storm warning coverRating: 3.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Five years ago, Jamie Jackson and his husband, Tyler, were involved in a hostage situation that left Tyler dead and gave Jamie deep scars, both physical and emotional. Now, his sister-in-law is trying to get this once-vibrant man to re-engage with a world he used to love—and she’s using their joint camera/photography business to do it. For two weeks, Jamie will be aboard the Atlantic Star cruise ship where he will give lectures on photography and lead a couple of field trips in Iceland, the cruise ship’s destination. But being out among people after protecting himself and his heart for so long leads to mixed feelings when Jamie meets a very attractive fellow guest named Dexter.

Dexter Fordyce has buried himself in his career as a talent agent. His dedication to placing the right star in the right role means his lovelife is necessarily limited to meaningless one-night stands. Taking a two-week cruise from England to Iceland will be perhaps the longest enforced no-work period Dexter has ever encountered. But two weeks at sea doesn’t mean zero prospects for a good time. There are a few good-looking passengers, and Dexter surprises himself by focusing in on a certain photographer. As Dexter learns about Jamie’s past, however, Dexter grows concerned that he will never measure up to a deceased spouse. What’s more, Dexter’s own willingness to find comfort when and where he can may jeopardize any chances of building something more than a fleeting night of passion with Jamie.

Storm Warning is a contemporary get-together romance starring two main characters who seem a bit older than your typical leads. Jamie is 41; Dexter is 35. Dexter is also the production of what I believed was an interracial marriage between two famous parents. Jamie is familiar with the public eye for surviving a horrific hostage situation. I was surprised their respective connections to fame didn’t serve as a bigger point of connection or commonality between them. That said, I did like Jamie and Dexter as individuals. They seemed like opposites attract in that Jamie is the one who has loved and lost and proceeds with extreme caution, and Dexter hasn’t yet learned to love.

I think the setting, a luxury cruise ship, may have limited the characters’ ability to form a good bond because the scenes are all ship-based venues like bars, clubs, dining facilities, and the like. Personally, I wondered about these settings because the characters seem to be forever ordering alcoholic drinks, making plans to get alcoholic drinks, or actually consuming alcoholic drinks. This repetition, knowing how short the cruise timeline was, made Jamie and Dexter seem like rather heavy drinkers. As a result, I was wondering how these two had the capacity for anything other than nursing a hangover most of the time. Another issue I had with the main pairing was how preoccupied Dexter and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Jamie had with the physical attractiveness of the other. So for me, the romantic connection these two are supposed to have developed felt more superficial and less genuine than it otherwise might have.

By the end of the book, Jamie and Dexter are exchanging declarations of love…but I just didn’t see how their connection deepened to that point. I think the insta-love vibe is hampered by the main character flaws in both Jamie and Dexter. Jamie is still wary of opening his heart to someone else, so he gets shy/regretful and shuts Dexter out after one incredible night together. Dexter, feeling rejected, is portrayed as being open to continuing his previous “good time boy” approach to sex: one-night stands. These two spend about one afternoon together, have sex once, then regress into avoiding each other…until they somehow manage to clear the (very thick) air and declare their love in the space of a single conversation.

Overall, I didn’t think this setting and these characters meshed well as a get together. Jamie has an intriguing backstory that I thought justified his skittishness in following through on a relationship with Dexter. Dexter’s backstory of two famous parents and one who died young don’t really seem to have any bearing on his approach to life, love, or relationships. I didn’t think a boozy cruise where they only have fleeting encounters justified the whirlwind romance I was expected to swallow. Plus, the epilogue clearly sets up a murder-mystery type sequel that completely blindsided me. In hindsight, I would have liked a little more interaction between the MCs and the murdered cruise guests to bring in a little more external interest and build a case for/against Jamie and Dexter’s presumed innocence.

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