Rating: 3.5 stars
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Prohibition agents Harlan Mackay and Nathan Reilly are facing a losing battle fighting against the corruption and depravity in New York City. The line between those on the right and wrong sides of the law is blurry, and stopping the bad guys isn’t easy. But even as their coworkers accept bribes and abuse criminals, Harlan and Nathan are determined to do their best to protect the city, especially from the big time criminals who prey on the little guy.
After serving in the military together, Harlan and Nathan came home to be partners, not just on the job, but in life as well. However, when a man from Nathan’s past returns, it threatens what the men have built. Now Nathan must convince Harlan that he can be trusted, and that Harlan is the future that Nathan wants.
I was first introduced to Charlie Cochet by reading her historicals, so I was eager to pick this one up. As with her other historical books, Cochet does a great job really grounding the story in the time period. Everything from the language, to the setting, to way the men interact just feels very authentic to the era. While Cochet is probably best known for her THIRDS series (which I totally love), I find that she really has great skill at writing historicals and I really enjoyed that aspect of this book.
However, I did find other aspects of the story a little rocky. The biggest issue is that it just seems like too much story for the number of pages. The guys are already a couple here and aspects of their past relationship, as well as their experiences in the military, definitely affect still them. So they are dealing with some big issues, but we only get the barest of information about them and with such a short story, there is never time to really get us up to speed. The story itself moves very quickly and covers a lot of ground, but only at the most surface level. They men arrest a bad guy and it seems to be leading to a more in depth investigation, but the story moves on, only to wrap the arrest plot up quickly at the end and sort of set up future books in the series. The pair are threatened by a past boyfriend of Nathan’s resurfacing and it immediately becomes a crisis and then resolved. Here again, the lack of background on their relationship threw me as Harlan freaks out when he finds them together in a compromising position, threatening Nathan with a gun and kicking him out. We are told how Nathan hadn’t settled down before Harlan, so presumably this is playing a role in Harlan’s quickness to doubt Nathan. But we get so little information about the past that it all felt over the top and the conflict somewhat contrived. I think if I had a better sense of the demons these guys are battling, the story would have felt less rushed and better developed. We also spend time focused on Nathan’s ex and his potential new relationship, and again, it was just too much going on without time to really explore any of it.
In some ways this story felt like a prequel, a short set up for the larger series rather than standing on it’s own well (and given that it appears to have started life as a freebie before being published by Dreamspinner, that may in fact be the case). Everything just seemed to happen really quickly with no time to delve into the many issues and plot points that develop. So things kind of felt cursory and without enough depth. I think that the quality of the historical writing and the setting here add enough to make this still one I can recommend, particularly if you are a historical fan. But this isn’t one that fully worked for me. However, I will keep my eyes on the next book in the series to see where things go from here.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.