When Jake Tyler walked away from his job, he walked away from everything else too. He walked away from his friends, his lover, and whatever future they might have had. And he did it without a word to anyone. But when Jake’s best friend Riley murdered his sister, Jake was too trapped by his own grief and pain to think of anything but escaping. So he retreated to a bar in the middle of nowhere to hide from the world.
Now Riley has escaped and Jake’s old team isn’t about to let their old friend become a murderer’s next victim. Led by Mitch, the lover Jake abandoned, the team descends on Jake’s bar, determined to protect him. Wounds are opened anew and in the midst of the coming battle, Jake and Mitch must make peace with their past. Even if they manage to repair their relationship, an old enemy may not let either of them live long enough to enjoy it.
Alpha Barman was something of a chaotic frustration to review. On the surface the story is basic and the type of thing I like — guy runs from pain only to be dragged back into confronting everything he tries to abandon. But too many characters, a frankly boring plot, and too little depth made for an unsatisfying read. The story moves quickly enough for the first half, and while it drags considerably during the last chapters, there is a general resolution to most of the niggling plot bunnies. Jake and Mitch are a couple for more than 2 years before Jake walks away. But we aren’t given much insight into that time so when they reconnect, they read more like strangers than old flames. And while that worked to demonstrate the passage of time, it also led to my lack of interest in the characters. We just aren’t told enough about them to care about their relationship, either professionally or romantically. The rest of the team are just shallow in their development and their actions carry little weight, including the insta-love between one of them and Jake’s co-owner in the bar. They seem to exist on page as fillers and to assist with plot contrivances without ever achieving much significance.
The plot of Alpha Barman is thin. Real thin. There is no suspense and it’s obvious how things will play out almost from the beginning. Which makes for a boring read unless you have great characters to bolster the lack of a story. Which, as previously mentioned, Alpha Barman also lacks. This book held potential to be something and there are sweet, even poignant moments that could have become so much more in a different setting. Instead they seem to founder and never find purchase amongst the unevenness that seemed to touch nearly every aspect of the book.
Alpha Barman is the first in a new series with a new character introduced at the end likely to play a part in the future. And perhaps further installments will be stronger, but with weak main characters and a rather predictable storyline, Alpha Barman has given this series a rocky start.