Luke Eldridge is an Interpol Art Crimes Inspector stationed in London. He’s originally from South Carolina and has a strong friendship with his fellow inspector, Rob. They are investigating a jewelry heist that bears remarkable similarity to a string of robberies 20 years prior—cases Rob and Luke studied in the Academy together. Hallmarks left on the scene point to the long-cold case of the Nightwatchman. Could it be the same perp? Unlikely.
Luke’s an out gay man, but he’s never had a boyfriend, despite being thirty-eight. He’s always given his all to his job, but he’s particularly frustrated with what he believes is a copycat thief and no leads. Eager to blow off a little steam, he picks up a totally attractive 30ish man at his local hangout. Corbin Ford is feisty and compact, a match intellectually and sexually for Luke. Their one-nighter extends to weeks, during which time Corbin finally experiences more than the shadow life he’d known before.
See, Corbin is a catburglar—less-favored son of the Nightwatchman, in fact—and planning more elaborate thefts than his dear ol’ dad. He never expected to get totally gone on Luke, who he believes is a banker. For the first time ever, Corbin spends more than a night or two with a man. The development of this relationship is so tender! Little shopping excursions, making dinners together, texting and loving at all hours of the day and night. It’s not until a couple months in that Luke stuns Corbin with his confession: he’s actually an Interpol agent. And investigating Corbin’s now numerous heists.
I adored this book. The conflict is so strong! Luke is hunting Corbin, and Corbin is trapped. Not because he wants to “play” Luke, because he has fallen in love with his adversary. He tries to stop stealing, but it’s almost an obsession for Corbin. He has no need of the money; he’s a magpie, always stealing the brightest, shiniest to satisfy his adrenaline rush. But being in love is a rush he didn’t understand, and I was so in tune with both of these guys as they fumble their way together. Corbin’s heartsick and staving off his impulse to finish the last job he had planned. Luke’s frustrated and his boss is riding him hard. All the previous thefts occurred on a schedule and a huge break finally gives Luke and his team an insight into a future heist.
Corbin fights to keep his “career” from Luke, and fails. Still, the narrative went in a whole different direction than I had anticipated at that point—the clichéd path is NOT the one taken here—and I liked that a lot. The advent of a high-profile murder and a double-crossing agent really rounds out what was already an intriguing character study. Luke learns all about Corbin, and hates himself for loving Corbin anyway. Corbin’s wrecked. His last caper is flubbed and his one-true-love has shut him out completely. Corbin is nothing if not daring, however, and canny negotiations with Scotland Yard give him the opportunity of reparations and reunion. The heartbreak was huge, without feeling angsty because the stakes were so high.
My biggest complaint was probably the lack of variability in the sexytimes—which were kinda vanilla, though packed with emotional touchpoints. I wasn’t troubled by the ending, probably because I felt strongly that it was Happy For Now with a guaranteed HEA if a sequel is ever written. I’m a bit of a cockeyed-optimist, though, so I imagine other readers will be less accepting.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.