Crown Prosecutor Finn DeHavilland lives for his work. With no hobbies or lovers to occupy his time, the law is his singular focus. But when too many long hours and too many painful cases take a very public toll on his famously cool demeanor, Finn is sidelined. Suddenly bereft of the only thing that provides structure to his life, he is forced to spend too much time dwelling amongst old memories he would have preferred to forget. Thankfully Detective Tommy Drummond is there to provide the support and friendship Finn wasn’t even aware he needed.
Tommy has had a crush on Finn for some time and when Finn finally agrees to a date, Tommy can’t help hoping for more. Finn is attracted to Tommy, but he has lived his entire life without intimacy due to childhood trauma and his desire is at constant war with his fear. Tommy thinks if he is patient, Finn will eventually warm to the idea of further closeness. He quickly learns, however, that Finn’s scars run deep and that loving him will be far from easy.
As Finn returns to work and he and Tommy become embroiled in a difficult and dangerous case, they also contend with the painful realities of their relationship. They must decide if love is enough or if the past will doom any hope for their future.
Conflict of Interest is a tale of many things including murder, child abuse, police corruption, and romance. Unfortunately, had it concentrated on just a couple of those plot threads, rather than jumbling them all together, it probably would have been a more gratifying read. Conflict of Interest certainly isn’t terrible but it had the potential to be so much more.
The characters, especially Finn, are enjoyable and genuine. Finn seems so strong on the outside, but we quickly learn that he suffers in silence and the weight of his pain is crushing him. He’s lived with an unspoken fear since childhood and convinced himself that his supposed lack of interest in sex is a simple by-product of his heavy workload. It takes Tommy to make him realize what he has been missing and to convince him that conquering his fear is worth the pain. Tommy is an honestly supportive man who tries not to rush Finn, but nor does he accept the other man’s attempts to abandon the relationship they are creating. His determination and devotion make him a wonderfully sweet character. Both men are made more interesting by their chosen professions, which are wound around their personalities without dominating them. Finn and Tommy suit one another on a lot of levels and I found myself enjoying their romance, which was quiet and gentle without being unrealistic or prone to excessive drama.
As much as I enjoyed the characters, I disliked a large portion of the plot. Aside from Finn and Tommy’s romance, the main drive of the book was the investigation into and the hunt for a corrupt policeman/serial killer. Everything about this aspect of the novel felt forced and wedged into the narrative as if it hoped to generate a kind of tension that never evolved. The killer isn’t believable, the crimes are never explored in any great detail, and most of the suspense is weak at best. There are too many absurd coincidences and, while the author acknowledges this, the explanation provided for them is far from realistic. Normally I would give examples but in doing so I run the risk of spoiling what limited measure of mystery that actually exists. If the investigation had been a small portion of the story, it would be easy enough to ignore. But it involved half the book and without the strength of Finn and Tommy to bolster it, Conflict of Interest could have been derailed completely.
Conflict of Interest is one half of a good book. The slow blossoming relationship between Finn and Tommy is truly endearing and where the heart of the novel lies. Finn’s journey from fear to love is equally captivating. The investigative portion of the plot is sadly lacking and while there were moments it nearly crippled the narrative, Finn and Tommy saved it. I found the complex nature of their relationship worth my irritation with the wider plot and ultimately I was glad to have shared their journey.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.