Rating: 4.25 stars
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Niall Hamarsson left his job as a homicide detective because he could not abide letting down another victim’s family. He was done being a cop and done with Seattle. Tying up some loose ends at the cabin his long departed grandparents left to him was supposed to be a quick in-and-out deal on nearby Piedras island. Instead, he found a racketeering plot and a hot sheriff named Mat Dempsey. Niall also found a place where he could belong—if only he could accept it. But nothing in Niall’s life has ever worked out the way he wanted it to and he’s trying to convince himself that it’s better to keep Mat at a distance than give his heart away. Too bad Niall’s heart never got the memo. Now, every time he sees Mat, he breathes easier. Every touch, every gaze, every stolen kiss builds up into an undeniable truth: he’s falling in love with Sheriff Dempsey.
Mat Dempsey wants nothing more than to court Niall, but he’s well aware of how one wrong move could scare off the ex-cop. Being patient is hard, but police work does an excellent job of keeping him busy. And now, his island is experiencing a run of fires that are being treated as arson. It’s just Mat’s luck that the prime suspect isn’t just AWOL, he’s also a member of the marine emergency response team and soon to be under the jurisdiction of Sheriff Dempsey. As if work didn’t keep him busy enough—especially with two of his three deputies out of commission due to a nasty flu—his sister is moving home as she works through a divorce. With everything demanding more of Mat’s attention, he just wants an escape and the only place he gets the peace he needs is with Niall. If only he knew acting on their mutual attraction wouldn’t drive the man away…
Long Shadow is the second installment of the Hamarsson and Dempsey series. It picks up some time after the events of the first book and, while I didn’t notice a hard time frame, it seems only a couple weeks or maybe a month or so have passed. The book is organized into chapters that alternate between Niall’s and Mat’s perspectives. Generally, I like this format, but there were times when I had to backtrack to figure out which “he” the pronouns were referencing.
The first person narratives also really drives home how scared Niall is about letting himself open up to Mat in particular, but also to Mat’s family, who also care about Niall. There’s a lot of Niall’s same “I’m no good for Mat” and all that, but also hints of Niall starting to accept that he has feelings and they’re not bad. There is a pretty hefty amount of self-denial, though, which made it all the sweeter when Niall and Mat finally find a middle ground where their relationship is concerned. By the same token, the development at the end felt significantly, well, rushed for these two.
Mat’s chapters clearly show just how dedicated and focused he is while he’s on duty, with nods towards the fact that he’s never really off duty. Even with all the shop talk, there is a good balance between him being and acting like a sheriff and him falling head over heels for Niall. I think it’s safe to say Mat was already falling for Niall in book one, but it has the chance to really shine here. Mat is able to see Niall’s struggle with any kind of intimacy. Here, too, I thought the heating up of the Mat/Niall relationship felt a little awkwardly zippy, I still liked that these two get to move forward as a couple.
So mostly, the one hiccup in this book for me was the pacing. Like the relationship dynamic I mentioned above, there are many other plot elements in the book: a new case of arson, questions raised about the arson event that destroyed Niall’s grandparent’s cabin, a surprise “we’re related” theme, hints that Niall may have a way to get closure on what happened to the mother who abandoned him, hints about Mat’s father’s death, embezzlement, and a murder attempt. It’s a LOT to take in. And I was totally cool with just going with the flow until I saw “epilogue” at the top and only three things in that huge list really got resolved. It builds towards the next book, sure, but the murder attempt was pretty significant and it was just…left…dangling…in the breeze.
Well, there was one other hiccup—but to avoid spoilers, let’s just say the ending distracted me from the multiple unresolved plot points by getting me irritated at another element in the Mat/Niall ship that sailed a bit (read: mach 5 or so) quickly for me.
Overall, I still love these characters, but book two definitely feels like it’s got the “Empire Strikes Back” thing going on. It doesn’t work as a standalone and if you’ve read the first book, it may be worthwhile to reread book one (or at least have it handy to look up recurring side characters). If you liked the extremely restrained Niall and the cool cop Mat routine, though, this is going to be a big step up for them. Pacing issues aside, I am excited to see where the guys go.