For Parker Livingston, living was supposed to be easy. Born to money and wanting for nothing, yet somehow still down to earth about it all, Jack could have had an idyllic life with his then-partner, Jackson Kane, at his side. Despite the personal fulfillment, Park got a taste of professional independence with a small start-up video service. From that not insignificant success, Park knew he had what it took to change the world. In fact, he wanted to literally change the world. The best way to do that, in Park’s eyes, was to become a Republican, run for office, and change conservatism for the better from the inside. But to have a fair shot, Park had to cut Jackson completely out of his life and thrust himself back into the closet.
It took Jackson Kane months to learn how to live without the constant pain of heartache and years to learn how to date without constantly comparing a new beau to a long-gone flame. But time heals all wounds—or at least makes them scar over. Since Park left, Jack has built a name for himself first as a prosecutor and then as a defense lawyer for very high rollers. He has a reputation for being the very best.
When a dead woman turns up in Parker’s apartment a month before the election, Park will only settle for the very best im defense lawyers—and the only man he can trust with his closeted secret…and indeed his life. Jackson is unprepared for the tsunami of conflicting emotions he feels at seeing Park live and in the flesh again. No small part of him knows only he has a shot at clearing Park’s name. But is Jackson willing to wade into an ethical quagmire for the man who used to be the love of his life? Can the past stay in the past—what’s more, does either of them want it to?
For some reason, I had a hell of a time keeping Park/Parker and Jack/Jackson straight. I spent the first few chapters constantly reminding myself Jack is the lawyer and Parker is the politician (I even had to correct a few typos in my synopsis!). I think part of the cause is how loosely defined the main characters felt at first. As the story progresses, I felt like we got an in-depth look at Parker. He was most interesting when he was trying to explain how an out and proud gay man would reasonably (for him, maybe) choose to go back in the closet and become a Republican for…subterfuge? As I understand it, Parker represents a “socially liberal-ish, fiscally conservative” stance. The politics get hashed out on page, but mostly in ways that highlight where Jack and Park don’t agree. Rather than being a drag or a soapbox, however, these scenes really help differentiate Jack’s and Park’s world view. Their differing opinions on social issues, however, were/are not directly a source of strife between them. Rather, it was Parker’s unilateral decision to sever all ties with his boyfriend of eight years that broke them apart. For all that this concept gets bandied about, there really isn’t any in depth on-page detail about how their relationship ended.
I did feel that the way Parker and Jackson constantly revisit their breakup, plus the shock of being in one another’s presence again and under such stressful circumstances, created a robust sense of tension. Even better is that, foregone conclusions aside, it’s not at all like Park and Jack rediscover their are still strong feelings and suddenly everything is hunky-dory. McMurray does a great job showing how Jackson tears himself apart trying to figure out how he can minimize the huge potential risk of a romantic tryst—to say nothing of their eight-year relationship. On Parker’s end of things, he constantly weighs his political prospects against his personal happiness. He is buffeted by his desires and constrained by choices he cannot unmake.
As much fun as I had with our romantic pairing, I was pleasantly surprised to learn Jackson’s partner in law, Reed, was developing a “man crush” on the lead police detective assigned to the murder. While this hardly developed into anything substantial, there is enough groundwork laid that think the characters would make a fun spin off. The inspector, Gavin, is a bit of a wild card. I liked how clearly he serves as sort of a friendly foil to Jackson’s loyal lawyer—that is, Gavin and Jackson are friends, but in the case of whodunnit, Gavin is convinced Parker is guilty and Jackson is convinced Parker is innocent. Jack and Gavin do have a bit of chemistry, even though it’s clear they won’t be romantically paired.
The characters are so delightful to read and the sexual tension between Park and Jack kept me positively flying through the book. I almost didn’t even care about who actually murdered the woman found in Jack’s apartment—but that bit of storytelling really takes off at the end of the book. While I certainly enjoyed the sudden ramping up of this thriller aspect, it didn’t feel carefully planned or foreshadowed. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the murder’s role was a perfunctory case of stalking, but the action did play out in a rather predictable way. True, this formula easily tied up the loose ends between Jack and Park, but just like it was a foregone conclusion that they would form the main romantic pairing. It was also obvious (to me anyway) how the big finale would turn out.
On the whole, apart from a slightly goody-goody ending, I think the events and the characters come together in a very enjoyable story. There is plenty of drama, a small but well defined cast of characters, and a few steamy scenes. If you’re looking for a get-back-together kind of story with a dash of crime stuff and a heap of interpersonal introspection, this would be a great read for you.