Homicide Detective Eagle Woodard has been in love with his very best (and very straight) friend, Adam Coulter, since … well, almost forever. The only problem is that Adam, now on divorce number four, isn’t in love with Eagle as anything other than a friend. As a criminal profiler, Adam often works cases alongside of Eagle’s own, and the two of them have a long history of learning to trust one another’s instincts. They share a house, share a bathroom, and half the town thinks they’re a couple, something that shocks and offends Adam when he finds out. Still, it’s a dysfunctional relationship that works for them. Mostly.
When the handsome and openly gay FBI agent, Rick Kessler, comes along, hot on the heels of a serial killer who he suspects has come to Albuquerque for their next victim, Eagle’s attention (and his libido) is captivated by the handsome stranger. For the first time, Adam sees Eagle listening to someone else, smiling at someone else, and he can’t help but feel a bit … well, surely not jealous. Right?
Eagle and Adam are asked to enter into a fake relationship in order to lure the killer out of hiding, complete with a public wedding. For Eagle, it’s a dream come true to have Adam in his arms at last; for Adam, it’s temptation in the flesh as his secret desires are brought out into the open.
Eagle has never been ashamed of his sexuality. Not as an Army Ranger and not as a cop. He’s a proud member of the Navajo nation and a proud gay man. He’s resourceful, he’s clever, he’s on his way to middle aged with a son almost old enough to go to college, and recently he’s started drinking more than he should. Whether it’s the stress of the job, or the stress of living with the man he loves while pretending there’s nothing but friendship between them, it’s hard to say. Worse, Eagle has no idea how to fix it, or even if he wants to.
Adam grew up rich and entitled, but the one place he felt loved was at Eagle’s house, with the warm and accepting family. They forgive him his faults and are always there for him, and so is Eagle. Eagle who he has a crush on, but Adam can’t give in. Won’t give in. Eagle’s family and the friendship are too important for him to risk throwing away on a fling, and they’re all flings. He failed with wife number one, two, four … even three, when he tried the hardest to make it work. Adam knows he isn’t meant to settle down with only one person, and he can’t break Eagle’s heart; he can’t throw away the very best part of his life.
The two of them aren’t good for each other, and they know it. They enable each other’s worst traits, and they break each other’s hearts. At least, Adam breaks Eagle’s. He knows Eagle is in love with him and leans upon it to get what he wants … and Eagle lets him. Again and again and again they go through the same dance, the same motions of Eagle wanting, and waiting, and giving in only to have Adam look away and find someone else. The fake relationship plans seems to be a perfect way to finally sit down and see if they work, in any way, shape, or form before one — or both — give up on the twisted relationship they have.
Rick Kessler is arrogant, proud, ruthless, and cruel. He’s so certain he’s right, that his plans will work, that he never has a backup. He’s gunning to reach the highest levels of the FBI before he hits 40, and solving this case would get him noticed by all the right people. Rick will do anything it takes to get what he wants. And right now he wants two things: The killer and Eagle.
A note regarding Rick’s role in the relationship:
The serial killer, on the other hand … those POVs and characters may not have been the most novel, but for all that they followed a predictable arc, they were decently put together and their crimes were suitably horrific. I appreciated that the standard motivations Adam tries to poke at — daddy issues among them — backfired because no, the most obvious tropes were nowhere to be found. The hide and seek of killer and cops, the capture, and climax were pretty well handled, overall. However, just as a warning, there are some very graphic scenes of violence in this book that sensitive readers may not enjoy, involving torture and mutilation. It’s not often that I see one of the main characters tortured and mutilated in such an extreme and visceral way, and while I can’t say I enjoyed it, I did appreciate it. Despite everything else I didn’t necessarily enjoy in this book, watching the character go through the trauma, the self-doubts, and his own growth — which I imagine will be continued and expanded upon in book 2 — is pretty much why this book has the rating it does.
However, all that said, the storytelling relies a bit much on the “tell, don’t show” school of writing as we’re told how characters feel or what they think, rather than seeing expressed through actions or dialogue. There are rapid POV shifts from character to character within the same scene, which can make it hard to figure out which “he thinks” or “he feels” belongs to which guy. It feels a bit as if there was so much plot and setup that there wasn’t time for the characters or their emotions, only their actions. There aren’t any shades of grey in this story, only love or hate, hot anger or cold anger, and it leaves the writing feeling somewhat simplistic. The author also has a few turns of phrase that didn’t work for me, but the stand out — that I even now can’t get out of my head — was “A thin brown aureola surrounded her completely dilated pupils.” These moments add a comical edge to some scenes, which I doubt was their intent.
Despite the writing and the sometimes clunky and repetitive dialogue, the plot moved along fairly quickly and I enjoyed Adam’s growth from the beginning to the end. While this isn’t an immediate favorite, I’m still curious to see what the next book has to offer.