Rating: 4 stars
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Attorney Derrick Swain has long dreamed of his perfect life, complete with a husband, kids, and a successful legal career. Derrick has managed to succeed career-wise, as a respected family law attorney. But his personal life isn’t going quite as well. For years he has been pining for his boss, Roman Bradford. Roman is everything that Derrick wants, and for a brief while Derrick thought his dreams of a relationship with the man were coming true. For eight blissful days the men talked every day at lunch, sharing their personal lives and growing ever closer. But one day Roman never showed up for their lunch date, and with no explanation, cut off all communication except for occasional work interaction.
Roman Bradford has been attracted to Derrick since he joined the firm, but as his boss he waited until Derrick was settled before making his move. Those eight days were everything Roman wanted and he finally could see a future with Derrick until Roman’s past caught up with him. Now with his health at risk, Roman is determined not to burden Derrick with the knowledge that Roman isn’t fully healthy. As much as he is desperate for the man, he is determined to keep his distance, both for Derrick’s sake and because his heart would break if Derrick rejected him after learning of his illness.
Roman’s plan to keep his distance is thrown awry when one of Derrick’s good friends comes under investigation for child abuse. Roman knows how serious charges like this can be and often just the hint of an investigation can be enough to destroy someone’s reputation. In Tyler’s case, he runs a shelter for GLBT youth, and even being falsely accused of sexual misconduct could destroy their funding. What’s worse is that Derrick’s name has been caught up in the conflict, and chances are very good with the power-hungry DA that Derrick could be in trouble as well, despite his innocence.
Roman takes on overseeing Tyler’s case, with Derrick helping out. Spending so much time together means that the lust and intensity between the men is off the charts. Roman is desperate for Derrick but determined not to mess up Derrick’s life by getting involved with him. And Derrick is equally determined to get his man and will not let Roman continue to put him off. But once Derrick knows the truth about Roman’s health, will he be willing to stick around? And even if he does, will the accusations of child molestation that Tyler faces end up sending Derrick to jail as well?
Hearsay is the first book in a new series by Taylor V. Donovan and I think it gets off to a great start. This is the first of three books featuring Derrick and Roman, and so while we make some definite progress on their relationship here, things aren’t fully resolved on either the relationship or legal front at this point in the series.
Donovan does a great job setting the backdrop of the story in the child molestation case. We learn from the start how the system is set up to protect the children above all else, even to the point of allowing hearsay testimony, something not allowed in any other type of case. While this protects innocent children, it also means someone falsely accused has a much higher burden to prove his innocence. In this first book we only lay the groundwork for the case and it simmers nicely in the background of the story. We know the case is building, that the DA is out for blood (and publicity), and that if an indictment comes down, things will be bad for Tyler, the Center, and Derrick. Although we don’t have courtroom action in this first book, Donovan creates a great foundation for moving forward with the other stories.
What this book is mostly about is the relationship between Derrick and Roman, first the chase and then the ultimate coupling. Neither man has ever stopped wanting and caring for the other. Even being near one another is torture, as their desire for each other is so intense. Donovan really does a fabulous job of making the heat between these guys just palpable. It just leaps off the page with intensity, the deep wanting and desire as they are desperate for one another but must hold back. It does take a good bit of the book before these guys manage to find their way to one another, maybe a bit too long honestly. But there was never any doubt in my mind how hot these men were for one another, and even drawn out, as readers we can feel their chemistry intensely.
Once they are together, these guys are not only a sexy couple, but also so mushily in love. I have to say, this is the area I struggled with somewhat. Assuming my timeline is right, they knew each other as work colleagues for a while, both crushing on one another but not really interacting on a personal level. Then they had these eight days of bliss together, followed by about a year of little to no contact. When they get back together for the case, it is just a week or two at most of work interaction and some major lusting, and then only two days of official coupledom. So definitely a basis for intense lust and even some real feelings from their time together the previous year. But these guys are full on madly in love, planning the wedding, meeting the parents, and talking about the rest of their lives together after essentially two days of “dating.” Some of it sort of fits Derrick’s personality. He loves romantic movies, has his dream future all mapped out. So I kind of get how he is ready to jump into things with both feet. But I still couldn’t help but getting pulled out of the story with the speed of their relationship. It just didn’t always feel realistic and I wanted more of a sense of where the love and emotional connection developed versus the very clear and well explored physical attraction.
As I mentioned, this is the first book of a trilogy featuring Derrick and Roman that is also the start of a larger series taking place within the law firm. Donovan really does a great job setting things up here and building the foundation for future installments. I am really looking forward to seeing both how the case resolves, as well as how these men tackle their personal relationship once the initial intensity wears off and they have to work through their daily lives. So a great start to a promising new series that I am really excited to continue.