Following his father’s sudden death and a relationship gone sour, Jace O’Neal is living back home in Atlanta, struggling with his job in sales promotion, paying off family debt, and caring for his mother and younger brother. When Jace’s on-off but currently ex-boyfriend, Dylan Moran, goes missing in suspicious circumstances, Jace is visited by Detective Will Jordan and his partner as part of their investigation. Unfortunately for Jace, past manipulated events and lies told by Dylan to his friends point to Jace being involved in Dylan’s disappearance and both detectives are naturally skeptical of Jace’s explanation. However, Detective Jordan is drawn to Jace in a non-professional capacity and as the connection between them intensifies and Jordan learns more about his suspect, he realizes there may be some truth to Jace’s protestations of innocence, though that leaves the question of where Dylan is wide open.
Crossing Jordan is a contemporary gay romance with a mystery/thriller vibe. Shannon West’s novel is less than 200 pages, but it took me nearly a week to read and regrettably this is because I found myself disinterested in Crossing Jordan‘s plot.
One thing I enjoyed about West’s writing within this book is her character building. She forms a very clear picture of Jace, going into detail about his family situation and the reasons for his unhappiness at work. Our understanding about Jace’s relationship with Dylan is developed over time and despite Jace’s insistence that Dylan could be warm and kind, this is not an aspect of his character that we see. I liked the fact that West reveals incidents between Jace and Dylan through flashbacks. We are more than aware that these are past events, but experiencing them in this manner makes our reactions stronger and more visceral.
West secures her reader’s empathy for Jace because we know that he is recovering from mental and physical abuse, so the fact that she then leads him into such a one-sided situation with Detective Jordan baffled me. It is not simply West’s use of “cop falls for suspect/witness” trope, but more that Jordan’s character is not built by the author in the same way as Jace’s. All we really know about him is that he has sex with both men and women, but ignores the ‘bisexual’ label. There is nothing about Will Jordan that made me believe he and Jace should be together, apart from their obvious physical connection, although there are a few points at which West does try to communicate a deeper level of intimacy between them, for example, the first time Jace and Jordan have sex Jordan says that he has never kissed a man before. For me, the forbidden nature of this romance did not work considering Jace’s vulnerabilities and I think this affected my attitude towards the rest of the story and especially the exchange between them at the end of the book.
Crossing Jordan‘s romance element overwhelms the mystery. I would have certainly enjoyed a little more suspense rather than it being confined to the novel’s final chapter, with only a brief explanation of the reasons in the epilogue.
As the mother of a child with Autism, I think I am always going to take any references to disability in fiction personally and when Jace says his brother, who was born with Fragile X Syndrome, is a “fucking disaster” I was particularly upset. I know that West was expressing Jace’s feelings and not her own, but this left me with a bitter taste, rather than the sense of equality and openness I want to feel when reading.
There is a huge competition in the contemporary gay romance genre and for me, Crossing Jordan did not make the grade. I would be reluctant to recommend this novel to others.