When Alex first saw Jen, she was running on a treadmill, flat out and flat-eyed, as though she needed to outrun something she could never escape. When Jen first saw Alex, the other woman was full of confidence, control, and a sense of calm that drew Jen’s eyes like flame draws moths. When Alex and Jen next meet at a restaurant, it’s a moment neither of them will ever forget. One kiss leads to another, one touch leads to an embrace neither wants to break, until the moment is interrupted.
Alex can’t get Jen out of her thoughts (any more than Jen can forget the woman who made her heart skip a beat), but she must. Alex, a sergeant in the Air Force, has been tasked with training a handful of officers from the Boston PD to help them take down dangerous criminals. Alex refuses to mix business and pleasure; she’s here to train Jen, not seduce her, even if Jen is more than willing. When Alex won’t — or can’t — make the next step, it’s up to Jen to take matters into her own hands.
Jen lives in a house of boxes. Her lover, killed by a stray bullet, is gone and everything she was and everything they were are now memories. Jen isn’t ready to let go, and she isn’t ready to face who she is without her partner. Jen throws herself into her work, taking risks others wouldn’t because she has no one to go home to. The new task force is an outlet for her need to move and to work and to push herself because Alex drives the group hard and fast.
Alex is good at what she does, and she knows it. She knows how to turn a group of random people into a team, and she knows how to focus them onto a target. Get in, get it done, and get out, all with little thought to her own personal life. For Alex, professional comes first. She has people relying on her, needing her, people who can’t do their jobs if she doesn’t do hers. It’s been a long time since Alex has ever had someone take care of her the way she takes care of others.
Alex and Jen balance each other out, each filling a need in the other woman so seamlessly that it feels like fate brought them together. Alex cares for Jen, watches out for her, worries for her … and Jen does the same for Alex. They’re both strong, stubborn, and self-sacrificing, and they’re both driven and determined. They match so well they’re like two halves of the same whole.
The relationship between Alex and Jen is the strongest part of this story, and it’s also given the least focus. Half of this book is training, with team building exercises and small details about why the team was asked to do this or that, and why this was wrong and that was right. Author Aprille Canniff has served in the military and it shows. There are so many little details, both air force and police force, and at times it feels like all of this wealth of information is just taking over the story. By the time the plot is fully introduced — two thirds into the book — the momentum had been lost, for me.
I’m also not a personal fan of what feels to be the underlying message of “sex and love are as necessary as breathing, and a good fuck’ll fix that bad mood for you.” I know that’s not really the message, but almost every side character feels the need to chime in to either Alex or Jen to let them know the other woman is “hot” for them, and they both/either need to get laid.
The writing style is a bit simplistic, with the author repeating facts — both in exposition and through the mouths of characters — to make sure you understand what a character is thinking. There’s a lot of telling instead of showing, especially during early scenes. I’m not talking about the training, but about scenes where a character is thinking instead of feeling, or telling the facts rather than experiencing the events. Many side characters don’t seem to have so much a distinct personality as simply a name or a gender to separate them from one another, which makes it hard to tell anyone apart.
I would have preferred a greater focus on Alex and Jen, personally. I think the pacing was a bit lopsided with the greater focus of the book on the teamwork and team building, and a great deal of the events that spurred the plot forward took place off screen. This feels, to me, very much like a debut work, and I’ll be very curious to see this author’s next work.