burdenRating: 3.5 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novel

It’s Detective Keegan Monroe’s first day off after a long undercover assignment and all he wants to do is relax and enjoy his coffee. But his day is shattered when a man dives in front of him, throwing them both to the ground. Then a gunshot goes past them as a murder attempt fails. The man laying on top of him is stuttering that he couldn’t let him kill Keegan. Suspicious of his savior, Keegan takes the man into custody for questioning. But at the precinct some astonishing facts are revealed: the suspect is a former police detective.

Detective Brennan McGuire has been struggling to adjust to the brain damage he incurred when his car went over a cliff during an investigation. Along with stuttering and the massive physical scarring caused by the accident, Brennan also has long and short term memory problems, which make it almost impossible to cope with the requirements of every day life. Brennan can’t remember the accident or much else about his life as a police officer. But something sparked in the depths of his traumatized memory when he saw someone aiming a gun at the man at the table and he reacted.

During the investigation into the shooting, Keegan and Brennan find themselves falling first into bed and then into a relationship. But their romance triggers Brennan’s repressed memories of his accident with startling results. Now Keegan and Brennan find themselves with not one mystery, but two to solve, and some very determined people who want to make sure that Brennan never remembers. Can Keegan and Brennan find love while keeping each other alive?

I think Annmarie McKenna has the makings of a terrific story here but several issues, including the ending, leave it at that – just the ingredients and nothing more. I loved the idea of a brain injured detective whose traumatized brain holds the key to his injury and much more. It’s a great plot tactic because it pulls in those readers who love the hurt/comfort element while upping the tension and anticipation in the story for the moment when the character remembers the past and pulls it all together in a satisfying denouement. And it works for most of the story. Right up until the author throws it all away.

Detective Brennan McGuire’s life’s a mess. He can barely remember the social niceties that get people through the day, let alone pay for a cup of coffee. As created by McKenna, he is an object of sympathy and engages our affections immediately. I liked her treatment of his brain trauma. He is still touchy and snarky even if he can’t remember the simplest thing like a pepperoni pizza or to shake the hand offered to him. His is a beautifully layered portrait of a man coping with brain trauma and not always succeeding.

Keegan Monroe is a somewhat less effective character. As a detective who immediately gets sexually involved with a suspect, and a brain damaged suspect at that, Keegan appears to have a less than solid grasp on police ethics, not to mention the appearances of taking advantage of someone in recovery. I got that the sparks flew between them. McKenna does a more than credible job making us believe the men can’t keep their hands off each other. But the facts about their relationship and Brennan’s physical and mental state kept me from throughly investing myself in their affair.

The author does a good job in plotting out the mystery for the readers. She slowly gears up the anxiety over the safety of the men as more and more facts about Brennan are revealed. But all the suspense and anticipation is demolished in an ending that is rushed and incomplete in terms of motives and facts. I was, in fact, astonished when I came to the end. All that build up and the reader gets nothing for their time and effort spent on this story. It pretty much just stops with no real explanation, no satisfactory reveal of all the criminals, and certainly no resolution to the relationship of a detective and a still brain damaged individual.

And that is a shame because this book could have been so much more. With a longer, more fully developed ending and perhaps even an epilogue, this could have been one of my “must read” recommendations. But as it is, I will say that if you are a fan of Annmarie McKenna, then pick this up. Otherwise you may want to head elsewhere.

Cover by Angela Waters. This is just a generic cover that has nothing really to do with the story. Grade C for effort.


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