Assistant District Attorney, Camden Warren, has been given the lead in a high profile case involving a powerful cult calling themselves “The Path.” As this terrorist group is known for killing witnesses in the past, Camden has put his star witness into protective custody, and only he knows where she is. Unable to get to the witness, the group turns its attention to Camden himself. If they can’t kill the witness, they’ll just have to kill the prosecutor, instead.
Police Lieutenant Elijah Stephenson is returning to work after being shot in the line of duty. However, instead of the cushy desk job he was promised, Elijah is being asked to work protection duty for the ADA. What the Captain doesn’t know is that Elijah and Camden already know one another. In fact, Camden is the one night stand Elijah can’t get out of his head, the one man he never wanted to let go, and can never forget.
Elijah takes Cam to his home — his real home, not his apartment in the city — which no one save the Captain knows about. If the two men can keep from killing each other, they’ll be fine. At least, that’s the plan until Elijah’s family shows up for the weekend and the two men are forced to play lovers to keep Elijah’s family from being caught in the crossfire. If only it weren’t so easy to pretend to be lovers. If only it weren’t so hard to keep from falling for each other.
This story has all the expected tropes of star-crossed lovers and endless misunderstandings, complete with an evil father on one side and a loving family on the other. There is nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary in this book save that the focus isn’t on the threats of violence or the dangerous cult stalking Camden, but instead on the relationship between the two men. It’s a more intimate, close up look at Elijah and Camden’s past and how it shapes both their present and any hope for their future.
Camden was born with a silver spoon in one hand and a silver fork in the other. His father, a successful judge, has been steering Cam’s life down the road to office. First ADA, then DA, then mayor — or governor — and, one day, president. He has no problem with his son being gay, but he does want a say in finding Cam the perfect husband, one who will support both his son and his son’s career. It’s a cold, rigid life, but Cam has been perfecting the role of obedient son all his life.
Elijah is the son of a cop, but entering into the force was his own choice. He’s a good cop, too, able to make the right decision at the right time — until the one time he didn’t, resulting in Elijah being shot. It shook him to the core, the idea that he could not just make a mistake, but make a mistake that might have cost people their lives. Now, tasked with protecting another person, he has to get over his qualms and do what he knows how to do: protect and serve.
The two men had a one night stand some five years ago, and it must have been the best sex in the world because neither man can forget it. Both men act as though they lost the love of their lives when they think back to that one night of sex. Or, at least someone they’ve spent years with, built a life around, not just a quick fuck that had Cam sneaking out the front door before Elijah woke up. When Cam thinks of that night, he thinks of the pieces of his soul that break off at the mere thought of what might have been. However, none of it feels earned and it all feels a bit overwrought, especially in the early chapters. The two of them try very hard to convince me that the one, perfect night was magical, but they try so hard, so vehemently, that I just can’t buy it.
Cam and Elijah fall into bed easily enough, but there’s no conversation, no talking. Whatever relationship building they did was all off screen since all they do in the book is have sex and oggle one another. Elijah’s family is convinced, though, after one day of meeting Cam that the two of them are in love. After all, their one night stand was so intense that Elijah can read Cam like a book, down to the smallest mannerisms and the tone of his voice; it feels as if he’s known him for years, not two days with a five-year gap in between.
This book, to me, felt insincere. I didn’t buy the romance, perhaps because of how hard it was being shoved at me. It didn’t feel organic and it didn’t feel real. It was lust and sex, and that’s fine, but when Cam had to face his father with the reality of Elijah, a man the judge hadn’t chosen for his son, Cam comes off shrill and defensive. Cam’s father also follows the disapproving dad trope, so much so that it made their scenes feel even more affected and fake than Elijah and Cam’s declarations of love. Cam mentions his inner toddler during one scene, but to be honest, that toddler never really went away. Elijah had the most emotional reactions to Cam when Cam was frightened or vulnerable and stated several times he didn’t care for him when he put his lawyer face on. I didn’t care for that; I understand that Cam being emotionally vulnerable made it easier to bond with him, but the phrasing put me off.
Much of the story — like the relationship — happens where we can’t see it. The final showdown with the cult, and their trial, are over in a few pages with no impact at all. Because the scenes feel like throw-aways, so too do the emotions. I was unable to get involved in it, mostly because it was the B plot and not part of the main story. I did not care for the author’s writing style, and some scenes felt stretched out; some, like a scene of cards at a kitchen table, made me wonder why it was there. It didn’t further the plot, the relationship, or the story. While I enjoy the quiet, family moments that show people bonding, this scene felt too scripted and purposeful.
The story is a familiar one with the cold, rich lawyer and the hard-working cop who were at odds and yet find themselves falling for one another. Unfortunately, as much as I like the idea, I really found it hard to connect to the characters.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.