J is steadfastly loyal to his mob boss employer, the closest thing he's ever had to a father. His life doesn't hold much beyond his job of intimidating and something eliminating people, and since he's never looked outside his world, he hasn't really noticed that Kuypers' affection for him comes with strings -- "no, steel cables" attached. But when a woman named Nikki inherits her father's debt to Kuypers, J finds himself increasingly enchanted by her, testing his loyalty. Nikki is disgusted by the "henchman" who first grabs her on Kuypers' orders, and then comes to collect her debt every week, but over time she begins to find the "sad-eyed thug" strangely fascinating, "a mystery in a dark overcoat." And she can't stop trying to get to the bottom of the mystery: "You're not a terrible person... Sure, you kidnap people in the middle of the night and sometimes probably beat them up, but underneath it, I don't believe you're truly mean. This job can't make you happy. So, why do it?"The story works really well in showing how Nikki slowly discovers the person inside the henchman. She's not a fool and she doesn't have Stockholm Syndrome, but her feelings towards J start to change as she realizes he's not intrinsically evil, but "a criminal who'd basically been raised by a sociopath."The action scenes in Beloved Killer reminded me a bit of a Linda Howard romantic suspense novel, but I don't think she'd ever write a hero like J -- he's imperfect and vulnerable and truly unhappy about who he is, yet sees no way out. His redemption feels very believable. Nikki was the weak link in the book for me. J falls for her sharp tongued remarks, but I found her kind of irritating. I still really liked the book for its unusual depiction of a sad, quiet hero begin to question his own moral ambiguity.