Rating: 4.25 stars
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Darius Hawthorne has gone through many names, to go along with the many iterations of his life. He was born as Darius, became Terrence Moss as a kid in witness protection, and most recently Conrad Harris as a CIA operative and later a contract killer. Now Darius serves as the Vault, the head of an organization that stores high value people and objects, and while his life is still dangerous, for the first time since he can remember, he actually is settling down a bit. Darius has made some friends and has people at his side he can trust.
In the process of protecting one of those friends, Darius is reconnected with his former lover, Efrem Lahm. The two were separated when circumstances forced them apart against their will. Even though Darius has felt hollow these past 16 years without Efrem, he has never wanted to get in the way of Efrem’s chance at a stable life of safety, and so he has kept his distance. But now that they two have met again, the idea of being separated is almost impossible to bear. Yet a lot of time has passed, and Darius has no idea whether Efram still feels the same, or if he can even trust the man with so much time gone between them. But Efrem is determined to have Darius back, and now Darius must decide if he is willing to take the chance to return to the only man he has ever loved.
Late in the Day is the second story in Mary Calmes’ Vault series following the excellent A Day Makes. In that story we are introduced to Darius, as well as the concept of the Vault, but this book really moves much deeper into this aspect of the story and we learn all about Darius’ role, how he got the job, and his background. Some of the side characters we meet here come from that first book, so it helps to have read it, but I think enough is explained here that you could probably pick up this one without having read the first.
I say this with many of Mary Calmes’ books, but what really works for me here is the epic, sweeping sense of romance between the characters. These guys have been separated for 16 years, it was almost love at first sight when they met, and they have pretty much been pining for each other ever since. Things move fast between them, but Calmes does such a great job really making you understand the depth of their feelings and the intensity between them that it never feels unbelievable. Darius and Efrem are actually together for very little of the book. Most of the relationship is references to the past between them, much more than actually being together in the present. Yet it is to Calmes’ credit that I still felt the romance between them so intensely. The connection between the men felt so palpable, that I could completely believe their feelings for one another had remained constant for so long and I could tell how much they cared for each other. The story is sweeping and romantic and mushy and I just loved this hard and rough killer who is brought to his knees by his lover.
I did struggle with the start of the book, however. It opens with Darius protecting his friend Trevan from a mobster who wants him dead. We get extensive detail here into Trevan’s business, how he got himself out of the gun trade, why the guy wants to kill him, where Trevan is moving (down to the street name), what is happening with his husband, etc. I kept waiting for this information to become important in the story later, but it is never relevant after this initial scene. I realized after reading the book that Trevan and his husband are the main characters in Calmes’ book Mine, and Darius appears there as a side character (under the name Conrad). I am sure had I read that story I would have loved the chance to reunite with these characters, but coming in new, this was a lot of complicated, detailed information that ended up not meaning a whole lot to this book. Following that, we get a flashback to Darius learning about the Vault, what his job would be, and how it all worked. This was quite detailed and honestly, I found it incredibly complicated, to the point I had to stop reading and put the book down for a while because I just couldn’t absorb it all. There are teams and doors and a bishop and a knight and some are picked by the Vault and some are picked by some other organization and different people report different places and that is just the tip of the iceberg. I get why we need to know about the Vault, as this organization is the foundation of the series and Darius is it’s leader. But coming on the heels of the Trevan story, it was just so much detail and explanation I found it overwhelming and it made for a slow start to the book. Once we got past that into the meat of the story, however, things just flew along and I was totally sucked in. It just took a while to get moving.
As an aside, along with Trevan and Landry, we also get cameos from some of Calmes’ other books, including Rahm from All Kinds of Tied Down, Dante Cerreto from Again, and Duncan Steil from Parting Shot. These are just brief appearances, so it is not necessary to be familiar with those stories to follow this one. But if you are a Calmes fan, you may get a kick out of seeing these guys have guest appearances.
Despite some issues with the early part of the book, I really did enjoy this story. I loved Darius and Efrem together and felt really caught up with their romance. It is a nice continuation of the series and I think there are a lot of interesting opportunities for where things can go from here.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.