Rating: 5 stars
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Every once in a while I forget what an excellent storyteller Z.A. Maxfield has become. I let slip the idea that she has an uncanny ability to create wounded characters that leap off the page straight into our hearts. I absentmindedly gloss over her knack for impeccable pacing, word painting, pathos, and her ability to milk every written moment for the reader’s ultimate pleasure. And then, she delivers another story into my fumbling hands…and I am right back there, breathless at her amazing talent and thanking all the powers that be that Z.A. Maxfield decided one day to write about all the wonderful things going on inside her head.
Jack Masterson, a former firefighter who fell through a burning roof, is haunted by his past. One hit after another has nearly felled him and Jack has been left living with chronic pain and walking with the aid of a cane. On top of it, his memories hold onto Nick Foasberg, the first boy he ever loved, who betrayed him in what is definitely the most appalling and violent of ways. However, underlying all this woundedness is a backbone of steel, and Jack carries on, first starting up a thriving business with his cousin, Gabe, and now, living on his own in his childhood home.
Life is…tolerable…and while he does not “do” relationships, he manages to find himself in a secretive fuck buddy status with Dave, a very closeted local policeman. But Jack is realizing that maybe he needs, in fact, wants, more. So the phone call that his former first love has spectacularly killed himself is not only a shocking surprise but may be the crowbar that will eventually pry open the many locked doors Jack has wrapped his past behind. What Jack did not count on was Ryan, a near physical copycat of Nick and the owner of the house where Nick killed himself. Now all the ghosts are coming out of the closet and Jack must decide to either keep them close or send them on their way.
I cannot say enough about this novel. I simply fell in love with Jack. He was so intricate a character, both needy and giving, yet so terribly alone and adrift. Yet he never fell into self-pity or got that predictable whiny edge most lost characters seem to in other novels. No, he remained strong at his core yet vulnerable. And the men who surrounded him, his cousin Gabe, “friend with benefits” Dave, and all the others truly loved him, enough to rescue him when he was on the edge of disaster and push him to see the truth—even though it was oh so very painful. Finally, with Ryan, the author gives us a love interest that does not come easy but is intelligent, witty, and honest. Who could ask for anything more?
I highly recommend Grime And Punishment by Z. A. Maxfield to you. It is an impeccable novel and, for me, an automatic re-read from a gifted author!