Wanting to support his brother, Ian, who recently came out as bisexual and was ostracized by their older brother, Daniel, Sean agrees to meet Ian at the local LGBTQIA+ bar. There he’s instantly charmed by Jace’s smile and confidence. After Jace’s friend, Lena, coerces them into a threesome, Sean’s world is thrown into confusion when he can’t stop thinking about Jace.
When the response times for emergency services come into question, Jace and Sean are thrown together for a series of articles and Sean is forced to confront his attraction to Jace and what it may mean. While Jace is reluctant to become involved with someone who is confused and upset by his sexuality, he hasn’t been able to get Sean or the unexpected feelings he stirs out of his mind either. As just sex and exploration become more, Sean and Jace find themselves in a secret relationship. However, when Sean makes a stupid mistake that breaks Jace’s tenuous patience and seems to confirm his worst fears, Sean will have to decide if being with Jace is worth the potential fallout from his family and colleagues.
Depending on how they’re written, a closeted/confused person as a love interest can be hit or miss for me, but D.J. Jamison does an excellent job in Rapid Response. Sean’s journey is relatable, and his conflict rings true to his personality and character. Sean is a sweet guy with a big heart and is a people pleaser and mediator by nature. He hates conflict and the rift in his family caused by Daniel’s hostility puts him in the middle and weighs so heavily on his mind that eventually his time with Jace becomes a refuge from the real world, but also another burden because of Sean’s fear of what having a boyfriend will do to his already fractured family. This fear is magnified as Sean is given no reason to believe that his firefighter brethren will support him either.
While Jace understands Sean’s fears in theory, as someone who is out, he knows who he is and is comfortable in his skin. It becomes harder and harder for him to pretend that he’s ok with being first Sean’s friend-with-benefits and then his secret boyfriend. Jace has never been the boyfriend type, so his feelings for Sean not only catch him off guard, but make him feel particularly vulnerable and eventually edgy and uncertain. Moreover, although Jace is delighted by Sean’s submissive need to please in the bedroom, having been abandoned by his own family at 16, he fails to understand how ingrained this trait is in Sean’s personality. Thus, Jace can’t comprehend Sean’s need to bend over backwards to accommodate his homophobic and increasingly horrible brother, while being so reluctant to be honest about his feeling for Jace, making it even harder for him to put stock in Sean’s feelings for him.
Sean and Jace’s personal and relationship development are engaging and believable, and both men, though different in their character traits, are likeable and compelling. Their interactions run the emotional gamut, from sweet and unintentionally flirty, to awkward, hot, and heartfelt. Sean’s family life and personal self-image, which is largely based on how his family treats him, is frustrating, but well done, as is how Jace’s past and family issues shaped his character and his discomfort with opening himself up emotionally. Rapid Response is a well-written and engaging read, and while part of a series, can be read as a standalone.