Dead Man's Hand Book Cover Dead Man's Hand
Stud Games Book 2
Cindy Dees
MM Romance
Dreamspinner Press
July 14, 2020

Temptation, peril, and dirty poker.

Love is a high-stakes game.

When Collin Callahan, British secret agent, goes up against math genius turned surfer bum Oliver Elliot, the battle is epic—and so is the attraction. They’re pitted against each other in an exclusive, ultra-secret—and ultra-illegal—poker match in Gibraltar, but when players start dying and they could be next, they find a common goal: catch the killer before it’s too late.

Evenly matched at poker and romance, they each wrestle personal demons that threaten to consume them as the stakes climb. It’s an all-or-nothing gamble with both life and love on the line as they fight to be the last seven-card studs standing.

Previously published by Dreamspinner Press as Seven-Card Stud by Ava Drake, November 2016.

Reviewed by Xanthe

Member of The Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team

Things start dramatically straight away as Collin dives to save Oliver from a near death experience which is quickly followed by the two men heading straight into the mystery of why amateur and professional poker players have been gathered in secret for the ultimate tournament. These are two very different men in their history and approach to life but they bounce off of each other very well making for entertaining conversations. Though, my first thought was that they have been portrayed as very stereotypical, uptight British and beach bum Californian. Collin is a little more rigid in the way he comes across, still struggling to move on after losing his partner a couple of years ago. Oliver has actually been living the beach bum life but for darker reasons that you would originally think.

The relationship flows and feels like it develops quite naturally between them or at least as much as it can in such a tense situation with dead bodies beginning to appear not long after the tournament starts. There’s big intrigue as to who is behind it, Oliver with his suspicions and it being the reason Collin is there in the first place, to find out who’s there and running the show.

There is drama, deceit, attraction, family, enemies, secrecy. So much to keep the reader on their toes right from the start and it held my attention throughout. I enjoyed the couple playing detective together, two very intelligent men putting their minds to good use. I did think it got a little crazy towards the end with how the plot ultimately plays out, and reminded me a little of the cheesy action flicks that go a little overboard but you can’t help but watch and enjoy. I can even see a second story playing out for these characters with how things ended up for them.

Overall, I liked reading the story and finding out how the relationship played out between Collin and Oliver. It made me think a little of the film Speed where they say about relationships not lasting when built on intense situations but there was more than just physical attraction between them. They obviously admire a lot about each other and there’s still so much more to find out with all of this happening in a short period of time.

I’d recommend reading Dead Man’s Hand. It’s entertaining and fun to read, has a good dose of mystery and intrigue with interesting characters, both good and bad.