Detective Cristian Flesh is young, out, and good at his job. He also loves sex and likes to have a much of it as possible, as long as it falls within a rigid set of rules — no joint showers, no sleepovers, no getting together two nights in a row, just to name a few. Cristian is doing just fine with casual, anonymous sex, until one of his hookups ends up in the hospital and another ends up dead. Suddenly Cristian finds himself as the prime suspect in a murder investigation and in the middle of a mess of a case with potentially dirty cops, lots of hidden secrets, and someone who wants to frame him for the crime.
When lawyer Colby Maddox takes the case, Cristian is attracted to the gorgeous man immediately, but despite some heavy flirting, Colby isn’t picking up his signals. But as the men spend more time together, hanging out and working on the case, Cristian starts to feel not just attraction, but a real friendship with Colby and realizes how much he enjoys the man’s company. When Colby finally acts on Cristian’s attention, flames spark between the men immediately and they start a hot sexual relationship. But to Cristian’s surprise, he actually really enjoys just being with Colby as well, and slowly finds himself starting to break all his rules. There is something that is so comfortable about being with Colby that Cristian is falling for the man despite himself. However, even as Cristian is opening up for the first time with Colby, he finds himself frustrated that Colby isn’t out. After years of living openly, suddenly Cristian must stay hidden and he is not sure he can live with being in a secret relationship, even with a man he is growing to love.
In addition to relationship issues, the murder case is still looming over them. Someone definitely has it out for Cristian and is trying to frame him for murder. The two must clear Cristian’s name and find out the real killer before they lose their own lives in the process.
I have loved In the Flesh since the first time I read it, and I continue to love this story now. It provides just what I want in a romantic suspense — an excellent thriller and a great romance. Now I will say the romance is kind of nontraditional here. Cristian is a guy who engages in lots of casual sex and has no interest in a relationship. That is until he meets Colby. Then suddenly he finds himself opening up and changing in ways that he never expected. He loves to just be with Colby, even if they are doing nothing other than watching a movie. He slowly begins to break his own rules, to soften his tough exterior and to really grow in the relationship. I love to see the way being with somehow he truly cares about changes Cristian, making him more open and willing to take chances on something more than just physical. Despite this, Cristian is not a monogamous guy and he is clear about that with Colby up front. Colby, for his part, is willing to be patient with Cristian as he works through his issues and recognizes that at times Cristian just needs his space. These guys just work so well together. Colby is patient and kind, not to mention sexy and just the right amount of dominant when Cristian needs it. They are such a fabulous couple and I adore them.
Now as I said, Cristian is not an easy guy, and he definitely has some issues. I have the advantage of having read the second book in the series as well, so I know that we get more detail there on Cristian’s back story and we can understand him better after reading both books. I think things aren’t really addressed as well in this first book and we only get glimpses into Cristian’s past here, so he is not always easy to understand. Some more clarity as to what drives him might help here in this initial book. Some readers may find Cristian tough to handle at times, but I kind of adore him. I think if you look behind the tough front, you can see that Cristian is a good guy. He has few friends, but those he cares about he really would do anything for. He has a sweet and vulnerable side that we see glimpses of as the story goes on, and I think that is what makes Cristian really work.
They mystery plot is also done really well here. It is exciting and twisty and I love how it intertwines with Cristian and his past. The mystery doesn’t just lead in a straight line and the story keeps us guessing and things aren’t all always as they seem. It is interesting and exciting, with some nice suspense moments as well.
This version of In the Flesh is actually a rerelease under the new DSP Publications label (the original was published by Dreamspinner Press). According to the author, not much has changed in either of the first two books in the series other than the republication. This new imprint is for stories that aren’t quite traditional romances, and in some ways I would agree that is the case with this story. Like I said, Cristian is not about monogamy, and even though he doesn’t have sex with anyone else once he and Colby are together, both men understand that it may happen. But I actually find this story quite romantic. We see Cristian grow and change through his relationship with Colby, finding that with the support of someone he loves he can open up and stretch the walls he has placed around himself. The ending when these guys work out their issues is incredibly romantic and downright mushy. So even though Cristian may not be your traditional romance hero, I find this story definitely fits my definition of a romance and I love these guys together.
So yep, I have always loved this book and continue to really enjoy it upon additional readings. If you missed this one the first time around, or just haven’t read it in a while, I encourage you to give this a try. It features a fascinating main character, a great couple, and a really engaging mystery. I can’t wait until the rerelease of the second book so I can get more Cristian and Colby time.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.