Jackson Rivers is a private investigator who used to be a cop. He grew up in a rough neighborhood with a drug addicted mom and survived mostly with the help of his best friends Kaden and Jade and their mom. As a rookie, Jackson was paired with a dirty partner and Jackson spent months wearing a wire to help catch him, only to be shot and nearly killed in the aftermath.
It is years later and Kaden has been framed for murder by some more dirty cops. Kaden is like a brother to Jackson and he will do whatever it takes to help him, so Jackson goes to defense attorney Ellery Cramer for assistance. Cramer comes across as cold and uptight, but he is a powerhouse in the courtroom and just the type of person Kaden needs in his corner.
Keeping Kaden safe when his life is in danger from the dirty cops is the first priority. But both Ellery and Jackson have been nursing crushes on one another for years, and the pull to each other is still strong. Jackson is a guy that has slept with half the town, both men and women. So while he is interested in getting Ellery into bed, he isn’t so sure about keeping him there more than one night. But Ellery is just as strong and stubborn as Jackson, and he knows he wants something real with Jackson and isn’t willing to be brushed aside so easily.
As feelings grow between the men, they continue to investigate the case. Every step they take increases the danger, especially as they can’t trust anyone in law enforcement. There are many out there that don’t want to see Jackson and Ellery discover the truth, and are willing to do whatever it takes to stop them. But the men are determined to find out who is framing Kaden and to protect him and his family, even if they must risk their lives to do it.
I really enjoyed this foray into mystery and suspense by author Amy Lane. This story is kind of a departure from her usual fare, but I found that it really worked for me and I liked it quite a lot. There is a lot of intensity and some poignant moments, but the tone here isn’t too angsty, nor is it light and fluffy fare. Instead it is a nice mix of a solid mystery/investigation story with a nicely developed romance between Jackson and Ellery.
The story starts with a focus on Jackson and his makeshift family of Kaden, his sister (and Jackson’s ex-girlfiend) Jade, and Kaden’s wife Ronda. We learn about Jackson’s rough childhood and how the four have grown into a small family that Jackson would do anything to protect. When Kaden is so obviously framed for murder, there is nothing that will stop Jackson from protecting him and finding out the real killer. I really enjoyed this connection between the friends and the way they are so committed to one another. Lane does a nice job here establishing how much these people mean to Jackson and his commitment to them is really clear.
I also really loved the dynamic between Jackson and Ellery. Ellery likens Jackson to a tomcat, out wandering around, humping pretty much everything that moves, and not tied down. Jackson wants Ellery, has crushed on him for years, but assumes that like with everyone he sleeps with, once the sex is over things are done. Jackson has a vulnerability to him that he covers with his swagger and that gets revealed slowly over the book. He seems like a guy just looking for a good time until you get to see the pain of his past, his fierce protectiveness of those he loves, and the self-doubt he has about his own worth. Ellery too goes deeper than you first think. He is wealthy and comes across cold and uptight in the courtroom. I kind of figured him to be the meek one in the relationship, but instead there is a strength and intensity to Ellery I didn’t expect. He is the one who holds Jackson together, who pushes for what he wants, and he has a courage I didn’t anticipate. So these guys are really fascinating characters and I loved watching them together.
There is plenty of heat between these guys and I think the romantic end is nicely developed, but the main focus of the story is definitely on the investigation. There is a sense of urgency that is carried through the book as Kaden’s life is a stake, and there is no one to trust. It is clear that one wrong move would see both Ellery and Jackson dead, as those behind the real murder will stop at nothing to protect themselves. So the stakes are high and I enjoyed following along with the guys as they try to figure out what really happened that night in the gas station.
The story does leave things a bit open ended. The main case is resolved and things are pretty solid with these guys, but there is a loose end that is pretty significant. I am not sure if this is meant to be a series, but I will say I’d be disappointed if we don’t see another book to address things further. Plus, I’d love to see Jackson and Ellery together again as I really loved them together.
So Fish Out of Water is a bit of a different turn for author Amy Lane, but one that I really enjoyed.
P.S. After writing this review I learned from Lane that there will, in fact, be more to come for Jackson and Ellery. Yay!
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.