a forced silence audioStory Rating: 3.75 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars

Narrator: Scott R. Smith
Length: 5 hours, 47 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Audible
Book Buy Links:  Amazon | All Romance

Adam Carson has always loved his job as a paramedic, but he knows the work environment means he needs to stay closeted. He has some occasional hookups, but doesn’t date. Sam McKenna is a forensic pathologist who works for the hospital where Adam often brings patients. The two men knew each other in high school, but haven’t talked in years. In school they weren’t quite enemies, but definitely didn’t get along, as Sam felt Adam always picked on him.

challenge month 2016One night the two men run into one another at a bar with their mutual work friends. Although things are rocky at first and Sam is kind of wary, it turns out that they have grown out of their conflict and get along well. There is an attraction to one another, though Sam believes Adam is straight. But the sexual tension is there between them and it isn’t long before they act on it. The men are brought even closer as a killer strikes and they seek mutual comfort in one another for the horrible situation.

Sam wishes Adam could be comfortable coming out, but he totally understands Adam’s reasoning and is fine pursuing their increasingly serious relationship in private. But as time passes, both men realize that what they thought was a casual affair is actually becoming quite serious. There is no way they can continue their relationship with Adam unwilling to come out now that their hearts are involved. Adam must now decide if keeping his silence is still the best approach, even if it means he might lose the man he has grown to love.

Author Cate Ashwood has been a frequent guest here at Joyfully Jay and we have reviewed several of her books, but somehow I have not had a chance to read her work. So when we decided on New-to-Me Author Week for one of our challenges for Reading Challenge Month, I figured this was a great time to try her out. I enjoy romantic suspense, and was intrigued by Sam’s position as a forensic psychologist, so it seemed to be a good fit.

I found the vast majority of this story focused on the relationship end of things. The guys are technically “enemies” as the book starts, as Sam harbors some bad memories of their high school days, but not much detail is provided and things smooth over pretty quickly. It doesn’t take long for the guys to move forward to friendship and then a sexual connection. Their relationship flows pretty seamlessly, despite Adam being closeted. Sam is very understanding and never pushes Adam for more than he can give. Although the issue does cause a conflict as the guys realize they are falling for one another, for the most part the romantic end of things is intense pretty quickly and mostly smooth sailing.

I think the relationship end worked pretty well, though a major stumbling block for me was that I didn’t particularly like Adam. I found him arrogant and pushy at times and so many of his actions seemed to have kind of sneer to them when he is displeased. I think this was a story where my impression was partly shaped by the audio and Scott R. Smith’s narration. The way he portrays Adam just really grated a lot of the time. But it wasn’t just the audio. I just felt like Adam had this grouchiness at times, as well as an overconfidence that often  grated. Things improved as the story moved forward, but I particularly didn’t like how it plays out early on with his paramedic student. Unfortunately, my feelings for Adam made me less enthusiastic about these guys as a couple and I found it harder to get invested in them.

The bigger issue for me here was that the suspense plot related to the murder is essentially non-existant. The blurb describes a horrific murder and the investigation intensifying, and given Seth’s job, I expected that we would get some suspense, or at least be involved in the investigation. The story starts out well with Adam encountering the body of a badly hurt teen boy and Seth being called to the scene to investigate. We get a few tiny bits of Seth doing tests and trying to find evidence, and I expected us to then be drawn into the case, but then things are basically dropped. We get a few phone calls where Seth is following up on the case, but given the set up and the potential from Seth’s job, it just seemed like a wasted opportunity for this to then go nowhere. The investigation happens essentially completely off page and it is barely mentioned for the vast majority of the book. Maybe this is a case of just not meeting expectations and others won’t be bothered at all, but I felt like this plot had so much potential and just didn’t go anywhere. The entire murder and investigation could have been pulled from the story and it would have barely affected the book at all.

Overall I enjoyed Ashwood’s writing, but I will mention I ran into some trouble with the overuse of pronouns. There were many cases where I just wasn’t clear which of the men she was talking about since they weren’t identified by name. I realize this is a particular challenge in books with two men, but it happened enough that I found myself confused, as well as starting to regularly notice the problem.

As I mentioned, I listened to this one in audio and I do think that affected my experience. This was a weird case in that I can’t quite put my finger on what bothered me about the narration. I think Smith’s voice just wasn’t a match for me. The tone just felt a little off to me somehow, and as I said, I had problems with Adam’s voice in particular. It wasn’t just the way it seemed to have some arrogance, but also sort of an overdramatic, what I am going to call a “la di dah” voice at times, as if he should be adding “dah-ling” to the end of his sentences. The voice went in an out in terms of how intense this tone was, but it was enough to bother me. But the pacing is good, the audio was clear, and honestly, I think this is just a case of a bad match for me. I really think most people would find nothing objectionable here at all, so I would definitely listen to some samples if you are considering this in audio.

So overall I found this a nice story and there were some elements that I particularly enjoyed. But I did feel the chemistry was lacking a little for me and I was disappointed in how the investigation ended up being such an afterthought. I think personally I would have enjoyed this more in written form, but I do think this story would work for a lot of people, particularly if you like a sexy romance between former enemies.

This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from Interlude Press. One lucky winner will receive a selection of signed print books, as well as a variety of ebooks by authors new to Interlude Press this year. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on New-to-Me Author Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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