As a travel agent, Lee Jones is an expert at making other people’s dream vacations come true. Now he has a chance to take a dream vacation of his own, but mere weeks before their expensive gay cruise, Lee and his long time boyfriend split under less than amicable circumstances. Hurt but determined to enjoy himself, Lee is left scrambling at the last minute for a new room. He discovers the only available option is sharing a room with a complete stranger. Though not ideal, Lee decides that having a roommate is better than having no room at all.
Joseph Cole hasn’t boarded the Amarillo for fun and he isn’t interested in hooking up with anyone, even someone as handsome as his unexpected roommate. Cole’s nephew is on board and Cole’s only job is to make sure he stays safe during the voyage. After getting to know Lee though, Cole thinks he just might make time for pleasure as well. They have an instant chemistry, but soon sorrow overshadows their enjoyment and each man must decide if what they have is a simple fling or something more.
Closing the Loop is a fast-paced read with a decent balance of passion, angst, and humor. Unfortunately, it also struggles to maintain a sense of realism and one of the main characters isn’t consistently likable. Let’s hit the high points first. The plot is, save one exception I’ll talk about later, fairly well paced and as a result the narrative never feels bogged down. Jane Davitt is a strong writer with a distinctive flair for giving the reader a nice blend of romance, kink, and emotion without any one aspect devouring the other. It’s one of the reasons I’m usually quick to pick up a book with her name on the cover.
In Closing the Loop we’ve got one enjoyable character and one that falls far short of expectation. Joseph Cole is wealthy, well educated, and clearly devoted to his chosen profession as a civil right lawyer, almost to the exclusion of a personal life. Yet he’s just as devoted to his family and doesn’t hesitate to do what he must in order to secure passage aboard the Amarillo, where he tries to keep his nephew from harm. These traits give the impression of a selfless, private man who deserves to have a little fun in his life. I enjoyed experiencing both his initial reluctance to unwind and eventual acceptance of letting go.
Sadly, as much as I enjoyed Cole, I disliked Lee. He could have been as equally intriguing, but instead he came off as whiny, needy, and uncomfortably nosy. Initially I sympathized with his bruised feelings following his break up, but his almost jealous demand of Cole’s time, even after learning of the situation surrounding the nephew, made him unpleasant and occasionally downright creepy. Additionally his insistence that Cole should provide his entire life story just because they share a suite seemed obnoxious and really detracted from my enjoyment of their time as a couple.
Aside from Lee’s annoying persona, my other major issue centered around portions of the plot. I will admit to having never been on a cruise, but if my only option were to skip the trip or to spend more than a week in cramped quarters with a total stranger, I’d skip the trip. Maybe this sort of thing actually happens but it seemed like a too silly device jammed into the narrative in order to make the plot work. Lee’s incessant intrusion into his roommates very personal business and Cole’s acceptance of it rang false. I can’t say too much without giving away a major story arc but the idea that Cole, having known Lee less than three days, would allow him to share such a painful crisis, strains believability. With regards to the scenes involving the nephew, Lee acts almost annoyed and even unsympathetic to the situation, despite his statements to the contrary. This not only adds to my dislike of him, but his reactions don’t seem very reasonable or realistic. The shipboard storyline is brought to an abrupt halt and the last couple chapters abandon the well structured pace found in the rest of the book. So despite the resolution we’re given, the end felt a bit clumsy and slapped together.
Usually I enjoy Jane Davitt’s work, but Closing the Loop has too many issues to end up on my favorites list. Despite strong writing, a disagreeable main character and several unbelievable situations left me disappointed overall.