This book, y’all. This book cleared my skin, watered my crops, blessed the future generations of my line, and made me kickyfeet flail no less than ten times while reading it. It also solidified my belief that there’s no such thing as a “friendly” game of Spades. No, y’all. Spades exists purely to break up friendships and happy homes.
But I’m getting ahead of myself so let me rewind.
Under His Protection is a sizzling second chance where one tough NYPD cop, who after a brush with death, is ready to trade in his days out on the streets for the relative safety of life behind a desk and one uptown prosecutor with big dreams and an even bigger ego collide amid a backdrop love, lust, and pulse pounding action. Between killer cults, career ambitions, interfering friends and family and the fear of rejection, it’s an uphill battle for our two heroes to fulfill the promise of a single passion filled night.
But Elijah Stephenson and Camden Warren aren’t the type of men who turn tail and run when the going gets tough and that’s proven fairly early on in the book. After months of physical therapy and putting himself back together emotionally after an attack during an undercover operation left him in ICU fighting for his life, Elijah Stephenson walks back into his precinct with shaken confidence but strong determination ready to kick back ride out the rest of his career in the relative safety of a desk job with the cyber crimes unit. Those plans are quickly thrown into bushes when his superior, the fierce and fabulous Capt. Heart Sealington (one of the lead characters in LaQuette’s acclaimed Queens of Kings series) informs him that instead of cyber crimes, he’ll be pulling bodyguard duty on an up and coming prosecutor in one the state’s most high profile cases. Elijah isn’t happy about the change but his displeasure turns into shock when he realizes just how intimately he knows the body he’ll be guarding.
Camden Warren is a rising star in the NY prosecutor’s office and a man with a plan. Between his professional prowess and his family’s connections, Camden’s political future is a slam dunk. Securing the conviction of a notoriously murderous cult leader will be the feather in his cap he needs to all but assure his victory when he announces his candidacy for the position of Brooklyn’s King County DA. The one time something, or someone rather, came close to swaying him from his path, he bolted. He’s buried the memory of warm brown skin, a megawatt smile, and a man who kissed him breathless down deep because there’s a plan and no matter what Elijah had made him feel that night five years ago, he would stick to that plan. Unfortunately for Camden, the cult he’s prosecuting doesn’t care about his plan or his political ambitions. They want him dead, and when they nearly succeed, he’s forced back into the orbit of the only man whose ever made him want...or made him run.
From their first on page meeting the chemistry between Cam and Elijah is electric. There’s longing in both men but there’s also a lot of stubborn pride. For his part, Elijah is annoyed that he cares so much about why Camden ghosted him but he’ll be damned if he’s gonna ask and Camden? Well, Camden had his reasons but he’ll be equally damned if he’s gonna tell. So, of course, this gets them off to a fabulous start.
Elijah’s decision to take Camden to his home instead of NYPD safehouse is the beginning of the breaking down of walls, and the building up a relationship five years in the making. Away from the political pressures and familial obligations, Camden takes his mask off and the arrogant, cocky guy with all the answers reveals himself to be a sweet, giving, man with a soft heart and strong sense of duty. Out from under the watchful eye of his fellow officers, Elijah lets his guard down and allows himself to be vulnerable and admit all the ways that nearly losing his life changed him. He cops to his fears about whether or not he’s fit to be back out on the street and acknowledges his deep desire for someone to share his life and not just his bed.
The more time they spend alone, the more truths they tell and the closer they become. The passion that sparked five years ago turns into a roaring fire that Camden and Elijah can’t resist playing with.
But before they can cross the line of no return, an intervention of sort arrives in the form of Elijah’s family. When I say that the Elijah’s family is so relatable and so loveable that you actually forgive them for busting in on the would be love shack, that’s exactly what I mean. They’re a cast of characters that enrich the story and bring out parts of both Cam and Elijah that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen.
And when those individual parts finally come together, Cam and Elijah are so hot they practically melt the paint off the walls. The sex between them is by turns emotional and erotic, sexy and sweet and it soon becomes clear they aren’t picking up where they left off five years prior, but are instead starting over with no doubts, and no fears, and no questions. They both know, down to the marrow of their bones, that they’ve found their forever love.
But, because you gotta earn your HEA in these Romancelandia streets, this is point where it gets real. The danger Elijah’s been protecting Cam from forces its way inside their idyllic bubble in a way that sends everyone reeling and sets off a chain of events that leaves Cam, once again, having to choose between loving or leaving Elijah.
This book is nothing short of amazing. The characters, the chemistry, the execution of making it believable that a night of passion from five years ago could leave such an indelible mark on these men's souls that they can’t let each other go...everything is spot on. Neither of these characters are perfect, but they are perfect for each other and you find yourself rooting for their HEA and cursing every roadblock and obstacle thrown in their way. LaQuette takes you from initially being high key upset that Elijah doesn’t get the desk position he was promised (btw the scene is masterful b/c you feel every bit of Elijah’s panic and frustration in that moment) to being eternally grateful that he didn’t and from giving Cam the squinty side eye of judgement (I mean, even Berger left a Post-It on Sex And The City) to understanding why he did what he did and forgiving him for it. By the end of the book you are fully invested in these characters and completely convinced that when they say “Forever and a day” they absolutely mean it.
I mean, listen: When a man slaves over a hot stove to make you your mama’s salmon cakes and helps you beat your loud mouthed brother at Spades, it can’t be anything but true love. Those are just the facts.
Content Warnings: Discussions of and brief depiction of PTSD, Discussions of ongoing rehabilitation from past injury, non-graphic discussions of physical assault, discussion of sexual harassment and sexual coercion