Rating: 4.5 stars
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It has been months since Detective Jared MacLean, aka “Mac,” was forced out of the closet, and life is finally showing some signs of returning to normal. Things at work are gradually getting better for Mac since he’s come out. His partner Oliver is slowly coming around. But whereas Mac has allies at work, there are still several bigots who show their disdain openly.
Mac and his boyfriend, Tony Hart, are now living together along with Mac’s daughter, Anna, and Tony’s foster son, Ben. At home, Mac and Tony are struggling to spend time together and raise their children while maintaining their careers. Tony spends most of the time with their kids even as he notices them suffering without Mac’s consistent presence. Mac’s job is very demanding of his time, and it only becomes more difficult for Mac to balance family and work when he catches a new case.
When a young homeless man is found murdered and dumped on a bridge, Mac and Oliver start a hunt that leads them to a web of lies, blackmail, and a missing lawyer. Unable to rule out any suspects makes it difficult for Mac’s team to find a killer. And a blackmail scheme involving the missing attorney puts Mac into a dangerous situation that he will be lucky to escape alive.
Home Work is the third book in Kaje Harper’s Life’s Lessons series and I’m terribly embarrassed to admit that I’ve not read the first two books, but after reading this one I plan on remedying that issue in a hurry. As a reader who sadly hasn’t read the series previously, this book makes me need to learn Mac and Tony’s story with the little hints dropped here and there.
Mac and Tony are obviously an established couple when this book begins. And true to the title, Mac and Tony spend a lot of their time learning how to be a family and how to make their home work (see what I did there?). Mac is invested deeply in his job. He spends a lot of his time proving his worth as a great detective instead of the “gay detective,” but that time spent working takes away from the time spent with his family. Mac is the strength of their family and his absence is noticed by both Tony and their children. Where Mac is the stronghold of his family, Tony is the heart. Tony is caring, loving, and nurturing. He spends more time with the children because his work has more flexibility. But taking on the heaviest load in family life is wearing. Tony and Mac share a beautiful bond that hooked me into their relationship. They’re not perfect. They each have their own flaws, but they don’t walk away. They talk, they yell, they get mad, but they don’t leave. It’s telling of what they’ve walked through prior to this point. They support one another without question. The trials they face in this story would fell weaker men, but because of their love for one another and for their family, they are able to climb the mountains that stand in their way and threaten to tear them down – as long as they work together.
The romance/family storyline is great. I love that when Mac moved in with Tony things didn’t automatically fall into place. They didn’t suddenly go from being two separate units to one unit fluidly. The children are jealous of each other at times and fight often as children do. Mac and Tony have to take on the role of a parental unit instead of two entities raising their children, and that’s a learning process for them, too. Mac is forced to learn that time with his family is just as important as time spent hunting down murderers. Tony is forced to face what it means to be the spouse of a police detective. Family was a major theme in this story. Not only the family that Mac and Tony have created with their kids, but their separate extended families and the close friends in each of their lives that have become their chosen family. It’s heart-warming and lovely.
The mystery storyline is very enthralling. As much as I loved the romance and family portions of the story, there were times that I was begging to dive back into the investigation because I just had to know what really happened. There were so many clues throughout the length of the case that didn’t make sense separately, but when tied together made perfect sense…the only problem was finding the common thread to tie them all together. Harper played this storyline very well with several twists, turns, and surprises. I was hooked.
I only have a couple quibbles and, really, they’re not big enough to take away from the overall story. First, I felt that the beginning of the story was a little slow starting. But I feel that could have had something to do with the fact that I hadn’t read the first two books, so I can’t and won’t fault the author for that without first reading the entire series. Secondly – and this is a personal preference really – is that there were some scenes that ran together. And by that I mean, one moment Mac and Tony had just finished making love and the next sentence Mac was in a case meeting. Or Mac and Tony were discussing making cookies and the next sentence they were suddenly sitting on the couch watching the Christmas lights. Like I said, it’s a personal preference and more of an editing issue, but an actual space to represent a timing change would have cleared up any confusion.
Regardless of the very minor issues I had with this story, I absolutely loved Home Work. I’m looking forward to going back and reading the beginning of Mac and Tony’s story. To those of you who have followed this series, I recommend you continue by reading this third installment. For those of you who don’t like diving into the middle of a series, although I haven’t read the first two books, if this third book is anything to go by I’d start from the beginning and work your way to book three, it’s definitely worth it. And to those of you who have yet to begin the series and don’t want to go back and read the first two books, this third installment was not at all confusing when it came to Mac and Tony’s relationship. It was easy as a new reader to get to know the characters and fall in love with them. So if you are intrigued by headstrong alpha males, nurturing fathers, intense murder mysteries, and whodunit this is probably a story for you. If you haven’t guessed, I highly recommend Home Work by Kaje Harper and I’m looking forward to reading the beginning of this series and cannot wait for the next book to come out.