Cal Tate is a former car thief who is now out of jail and working for his brother’s company as a driver. Cal has made plenty of mistakes, but he is now on the right path and trying to live an honest life. That doesn’t mean he always makes the best choices, however, and he is never going to be the kind of guy that most men think of as a serious partner. Cal gets hired to drive around wealthy American, Joe Bailey, who is in England for a month on business. Joe wants Cal to be available 24/7, so he puts him up in a room in his hotel suite. It quickly becomes clear that there is an attraction between the men, one that Cal is happy to act upon. But he knows it is just a fling as a guy like Joe would never want something long term with someone as rough as Cal, not to mention that Joe isn’t out as gay.
While Joe is in London on business, he has a second agenda, and that is to track down more information about his deceased mother. Joe’s father is secretive about what happened to her years ago and Joe wants to find out the truth for himself. Joe also has a stalker and someone leaving him threats, which may or may not be linked to his attempts to learn more about his mother. As the men grow closer, Joe confides in Cal about his quest and the threats. But things are escalating and it may be too late to stop the person who is out to get him. There may be a chance for something real between Cal and Joe, but secrets from Joe’s past may get in the way.
T.A. Moore does a great job combining romance and suspense in this story and I really enjoyed Take the Edge Off. The early focus of the book is mostly on Joe and Cal and their fledgling relationship. The attraction between them is clear from the start, but neither man really is used to opening up to a romantic partner. It takes a bit for things to move from sex to a real emotional connection, but Moore does a nice job showing what brings these men together and I enjoyed watching them fall for each other almost despite themselves. Cal has a rough past, a mother who basically abandoned him, and a history of making bad choices for short term gratification. Moore really shows us the vulnerability that is hiding underneath his tough exterior. Cal is a man who has learned not to want or expect things, and it is nice to see him realize that he has Joe’s care and affection and that there is something real between them. For his part, Joe has a history of cheating on his female partners with male hookups, not willing to admit or accept that he is gay. Being with Cal, a man who is open and honest about who he is, helps Joe move forward and acknowledge his sexuality. So the relationship end of things is nicely done here and I liked the way both of these men grow together.
The suspense portion is also entertaining and Moore always manages a few unexpected twists in her stories. I think things take a little too long to really get started with this part of the plot, as bits and pieces are dropped in, but it is mostly in the background for a lot of the book. I had hoped for more with the men working together to figure things out, and the suspense plot doesn’t really get going for a while. Things take some interesting turns in terms of the reveal of just exactly what happened with Joe’s mother all those years ago, but I’ll also say that I anticipated the bad guy almost immediately and things were a little more straightforward with the mystery than I would have liked. I also found myself frustrated at the end that they let the bad guy off completely out of a sense of pity. Maybe I am just not that forgiving, but when someone attempts murder (and a host of other things), I wasn’t thrilled to see that all swept under the rug. The bigger issue is that this person still seems quite mentally unhinged and a threat to both themselves and others, yet no one seems concerned by that. So things weren’t quite as tight and tidy as I have found in other of Moore’s books, but I still found the suspense plot very engaging.
So overall, I found this one a nice mix of suspense and romance and there is enough twist here to keep the mystery interesting. I enjoyed the relationship between Cal and Joe and liked watching them develop into a couple. If you are looking for a light romantic suspense, this is definitely worth checking out.