Detective Cristian Flesh has broken many of his rules about sex and dating as he settles further into his relationship with Colby Maddox. He has opened his heart up to Colby in ways he never imagined he would again, but there are still things from his past that Cristian can’t share. But when he gets called into a new attempted murder case, Cristian finds he can’t hide from his past any longer.
When a well know gay businessman is attacked by a young hustler, Cristian starts uncovering a much deeper story involving powerful men, underage boys, physical abuse, and a lot of coverups. As he and Lex dig further into the case, it becomes impossible for Cristian to separate what is happening to these young men from his own painful past. Even as he fights to bring down the bad guys, Cristian realizes it is time to face his demons so he can put the past behind him and move on with Colby for good.
I read both Flesh & Blood and the first book in this series, In the Flesh, when they originally were released a few years ago. They have long been favorites of mine and I was excited to see them get re-released through DSP Publications. I think Cristian is a love him or hate him kind of guy, and I totally love him. Although he is still pretty acerbic, he is much softer in this book than in the first. We see his open heart right from the start when he is helping a street kid get his life back together. It is also clear how far he is come when we see him interact with Colby. Cristian is open in ways he never was before, freely stating his love for Colby and sharing more and more. The guys are so romantic and super sexy in this book, and I love how we see them settled and happy together.
I enjoyed the way the story takes the mystery element and intertwines it with the personal. Most of the first two-thirds of the book is focused on Cristian and Lex working this hustler/pedophile case and trying to track down the guys responsible. This isn’t so much a whodunit as kind of a suspense plot as they try to determine the bad guys and then get them all caught. I found this section to be engaging and fast paced and I liked seeing the investigation all come together. Throughout the whole case, we see how elements from Cristian’s past are being dredged up, as well as how serious things have become between him and Colby. Cristian knows the only way to have a solid future together is to deal with his past once and for all. I love the way this story just illuminates so much about Cristian. It is not always easy to read as he suffered some pretty horrific abuse (some of which is relayed on page), but it really helps us to understand him better. And I found it so rewarding to see how the whole experience brings Colby and Cristian even closer and solidifies their bond.
I did find that the pacing of the story felt a bit off though. As I said, the main case wraps up fairly early to shift to the more personal side of things. By the time the book ended, the original investigation feels so far in the past and we never really circle back to it. On one hand, I see completely why Cristian needs to take this journey, but it does almost seem like two separate stories at times. Then at the end, we get another new plot thread that sets up the third book in the series, again taking things in a new direction. So even though there is a clear connection between all the plots, it does feel a little bit choppy at times.
Overall I still love Cristian and Colby and really like these two books. My understanding is that this new release is just a republication with some small edits, so I think if you have the first version you are all set. And I would definitely start with the first book so you get the set up for the relationship. I also heard from the author that there will be a fourth book coming after book 3 is rereleased, and I am SO excited about that. I really love this series and enjoy the growth between Cristian and Colby we see in this story.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.