Two valuable Civil War era paintings have been stolen from a gallery—plus there’s a body in the upstairs bathroom. Homicide cop Beau Bissonet and insurance investigator Tollison Cruz must join forces to find the culprit(s). That might work if the two Alpha males didn’t detest each other so much. Unfortunately for their peace of mind, there’s a definite sexual spark too in the midst of all that fiery hate, so what becomes of the case is anybody’s guess.
To get this out of the way first, I’m not usually a fan of romance stories where the perspectives of people other than the main couple (or ménage or what-have-you) are given. I especially cringe when stories begin and last that way for several chapters. I keep expecting that POV person to be part of the relationship. That said, however, in mystery books that approach can make sense, and even be necessary for plot development. And that’s the case here. It helps the reader to have an idea of the mindsets of the victims and/or suspects. Besides, this book starts off with a bang, so this alternate POV beginning works well, setting the scene and giving the reader an insight into the victims/suspects, one that the investigators don’t yet have. This puts the reader ahead of the Beau and Cruz, which is a nice place to be.
The characterization is done both well and not well. With that I mean that both Beau and Cruz are very confident, strong-willed, smart, and sexy men. Beau’s been burned by love, and he’s become a grouchy cynic who sees nothing good in anything around him. Cruz is more relaxed, suave, and classy, and he’s well aware of his charm. But… the two men are also disturbingly similar once you get past the superficial differences. They behave the same, and even speak with the same phrases and use the same curse words. Perhaps the author intended this to show how well they fit together, I don’t know, but it was a bit distracting at times. Not all the time, though.
A couple of repetitive annoyances did come up in the text as well. They both have to do with character diversity—or lack thereof in certain situations. Firstly, when angry every character slams their fists on the table. I can see one person doing that, but every single one having the exact same behavioral pattern? I don’t think so. Secondly, everyone cries the same too. They shed a single tear down their cheek. One person with that idiosyncrasy? Okay. Each and everyone of them? No.
And speaking of crying, Beau’s ex, Bruce, does an inordinate amount of blubbering. Virtually at every second scene with the guy, he’s crying about something. Men can cry, sure. But all the time? Hmm. Yes, Bruce is hurting because Beau’s being an unforgiving meanie to him, but still. But Bruce is a side character, so it’s not very important.
Now, don’t get me wrong, just because I pointed out those conspicuous things, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book. Because I did. I can’t quite put my finger on why. The mystery has some predictable moments and some surprise twists. The ending of the mystery section was a bit of a let-down, as though it were just a quick wrap-up to get to the main couple and their ensuing relationship. Nonetheless, the plot works fine as a whodunit.
I enjoyed this tale. The banter between Beau and Cruz was fun, an absolute blast, as they argued and rowed, while at the same time trying to solve the case. Those sections were the best parts of the story. Also, the sex felt realistic and not contrived, plus it was smoking hot. The pace of the plot is fast and enjoyable, and the author handles the cast of characters rather well. Having their POVs helped put some meat on their bones, so to speak, in terms of personality depth. The politics behind high-profile cases is also shown in a realistic light, which I appreciated. And the setting, New Orleans, came through the writing loud and clear. I suspect the author knows the city very well, painting it in both a realistic and idealistic light.
In short, I’m looking forward to the next story in the series, if there is going to be one. Once you get to the end you’ll see how that might work. Cade can definitely master the Alpha dog verbal sparring matches to a titillating, sizzling degree, and I found myself laughing out loud at some points. I recommend this to M/M lovers who like their men spicy and argumentative, their mysteries filled with more personalities than puzzles to solve, and their stories filled with wide range of suspects, local color, and a well-built atmosphere.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.