Baha is a member of RELIC, a group who works to keep dinosaur fossils from falling into the wrong hands. Baha loves his “brothers” within RELIC and considers them family, but beyond that, he is not a particularly sociable guy. So he takes an instant dislike upon meeting Jackson. Not only is the cowboy smug and obnoxious, he also has a past that includes stealing artifacts and smuggling fossils himself, and Baha doesn’t understand why RELIC needs to work with him. But not only is Jackson is a dinosaur shifter like Baha and his team, he also has information about a big auction of some important fossils that RELIC can not afford to let fall into the wrong hands. So Baha has no choice but to accompany Jackson on an elite cruise for wealthy artifact hunters and pose as his fiancé as they attempt to win (or steal) the fossils in order to keep them safe.
Jackson isn’t thrilled about the job either, particularly as it puts him back in the orbit of Jonas, his ex and the man who sold him out and left him to take the fall for a job gone bad. The one bright spot is Baha, whom Jackson just loves to irritate. Baha is grumpy and surly, but he is also gorgeous and sexy, and Jackson is determined to win him over. But while Baha may be putting up a good front, he can’t help but be charmed by Jackson. The two also connect in a way few others do. Jackson can understand Baha’s past, as well as his desire to shed his human form and let out his dinosaur side.
The men start to fall for one another and become a real team. But the auction is approaching and figuring out a way to get the fossils is going to be dangerous. As the situation falls apart, Baha and Jackson are going to need to lean on each other. And if they are lucky, they are going to end up with both the fossils… and each other.
Sink or Swim is the second book in Maz Maddox’s RELIC series and I found this one a lot of fun. I love a nontraditional shifter story and dino shifters are few and far between, so this series caught my attention right away. Maddox is clearly a fan and very knowledgeable about dinosaurs and is able to imbue the book with a nice sense of history and authenticity, even in a series with such a fantastical premise. This story stands alone pretty well from Smash & Grab, with different heroes and a different case, so I think you can jump in here if you want. Most of the backstory is explained here about these shifters and how they came to be, though there are a few pieces of world building information shared in the first book that get skipped here that I think would have helped for context. But aside from these elements, the plot of this one works just fine as its own book.
There is a fun, enemies-to-lovers vibe to this story that I really enjoyed. Jackson loves to provoke Baha, and Baha is sort of a grump, and Maddox manages to make their conflict amusing and endearing rather than obnoxious. There is a nice progression here as Baha begins to find some common ground with Jackson and their relationship slowly grows to something serious and romantic. There is a nice connection between the men and their shared backgrounds combine nicely with their personalities to make them a really good fit. There is some fun and excitement here, particularly toward the end, as the men have to fight to keep the fossils out of the wrong hands. Maddox manages the pacing well and things come together really nicely.
I did wish for a bit more background on Jackson, however. We get the basics of what happened with his ex, but not a lot of background on his past life or why he has suddenly turned clean. I wanted to better understand his past to accept him as a “good guy” now for more than just seeking revenge against Jonas. I also wondered how after all the seriously bad blood between them, Jonas was so willing to even let Jackson aboard the ship, or why he seemed to think maybe he could get Jackson back. So I think there are some elements that could have used some development on this side of things.
Overall, I found this one to be a lot of fun and I really enjoyed both Jackson and Baha. They are a lot of fun together and they make a great team. Maddox does a nice job taking a really crazy premise and adding a bit of action and pulling it all together into a really great story. I liked this one a lot and am looking forward to more adventures with the RELIC gang.
P.S. I know that Jackson isn’t technically a dinosaur (we find out exactly what he shifts into during the story), but for simplicity, I am referring to him that way in the review.