Narrator: Paul Morey
Length: 12 hours, 13 minutes
Jory Keyes is trying to help out a friend when he stumbles upon a murder in progress. While the police catch the guy who did it, they know Jory is at risk until he testifies. Detective Sam Kage wants Jory to go into protective custody. But Jory is happy with his life, with his job as a personal assistant, and with his friends. He has no interest in losing it all by going into witness protection, something that infuriates Sam.
As the investigation continues, Sam becomes more and more protective over Jory, insisting Jory stay with him for safety. As it turns out, Sam’s interest may be much more personal. Jory is totally hot for the big, gruff detective, but he knows Sam is straight. Yet something about Jory just pushes Sam’s buttons and the attraction between them is so strong that ultimately Sam gives in to his feelings. But Sam has always seen himself as straight, has planned a life for himself that includes a wife and kids. He works a job where being straight is expected. So even with all his strong feelings for Jory, Sam just can’t settle into the relationship with him. Sam is hot and cold, sometimes intensely passionate and determined to be with Jory, and other times backing off and creating distance. For his part, Jory all too easily runs at the first sign of trouble, determined to protect his heart that is already too invested in Sam.
The guys can’t ever quite settle into things together and as we follow along with the ebb and flow of their relationship, we also see Jory continue on with his life and his friends. In particular, we see the growth of his friendship with his boss Dane Harcourt and the way they care for each other like brothers. Yet as fulfilling as things are for Jory, what he really craves is Sam. It seems like Sam is finally coming to accept his feelings for Jory as well, but even as the men seem to be really finding their way to each other, the threats to Jory begin to escalate. The men have finally found a way to be together, but before they have a chance at happiness, Jory’s life may be at stake.
So I was pretty sure I was the last person alive who hadn’t read the much loved A Matter of Time series. When I had the chance to listen to it in audiobook, I was eager to remedy that omission in my m/m romance resume. I have grown to really love Mary Calmes’ writing and have read several of her recent books, so I was eager to read this series, one of her earlier and most well known works.
I feel like my description of the book above doesn’t really do justice to the story, boiling down 12 hours of listening into a few short paragraphs. But in many ways this is a story that sort of flows along without a really tight plot, and I think it actually works quite well that way. I think this is partly because this is the first volume of a much larger story, so while we are getting the beginning of Sam and Jory’s journey, it is not meant to be ending here. So we see the men meet, grow to care for one another, have stumbles along the way, and reconnect, only to have it start again. Along the way we see both of these men grow, learn more about themselves, and come to the conclusion that what they really want is each other. There is a nice suspense element, and the ending chapters in particular are quite exciting, but this is also a book with a quiet build that is really setting the stage for the larger story. I think at times it was a bit meandering for me, as the focus is off the men as a couple for long periods. We get lots of small side plots that don’t seem to go anywhere, like Dane meeting his birth family or Jory meeting a client of Dane’s and spending Thanksgiving with him. Maybe more will come of these storylines as the series continues, or maybe they are just a way to keep Jory moving forward during his off times with Sam, I am not quite sure.
These two men are a really interesting couple. Jory is young, friendly, out, and full of life. He has many friends and people who care for him and generally comes across as a man who loves his life and is content. He is attracted to Sam, goes crazy for the hot detective, but Jory is also determined to protect his heart and is wary when Sam can’t get himself to commit. Sam is a big, strong guy who can be quite gruff and snappish. His brusqueness often hides his emotions, covering up his fear for Jory’s safety and his strong feelings for the man by barking and ordering him around. Yet when he lets down his guard, Sam can also be sweet and romantic. It just takes a lot for him to let down his walls and open up. And even once he does, it is hard for him to stay that way. I will admit I found myself frustrated with all this back and forth. The guys are on and off and on again so many times over the course of the story. I did find myself itching for Sam to just get over it already and accept his feelings. It may be the nature of the length of time it takes to listen to a book versus read one, but I did feel it was an awful lot of back and forth.
Although Sam and Jory are the main focus of the book, quite a lot of time is also spent on Sam’s relationship with his boss Dane. I will tell you this was actually my favorite relationship in the book. Dane is one of the top architects in Chicago. He is famous and rich and gorgeous and quite no nonsense. Jory is his assistant and the men have a close working relationship at the start of the story, but over the course of the book, it grows into much more. The two become a family of sorts and think of themselves as brothers. Jory and Dane are adorably bossy with one another, and part of the reason for their closer bond is that they both want to be able to tell the other what to do and to run the other’s life. In some ways this relationship was more satisfying for me than between Sam and Jory, as we get a steady progression and growth between the two men from friendship to real love for one another. Of course, this is familial love, not romantic love, but the bond between them is really wonderful. And Dane is such a gloriously bossy pain in the ass, I really just adored him.
So as much as I enjoyed this story, there were a few bumps along the way for me. Ok, so Jory. Everyone loves Jory. Everyone. Loves him. Adores him. Worships him. To the point that it is basically unbelievable. Every guy wants him desperately, almost viscerally. Before Sam, Jory was really a one night kind of guy. But everyone who has ever been with him wants more. I counted about four or five encounters by around Chapter 5 with men who had been with Jory and are so obsessed with him that they are either basically stalking him, or throw themselves at him as soon as they see him. One character, a doctor named Nick who Jory dated twice, literally BEGS Jory to be with him on multiple occasions. I don’t mean to harp, but it impossible to convey this pull that Jory seems to have on these men and how much of a factor it is in the story.
Part of the problem for me is that Jory seems oblivious to his own appeal. Despite the scores of men hurling themselves at him, he barely seems to notice. He is so blase about it as to come across as either clueless or incredibly rude. For example, he runs into a guy he slept with once and then ran out on in the middle of the night. The guy confronts Jory about leaving, and it never even occurs to Jory to really understand why this guy is upset. Yes, the guy turns out to be a total creepster stalker, but Jory blows him off before he realizes that. I just felt like all of this doesn’t paint Jory in the most positive light. I’ll also mention, it is not just potential suitors who have this reaction to him. Women love him as well. They can’t get enough of him. They are constantly touching him, telling him how gorgeous he is. Jory’s work partner Dylan actually sighs with bliss when she is around him. It is just a weird, over the top reaction to Jory that I found distracting.
You may notice this book is titled Volume 1, made up of books 1 and 2. The first four books in the series were originally released as four separate stories by a different publisher, and when they were republished by Dreamspinner, they were combined into two larger volumes as Calmes had originally intended them. Even though this was originally two separate books and chapter numbering begins again with book 2, the volume reads as a complete story. However, there are some weird chapter transitions that I couldn’t quite get a handle on. Sometimes a chapter would end and the new one would start immediately afterwards in time. Yet the scene is reexplained as if we hadn’t just been reading out it the page before. People are reintroduced multiple times throughout the book as if we don’t know who they are. For example, in the very last chapter we are told Dane’s last name and job, even though we have known and interacted with him since essentially the start of the book. Then other times, chapters seem to jump weirdly, skipping over things and we seem to miss events I would have expected to be explained or shown on page (I can’t detail the biggest example of this for fear of spoiling unfortunately). It almost comes across like this story was written as a serial, or in installments or something, the way things are recapped or jump in time. It isn’t necessarily a huge distraction, but enough that it had me pulled out of the story now and then.
I reviewed this story as an audiobook, so let me just mention a few things in relation to listening to the story. First off, I enjoyed narrator Paul Morey. He captures Sam and Jory quite well, along with the general narration. I also think he did a great job with Dane and his southern drawl. When these men were speaking, I knew exactly who was talking, and their voices fit their personalities. There are lot of secondary characters here, and I am not sure they are all quite as strong. Many of them ended up sounding like Sam or Dane “light” in terms of having very similar, but less extreme voices. I couldn’t always tell who was talking, but again, there are a lot of folks to narrate here so I can excuse a little confusion. Morey captures the tone of the story well and has a pleasing voice to listen to. I had no problem following the chapter and section breaks and the pacing is good. Oddly, there is sort of a loungey jazz music that plays leading into each chapter, something I have never heard before in audiobooks and I found kind of weird.
Despite any issues I may have had, I really loved this story and I am so eager to continue the adventures with Sam and Jory. I hate to say it, but this book definitely leaves things unresolved for the men in a big way. I am not a patient woman, but I can actually deal with that pretty well. Partly because I have the Volume 2 audiobook queued up in my phone right now, but also because I think it suits this story. We are really seeing a slow growth for Jory and Sam, a relationship that has its ups and downs but continues to burn bright and be something really meaningful for both of them. I am sure that Sam and Jory will find their way to happiness with one another, and in the meantime, I am really enjoying being along for the ride.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.