Every Breath You Take by Robert WinterRating: 5 stars
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Length: Novel

Zachary Hall has made a recent move to Washington, allowing him to explore local gay clubs and bars, as this was difficult for him back home where he has yet to admit his sexuality to his parents. The first bar Zachary walks into is Mata Hari, which is where he meets Thomas.

Thomas Scarborough is gorgeous — and he knows it — using his looks to seduce men. However, Thomas has rules: no one stays over and there are no repeats. Well, that is until he takes Zachary home from Mata Hari and not only is the sex hot, but Thomas is captivated by the simplicity of the other man.

Yet, the police are investigating the brutal murder of a man in the vicinity of Mata Hari and the only connection they can make is that the victim was one of the many of men that Thomas has spent the night with. When a second murder takes place with the same MO, the lead detective probes deeper, uncovering a possible connection to a dangerous ghost from Thomas’ past.

Every Breath You Take is one of those special books that is impossible to put down, Seriously, I was worried that if I did, some event would happen while I was away and I would miss it! Robert Winter paces his writing perfectly, drawing his reader in with the fear in the prologue, then switching the focus of the story to Zachary and Thomas, only to subtly add clues, red herrings, and twists, which build to Every Breath You Take‘s terrifying and tense climax.

At the beginning of the novel, it appears that Zachary and Thomas have opposite personalities, with Zachary being the weaker of the two men. However, Winter carefully develops their characters over time and as we learn more about them we realize the truth about who they really are. I have read reviews that criticize Winter’s depiction of Thomas and yes, initially he does appear to be arrogant and self-centered. Personally, as I came to understand Thomas’ rationale, I felt the guard he puts up is justified and I empathized with the internal war he has between wanting Zachary and keeping him at arms length. Thomas’ actions by investing in Mata Hari and heavily donating to Rainbow Space prove that he is just human, as well as the fact that he is willing to sacrifice himself for Zachary’s safety.

On the other hand, Zachary begins the novel unsure of himself, becoming stronger and more confident as Every Breath You Take progresses. I really like the fact that although Zachary clearly likes Thomas, he does not chase him. He is more than prepared to tell Thomas what he thinks and what he needs. I think Winter illustrates Zachary’s personal growth best during the second time the men have sex and the roles they have played up to this point are reversed:

Thomas was almost shocked to find himself obeying. It was so not who he normally was, but fuck if he knew why. To surrender to Zach’s directions felt perfect — welcome even.

I think the fact that we see each man changing because of one another made me believe in their relationship, which is important in a story during which the protagonists are threatened in such a dangerous way.

Every Breath You Take does not have any irrelevant content and Winter is still able to touch upon the difficulties individuals face when revealing their sexuality. Zachary volunteers at Rainbow Space, which is a shelter run by one of the secondary characters, Joe. Perhaps its purpose is best explained in his own words:

“These young men and women, for the most part, lost their homes when their parents or foster families learned they were homosexual or differently gendered. That’s why I feel it’s so important to try to give them a homelike environment here, so they can finish growing up.”

For the reader, this is a stark reminder that centers like this sadly have to exist, despite the fact that this is a novel in which Winter’s adult characters are all confident with their sexuality.

It is difficult to talk about the thriller element of Every Breath You Take without giving away spoilers, but the tension that Winter creates and builds combines perfectly with the other areas of the story, always leaving the reader with an apprehension about the next move of the perpetrator. For me, Every Breath You Take and Robert Winter deserve a full five-star rating!

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

kirsty sig