Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Published nearly four years ago, Cheating Chance by James Buchanan still stands as one of the most well written and exciting novels in the m/m genre. Replete with cops, drug lords, and mystery abounding, the story is riveting and action packed. So if you, like me, somehow missed this gem the first time round, this may be the best time to pick up a copy and enjoy some top-notch story telling.
Rebounding from a recent breakup, Nick O’Malley finds himself being cruised by a hot looking fellow Goth at a convention of the same. Brandon Carr, a deeply closeted detective with the Riverside Police Department, is somehow inexplicably drawn to Nick. As the two begin to learn more about each other, a cold dose of reality is thrown at them when a former colleague of Nick’s is murdered in the parking lot of the club the men are attending. As the story moves on, the mysterious gaming chip that Nick had been given to investigate as part of his job as an officer of the gaming commission and the item his friend, Duke, was in town to retrieve, becomes the focal point for the murder investigation.
Pulled in by both the mysterious drug cartel that seems to have ties into the gambling scene at one local casino and his desire to see Nick safe at all costs, Brandon helps Nick pull together the pieces of an incredibly dangerous mystery that will ultimately threaten Nick’s life and forcibly pull Brandon from the closet he so desperately clings to. As time moves on, both men realize that they did not witness a simple gang-related murder but rather stumble upon an extensive racketeering scheme that has significant ties to a major drug running operation our of Mexico. Now the two men find themselves embroiled in a life-threatening investigation that my very well be their undoing.
There are many pieces needed to effectively write a good mystery novel. Not only must you be invested in the wellbeing of your main characters, but you must also be able to pull your reading audience head long into the story that surrounds them. This means that a good mystery novel must have well-drawn and compelling characters whose lives draw the reader in and mesmerize them. Nicky and Brandon are two such characters. There was this almost immediate connection to these men. As author James Buchanan revealed more and more of their pasts and the raw emotions that brought these two men together, I was spellbound by their story.
Without giving too much away, I should tell you that there is a brief scene of dubious consent in this novel between Nick and his slimy ex, Jack. While not horribly violent, nonetheless it is a moment that made me both cringe and nearly crawl into my kindle to save Nick from further shame and harm. But Nick is so strong and the author carefully uses this moment to set the groundwork for an integral twist in Nick and Brandon’s future as partners. Instead of being an isolated scene of violent betrayal, the moment makes us aware of how much a survivor Nick is and how incredibly needy he is when it comes to his desire to be loved. Brandon becomes a catalyst for healing for Nick and the two bond and begin to build a tentative life together.
Surrounding these richly drawn characters is a mystery story that follows a near perfect cop/bad guy scenario. Drawn into the world of casinos and gambling, and how they intermesh with the drug cartels of neighboring Mexico, our heroes unfold the intricate world of money laundering and drug smuggling and the violence that surrounds both. While this novel was, in my opinion, occasionally bogged down in the technical jargon and investigative science surrounding the way slot machines worked and how easily they could be corrupted, the story still raced forward at a fever-pitch and pulled me into the chase to find out who actually murdered Duke and was currently after Nick.
All in all, Cheating Chance by James Buchanan is an excellent murder mystery with incredibly hot main characters whose every encounter produces a heat level that threatens to scorch the page with its intensity. This is a page-turner that pulls you right into the action and leaves you just a bit breathless by novel’s end.