Buy Link: Where There’s Smoke
Author: L.A. Witt
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: Novel

Rating: 4.5

Political campaign manager Anthony Hunter is not thrilled when he is asked to run the gubernatorial campaign for the inexperienced Jesse Cameron. Jesse is better known for his college partying and his Hollywood family then he is for his politics. But Anthony has been asked by Jesse’s uncle Roger, a former Senator Anthony knows and respects. Not to mention that he is sick at the idea of the Republican frontrunner becoming governor. And as he learns more about Jesse’s brains and ideas, Anthony decides to take on the job.

Yet just as the campaign gets started, they already face a considerable hurdle in the form of Jesse’s personal life. Although Roger has convinced Jesse to put his marriage with his wife Simone front and center in the campaign, Anthony soon realizes this is an enormous mistake. Not only are Jesse and Simone hiding their planned divorce, but they are ending their marriage because Jesse has told her he is gay. Everyone knows this must be kept a secret from the voters and the press. Jesse is too new on the scene and it is too close to the election to reveal the truth. And Simone has been clear that she fully supports Jesse and is willing to do whatever is necessary to help him win.  But the stress of the secret and the high likelihood of being found out make the campaign even more precarious.

Things are even further complicated by the developing relationship between Anthony and Jesse. Although both men know getting involved is a huge mistake, their attraction to one another is intense and impossible to ignore. Getting involved with a candidate under any circumstances is not smart, and starting an affair with one who is tightly in the closet and under constant media scrutiny is crazy. Yet the men can not stay away from one another, and with Simone’s urging and support, they begin a scorching, but secret relationship.

Yet keeping a secret of this magnitude is almost impossible. And while Simone is incredibly supportive of Jesse, the campaign is clearly taking a toll on her physical and emotional health. And even if they make it through the election and subsequent divorce from Simone, Anthony and Jesse still face an uphill battle whether or not Jesse comes out publicly. With all these challenges, Jesse and Anthony have to navigate difficult waters in order to find a future together.

So yeah, this is an intense one all right! First, I will start with the scorching Jesse and Anthony. I have said before that Witt is fabulous at creating that sexual tension that just burns up the page and this book is no exception. When the guys realize their attraction for one another but aren’t able to find private time together, you can just feel them burning. And when they are finally able to be together, it is just explosive.

I also really liked the inside political view we get with the story. The story picks up the campaign from Jesse’s entry into the race and gives us a feel for the process all along the way. We follow Jesse and his team throughout months of rigorous campaigning and I could feel how exhausting and draining the process could be on even the strongest person. For Jesse and Anthony, dealing with this big secret on top of all the campaign craziness is incredibly hard. And even more so for Simone, who has had mental health issues in the past and who is struggling most of all to put on a happy face for the public while protecting Jesse and their secret.

I think Witt does a nice job with Simone. It would be so easy to make her the villain of the story but she is incredibly sympathetic and the love between she and Jesse is clear. Neither one wants to hurt the other and both are willing to put themselves on the line for the other’s happiness and well-being. The book really looks at the way we sometimes can hurt people even when we do our best not to, and that sometimes even when someone says they are ok, they really still need to be looked after.

The thing I appreciated most about this story is that Witt doesn’t always take the easy route with solutions to these problems. These are incredibly challenging issues affecting the lives of many people and the book doesn’t got for the quick fix and pat ending. I really liked that the book didn’t quite go in the direction I expected and the ending felt very real and hard earned.

My only issue with the book was the pacing. I felt that things slowed down quite a bit in the middle for me after the main conflict was set up but before they started reaching a resolution. Things got a bit repetitive for me as the guys continued to face the same struggles of keeping the secret, worrying about Simone, etc.

However, overall I enjoyed the book greatly. I think it explores a lot of really intense issues and creates a really interesting dynamic between Jesse and Anthony. It is a nice mix of incredibly hot and sexy combined with a story great depth and thought. Definitely recommended.