word’ then the prologue does end with something that will make you sit up and pay attention. I’ll say no more than that, but it certainly had me intrigued. So much so that once I got into reading this story I was hooked and raced through in just a few, short, sometimes steamy (and not just because it’s twenty-odd degrees out) hours.
Now being that this was my first venture into Judith’s world, I didn’t feel at too much of a disadvantage. Yes, there are things which have occurred in the past, all of which are referenced very clearly in this book, and characters who I may know better had I read the first two first, but enough of a recap was given to provide me with context and setting and this isn’t a deep seated espionage style thriller, so it didn’t take me too long to get the lay of the land. This final episode see’s Judith in deep water, forced into a position where she has to help da Silva and the Russian Mafia pull of what could be an absolutely stunning piece of art fraud. Can she achieve it and keep herself alive in the meantime? Well, you’ll need to read for yourself to find that out now won’t you?
Now I got to know and like Judith very quickly. she is one strong and sassy lady – very sensual and sexual – and completely in control of herself and her body. She has a sharp and intelligent mind and is not afraid to get her hands dirty – unbelievably so – in order to survive. I loved her quick wit, her determination and her unwillingness to cower, even though she was placed in circumstances which to most would be unimaginable. Despite all of this, and in fairness the whole things it should be absolutely preposterous, it didn’t feel that way. The story moved on at a fair old gallop, and the chemistry between Judith and da Silva was so clear it was like an instructional video for budding scientists. It was less a question of if, more a question of when, they would get together. And yet, Judith wasn’t short of sexual conquests along the way. No danger of that.
Now don’t think for one minute that this is all about the sex. I’ll be honest and say that given everything I had been told, this seemed quite light on the hows-yer-father style action. Not that there was anything remotely p.c. or pre-watershed-like about it when it did happen, as my archaic turn of phrase may suggest. The scenes were explicit enough to keep fans happy, without being so explicit that they would turn off pure thriller fans completely. I think the balance was probably about right for me. The scenes fitted what I had seen of Judith’s character, not simply placed there for titillation, although I’m sure some would manage to take umbrage from both sides of the fence on that one. And there was a great blend of action and humour – just how I like it.
As stories go, this one kept me hooked from the off. Perhaps because I knew less about the characters so I was fascinated to learn what was going on. There were many moments where Judith got he upper hand, her methods shocking, particularly in a few scenes towards the end, but there was a certain sense of justice to it all as well. Coming at a time when I have been struggling to focus on reading, this book suckered me in and kept me engaged to the very last page. I was fearful this may drop into the no-plotica side of fiction, stories which may thrill some but which bore me rigid, but I was actually pleasantly surprised and thankfully proved wrong. I will most certainly go back and read books one and two just at some stage but if you want a slightly steamier thriller, one more eighteen than fifteen certificate, with and intriguing, liberated and strong female lead, then this is probably the series for you.
Ultima is available now from the following retailers: