From the moment Warrick lays eyes on his ER patient, he knows two things: first, the man is absolutely gorgeous; second, the guy’s possessive boyfriend is most definitely the reason he’s in the hospital. Warrick urges his patient, Jack, to get out of the toxic relationship. He even goes so far as to offer his own contact information if push comes to shove. But Warrick also knows he can’t force Jack to do anything and beyond giving Jack a lifeline, all Warrick can do is inform the police and hope for the best.
It’s been over a year since Jack’s boyfriend really started to change from the fun, caring guy he once was. Now, with his boyfriend hopped up on steroids and eager to exert his dominance, Jack finds himself in what seems to be an inescapable downward spiral. Landing in the hospital just confirmed his worst fears. Jack was surprised his doctor cared enough to offer him some help—and deathly scared of what might happen if his boyfriend found out the hot doctor was trying to intervene.
Weeks later, Jack’s boyfriend is out for blood and all Jack can think of is staying alive. He manages to find shelter in a nearby McDonald’s and calls Warrick. Amazingly, he comes through on his offer of help. What’s more, Warrick’s offer is genuine and generous—he offers Jack a room in his own apartment in lieu of a shelter where the abusive boyfriend may snatch him at any time. As Jack and Warrick get to know one another, the spark of interest blooms into attraction. But how far can, indeed should, these feelings go? Jack startles at sudden noises and unexpected movements; he reacts strongly to many triggers. Warrick knows Jack needs time to heal and get back to the man he was, but Warrick’s heart is already far ahead of his brain.
I had a hard time reconciling Jack’s immediate past with the abusive boyfriend and the general flow of this story. It’s extra wonky because the abusive boyfriend figures into so many aspects of the story (that’s understandable) and into so many scenes (on page, driving some of the action/reactions of the other characters). Ultimately, I found it hard to take seriously the relationship that was growing between Jack and Warrick because it’s being forged in such dire circumstances. It’s not “baggage,” it’s still an active situation. Large doesn’t exactly ignore this dynamic. Truth be told, Jack is constantly telling himself “why am I entertaining sexy thoughts about another man when I’m still being stalked by my potentially murderous ex-boyfriend?” But that doesn’t seem to have much bearing on how the love story plays out, because both men still go for it—and are willing to suffer the burns for their happy ending.
As far as the characters go, I had a lot of hope for Jack and Warrick. Yes, I was a little irked by each characters initial reaction to the other: Man alive, is that guy hot or what! This is probably just because they literally meet to set Jack’s arm, which has been broken by said abusive boyfriend. I’ve never broken my arm or even had a truly horrible partner, so I’m by no means an expert, but it seems odd that in that situation, the attending ER doctor and the patient with the broken arm are still actively checking each other out. This obviously ties into my qualms about why Jack and Warrick are making a serious go of a relationship at this juncture.
Shallowness aside, I didn’t get any strong impressions from Jack beyond that he used to be fun and now, clearly, he’s got a lot of stress, anxiety, and credible worries about his person given his ex. What I did not get was a sense of his actual character—he’s just struggling to get back on his feet. While that seems to fit what I imagine someone might be coping with in this situation (i.e. thoughts of “who am I now?” And “can I ever be the person I was before?”), it did mean that he’s not really…interesting beyond the drama he brings to the table.
Warrick, on the other hand, had a lot more potential. He definitely fits the “knight in shining armour” trope at the beginning. When Large introduces his family, there is further potential for character development since he and one of his brothers have a tiff over Warrick’s choices—those being to live overseas and never visit, then suddenly show up with a domestic violence survivor and stay for a month. Warrick starts out okay, but I definitely wondered why the responsible doctor was never shown following up with law enforcement—especially when things get seriously disconcerting with the ex. I wondered why Warrick started behaving in ways that, frankly, reminded me of someone might manipulate another without their immediately realizing it.
I do not think Warrick actually does or intends to manipulate Jack, but the way he behaves after they’ve started to act on their attraction sent up big red warning flags. For example, Warrick not only concedes to Jack’s request that Jack be allowed to stay with Warrick instead of a shelter/going to the authorities, Warrick pays for them both to spend a month in England. Warrick springs to have Jack’s parents flown over for Jack’s birthday. He takes Jack all around town and to London for a couple days. He springs to have a London Eye (ferris wheel) capsule all to themselves, which costs upwards of 400 pounds (probably $500 US dollars). His heart is usually in the right place, but he doesn’t handle rejection well…then blames it on him just being “selfish.” I didn’t end up hating Warrick, but I also didn’t think he was all that great, either.
The characters’ themselves aside, their individual situations necessarily drive the action in the plot. As described above, Warrick’s job as a doctor provides for a very comfortable lifestyle and even though he bitches about long hours, he’s able to take a month off at the drop of a hat to screw around England with Jack. Meanwhile, Jack’s ex is the whole reason there is a story to begin with—and as much as I hated the asshole ex, it was disappointing that such a pivotal character is only shown on-page as the asshole ex. How he keeps finding Jack, why he thinks it’s a good idea to go after Warrick… none of that is explored.
On the whole, this story only sort of works as a get together. The abusive ex soured Warrick and Jack’s romance from the beginning, and the patent lack of time to heal/deal with it rubbed me the wrong way. If, however, this wouldn’t be an issue for you, then you may well enjoy the melodramatic whirlwind romance that develops between the two MCs. There is a lot of innuendo, plenty of on-page action, and a huge drama bomb at the end before getting what is either a HFN or HEA.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.