Katherine “Kit” Wescott is a rebel with a trust fund, a white-hat hacker and a pacifist who knows only one response to authority: defiance. Castle Kinkade is a wounded warrior who’s dedicated his life to his country, and currently serves as a field operative for a secretive government organization. In Until the End, the third book in former military intelligence officer Juno Rushdan’s Final Hour series, the two reluctantly join forces when the group Kit founded gets unwittingly implicated in a plot to release a biological weapon of mass destruction on American soil. As they work to stop the attack and clear her name, an undeniable attraction springs up between these two very different protagonists.
It’s a delicious setup for a union of opposites: on any other day in the D.C. jungle, Kit and Castle would be competitors, not collaborators. She’s chaos, and he’s order; they’re more natural enemies than lovers. Castle sees himself as the good guy, but to Kit, he looks suspiciously like the predators she’s been trying to avoid. And yet, despite competing agendas and differing worldviews, Kit and Castle find much to like in each other. Castle admires Kit’s intelligence and fierceness as much as her face and figure. Kit appreciates Castle’s integrity (and his “brawny” good looks), but more importantly she trusts him, instinctively and implicitly, with her life, even though she’s not used to trusting anyone.
As the two work to stop the plot, their attraction grows, thriving on a combustible combination familiar to readers of romantic suspense: adrenaline, a common threat and close forced proximity. Both their conflict and their connection are convincing. Yet Kit and Castle are hardly the book’s only attraction. Until the End boasts a diverse cast of secondary characters, none of whom are superfluous. Though the story is told in third person, Rushdan provides access to the inner lives and perspectives of a wide range of actors in this drama—Kit’s irreverent and frequently funny voice makes for a nice change of pace given the book’s intensity. When she first meets Castle, Kitt likens him to both Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and “a satanic cult leader” in her head.
On top of that, the action scenes are incredibly vivid, even cinematic. I felt my heart race at several moments while reading, and at one point my smart watch had to remind me to breathe. Rushdan may be taking liberties with reality—the agency Castle works for is a shadowy, unofficial one, much like the fictional B-613 of “Scandal”—but these embellishments don’t undermine the overall relevance of the plot.
Until the End is not a perfect book—it’s set in the world of politics, yet scrupulously apolitical, and the action and complicated twists threaten to overwhelm the romance at times. Still, the characters and momentum easily propel the reader through. The combination of arresting action, realistic high-stakes conflict, romance and light humor makes Until the End an intensely absorbing romantic thriller.