When architect Brian Townsend dresses up as the Devil for a friend’s Halloween party, he never expects to find the man of his dreams. Their fling quickly evolves into dates squeezed between busy lives and weekend getaways that connect them further. Brian has been burned before, so stepping into dating waters, especially with someone as private as homicide detective Tristan Blake, is a little scary. It doesn’t help that Tristan’s job comes with long hours, violence, and stress. But each man realizes they have a chance at something wonderful, if only they can learn to trust one another.
Inches of Trust was first published as a sequence of short stories that have now been bound together. The book and its chapters feel very much like a series of vignettes, where we see scenes of a life together, but never the entire picture. The romance between Brian and Tristan takes its time, and while lust brings them together, love evolves steadily and believably. Tristan especially has been hurt by lovers and family and when we meet him, we get the impression that behind his tough outer shell is a man trapped by raw pain and grief. It takes months of courtship for Brian to convince Tristan that he genuinely cares and that he won’t run when the going gets tough. The stories are quick and flow smoothly from one to the other, and while the writing was stronger in some areas over others, it was generally crisp and focused. There is plenty of angst, which I enjoy, but it’s never so heavy as to feel stifling or depressive. Despite their travails, we always believe these two men are working towards something better.
The biggest issue stems from a lack of overall cohesiveness. Because these are snapshots and not the full story, incidents are mentioned that never get fully developed and which really ought to be in order to round out the characters. And critical pieces of the puzzle are given short shrift or barely mentioned past their introduction. An example of this involves the death of Tristan’s partner in a car accident. We know it happened, we know Tristan still grieves, but it isn’t explored further. Given what an impact it has on Tristan’s personality, I feel like readers needed to know more. This is a sweet couple and sometimes they feel excessively so. It doesn’t happen often, but there are moments where the writing takes on a saccharine quality that detracts from the wider romance. My only other bugaboo is about puns. Tristan and Blake toss around silly little puns as a part of their courtship and while this starts out as fun, it gets old quick. Maybe if I was reading these as individual stories with downtime in between I would feel differently, but in a collected volume like this, a few puns go a long way.
Inches of Trust was a sweet, if somewhat uneven, romance between two engaging characters. I wanted more fleshing out of the stories and of specific events mentioned, but on the whole Inches of Trust was an enjoyable journey.