Rating: 3.5 stars
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Two years ago Evan Murray lost his husband in a car accident and he is still emotionally recovering. But his world takes another turn after an attempt on his life, with no clue as to the culprit or the reason for the attack. Ian Walsh is one of the detectives assigned to the case and finds himself immediately attracted to Evan. He wants Evan to take the attack seriously, especially after he is threatened again and again. But Evan is determined to enjoy his life and take things as they come, despite Ian’s concerns as well as those of his brother Giovanni and his close friends.
As the case continues with no real leads, Evan and Ian begin regular daily phone calls. The men share a mutual attraction and begin to really grow close. Ian knows he shouldn’t be getting involved with someone who is part of one of his cases. And Evan has to open himself up for the first time after Danny’s death. Yet the two men are drawn together and begin a relationship. However, with someone still out to get Evan, the murderer must be caught before it is too late for Evan and Ian.
Ok, so what worked for me here. I liked both Evan and Ian and thought they were pleasant guys who I wanted to see work things out. I was invested in the mystery of who was after Evan and it kept me interested throughout the story. And I really liked the side characters, especially Evan’s brother Giovanni and his friend Brooks, and enjoyed the way they interacted with Evan. It was sort of fun to see how mothering (and smothering) they could be and how much they wanted to both protect him and get him back on his feet. Giovanni and Brooks were particularly interesting as much is alluded to about their mysterious past and I definitely wanted to learn more about them. And they cracked me up.
So lots of pieces that worked well. My problem was for each positive, there were related things that threw me off. For starters, we meet a LOT of characters here for a short book. Within the first few pages we are introduced to Evan, Giovanni, Evan’s friends Brooks and Paul, along with Ian and his partner Hunter. Very early in the story five of the men are in a room together and I could barely keep track of who was who. I also think in some ways Brooks and Giovanni steal the show. Much is made about their background, how even the cops can’t find the details of their military service, so that I was really invested in them and learning what was going on. I ended up finding them much more interesting than Evan himself. And we get a great story about Hunter and how he saved Ian’s life that made him feel like the more fascinating and developed of the two cops. As this is the first book in a series, I am assuming that the author plans future books featuring these guys, but maybe there was just a little too much focus on them in a short novella.
My second issue was the mystery plot. On one hand I was definitely interested in finding out the bad guy throughout the story. But when we learn who it is, I felt like it came totally out of nowhere. Now I have read many romances with mystery subplots where the mystery is such a joke that we know almost immediately whodunit so I appreciated that Carmichael avoids that here. But even if you don’t know who did it until the end, when you get there you need to be able to go back over the book and see the clues. And yes, in retrospect, there are a couple of things that are obviously incorporated to connect the person to the crime. But I still felt it could just as easily have been just about anyone. Part of the problem is that we don’t get much of the investigation here. The police have very few clues along the way, and we really don’t see them actively investigating or interviewing anyone. Most of it happens in the background until the murderer suddenly reveals himself/herself. And I have to point out the fact that Ian is actively investigating a case with Evan at its center, at the same time as he is fairly openly dating Evan, and yet this isn’t a problem for anyone?
And the last issue I’ll mention is the writing style. Carmichael uses what I feel is a very choppy style that often made the story seem very flat. A lot of “telling” sentences that describe what is going on, but that didn’t draw me in as a reader. I noticed this most in the sex scenes with Ian and Evan, as I just didn’t feel a lot of passion and intensity when reading. For example:
Ian shucked his clothing, then took the items in one hand. He pulled Evan to him with the other. Turning so that Evan’s back was pressed against the door, Ian sheathed his erection, rubbing lube along it. He coated his fingers, then kissed Evan. Ian lifted Evan’s leg, putting it around his hip. Lips still locked with Evan’s, he ran his hand up Evan’s crease, then pushed his fingers into the tight puckered flesh, moving in and out in fast, deep motions, stretching Evan. Ian enjoyed Evan’s wild noises at his every touch of his hole. The foreplay of readying his partner was one of the things Ian loved.
It just felt so procedural, he did this, then he did that. It made it difficult to feel the passion between them. And I noticed this even more so at the climax when the killer is revealed. This should have been exciting and dramatic but unfortunately just felt really flat to me.
So I am of mixed feelings on this story. I think there is a lot of potential and there were many things I enjoyed. But a lot just didn’t come together for me. I will be curious to see where the author goes with the series from here. There are definite indications that Hunter and Brooks might be a future couple, and I would love to learn more about Giovanni. So I haven’t given up on this series, but I just wished for a bit more in this story.
P.S. Does it seem unusual to anyone else to have brothers named Evan and Giovanni? Especially Giovanni Murray? I kept waiting for an explanation that they were half brothers or something. Maybe it’s just me…
Cover Review: I really like this one. Lots of interesting elements to look at and I love that they captured Ian’s scar.