It has been eleven years since Declan and Rosie lost their father, an off duty police officer in the right place at the wrong time during a bank robbery. Despite the dangers and their overprotective mother’s fears, they are both following in their father’s footsteps. Declan has been working as an officer for five years and Rosie’s set to start the academy soon. She just wants one last fling before dedicating her life to the service…and has her eyes set on a guitarist named Erick, who travels from bar to bar with his uncle and cousins to sing for their supper. The problem for Erick is that, despite being gay and very tuned into Declan, he needs to hide his orientation from his very homophobic father. This, in turn, causes problems for Declan because their mother wants Declan to vet Erick before she’ll let her only daughter date the guy.
It doesn’t take long for Rosie to realize there is no chemistry between her and Erick, and it doesn’t take long for Erick and Declan to realize there is so much chemistry between them. Except there is something terribly familiar about Erick. When Declan realizes there is a connection between Erick’s father and uncle to the robbery that left Declan’s father dead, things get complicated. Not in the least because Declan is starting to feel things for Erick he’s never felt for any number of prior hookups. But can their passion survive the conflict?
I absolutely adored the set up for this story. The opening scenes where Declan’s waking up from a night of passion with one of his hook-ups and his Greek mother drops by and proceeds to express equal amounts of concern over her son’s well being and disdain for his choice in bed partners…just delightful. The dialogue these two share was top notch and here are two fantastic examples of this wonderfully dynamic relationship:
A door closed. His mother looked around.
“Someone here with you?”
“Ah, yeah, don’t worry about it.” Declan shook his head.
She eyed him. “Another cop, or a civilian?”
“He’s not a cop.”
“Is it serious?” She looked around again. “Is he Irish, Catholic? Are you using condoms?”
I love the way the mother is so frank and honest and goddamned blunt. To be clear, mom is first-generation American via Greek immigrant parents. Her husband was Irish. Declan takes this scrutiny in stride…hell, his one-night stand is actually still in the shower and Declan is just cool as a cucumber about it. Compared to how we see Erick’s uncle (and later, to a lesser extent, his father), this kind of easy acceptance of your kid was lovely to see. These two play off each other well. The other example highlights again how comfortable they are with each other even when mom is…er, “critiquing” her son’s habits:
“You change men like you change underwear and it’s not healthy.”
“What’s not healthy, changing men, or changing underwear?”
As Delray builds up Declan’s family life in NYC, this tight-knit family stuff just shines on the page. I was so into Declan, his mom, his sister, and their aunt and uncle (who own the bar where Erick and his relations have a few weeks’ worth of gigs). The pretend-to-date-Rosie-for-social-acceptance bit was, I thought, handled well all things considered. Rosie is ultimately the one to realize they don’t have chemistry, but not for lack of trying. There are more than a few scenes where she’s trying to incorporate Erick as her just-for-now romantic interest, one she will love and leave when she heads to the police academy.
For me, the story takes a deep dive into melodramatic mediocrity once we hit the drama of Erick and Declan trying to find out exactly what went down the day Declan’s father was murdered. We know that Erick’s father has been sent to prison for robbing that bank, but he was never accused of murder because the murder weapon was never found and the accomplice got away. As Declan digs into the police reports and starts to look into Erick’s uncle’s background, the pieces start to fall into place. While this adds an element of excitement—the uncle is a loose cannon who is quick to use his fists to resolve differences—the way the relationship between Declan and Erick builds up felt disappointingly flimsy.
First, we know Declan has only been interested in one-night stands. I just didn’t understand what it was about Erick that was supposed to draw Declan. I never got a good feel for his personality. The exchanges Erick has with his uncle and cousins are grounded in the abuse his uncle heaps on him and indifference from his cousins. He demonstrates sympathy as he attempts to “date” Rosie, but aside from that, he eventually just seems to morph into the guy who’s pining for Declan.
Despite this perceived imbalance in character development, it was satisfying to see Declan and Erick make a go at their relationship. They are the main characters, after all. There was not a small amount of angst to get them together, but they eventually come clean about how they feel. Rather than ending the story on that positive note, however, we get to see these two attempt a long-distance relationship with Declan working at NYPD and Erick starting over in Massachusetts. During this time, Delray throws in a couple of plot twists that are usually juicy angst fests. One of my favorites is the whole “mixed signals lead to a (near?) breakup.” Unfortunately, the set up and execution of the mixed signals, as well as the resolution, happens within the space of a few pages so it didn’t feel very impactful to me. On the contrary, the way Declan initially seems to just simply accept this mixed signal at face value felt very at odds with the competent, observant, *trained* police officer he had been throughout the rest of the previous parts of the story.
Ultimately, Declan and Erick are able to work out their differences and the story ends with a happily ever after. On balance, I thought the book started out so very strong. Declan and his family were interesting characters in their own right, in addition to the drama of all the police work Declan, his sister, and their late father were involved in. I found Erick and his family were made interesting more by their circumstances than their personalities. I felt the two MCs weren’t as well balanced in that regard, but it’s clear they were going to be together. Their dynamic as a couple left something to be desired; I clearly understood they were physically attracted to each other but, as noted above, I knew why Erick was attracted to Declan but not why Declan was interested in Erick. This made for dialogue that did feel like it went very deep. When the characters get around to making declarations of love, I wasn’t clear what they were basing their emotions off of other than hot sex. Finally, the way the action winds down provides a final big push in the drama department…but the literally last words on-page felt a bit weak to me.