Christian Cross wakes up in the hospital after having survived a gunshot to the head and being dumped at the hospital doors. Chris has no idea who he is, how he got there, or why someone is trying to kill him. The fact that not only was Chris shot, but he seems to have some unusual body modifications — filed down molars, no fingerprints, reinforced Achilles’ heels, etc — has the police asking questions. But Chris has no answers for them. The only thing that he remembers in this whole mess is the man he loves, Dr. Grayson Laurie.
When Chris finally gets to see Gray, it is clear that something is wrong between them. There is a distance that Chris never felt before. But Gray is still willing to help Chris however he can, and Chris is too drawn to Gray to not take him up on it. Everything in him calls to Gray and he knows that his heart belongs to the man, even if he still can barely remember anything else in his life.
Even as Chris finds himself enjoying daily life with Gray, he is determined to find out who he is and why someone wants his dead. But the answers are not encouraging, and Chris isn’t so sure he likes the man he apparently used to be. What’s worse is that it’s becoming clear that his old life isn’t done with him, and there is only so long Chris can avoid capture by the group that seems after him. But most of all, Chris is determined to protect Gray, whatever the cost, even if that means he has to lose him. However, now that Gray has Christian back in his life, he is not willing to let him go.
I chose Chrysalis for Judge a Book by Its Cover Week as part of our Reading Challenge Month. I like the black and white style, the tattoo with the series name along the shoulder, and the intense vibe. I was also immediately drawn to this one because I am a sucker for an amnesia story. And I am thrilled to say, I absolutely loved this book and just could not put it down.
So first off, there is a lot I can’t say here because the fun of this story is discovering what is going on along with Chris. Often in amnesia stories, we either get dual POV, or we are in the head of the partner without amnesia, giving us some hints as to what’s going on. In this case, we are solely in Chris’ head, so we don’t know anything before he does. We also learn that Chris had been keeping secrets from Gray, particularly about his job and what he did all day, so Gray isn’t able to help Chris much with remembering parts of his background. This makes for a really fascinating and engaging story as, little by little, Chris uncovers more about his life, who he is, what has been done to him, and why. As the story develops, the general idea becomes clear to us as readers, but things deepen and twist and all come together in a really interesting way and I was just totally caught up in it. There are also tons of suspenseful moments as the bad guys are after Chris and he has to constantly stay one step ahead, as well as engineer some dramatic escapes. So this is just so much suspenseful, delightful fun and I was totally caught up in the story and learning just what is going on.
Chris is a great POV character because he has a great inner narrative. He is stubborn and sarcastic and has some snarky humor, as well as some amusing observations about what is going on around him. It gives a nice balance to the more intense side of the story and I found him such a fun character. Here is a snippet from early on when Chris is in the hospital:
Gray didn’t show up again until after I’d finished lunch—and by lunch, I meant I’d sucked down two kid-sized containers of cranberry juice cocktail, a bowl of grapes, and another dry-ass turkey sandwich. I had to admit that I enjoyed every dry bite of that sandwich.
I was starting to figure out how the hospital cafeteria broke your will. One day, you’re shoving aside your tray with disdain, praying to the Food Gods to rain a little something down on you from Cheeseburger Heaven. By day three, you’re pathetically grateful for anything that showed up on a tray. I was now eagerly marking the time until I could order a cheese omelet for breakfast. They’d said no to bacon and sausage yesterday, but today was a new day. I planned to renew my request for pork products because hope was a stubborn bastard, and apparently, so was I.
There is also a running joke where Chris is trying to figure out who he was and what he did before getting shot and keeps coming up with random options. Here is when he thinks he might have been a chef.
I might not have known who I was, but I knew knives. Man, did I fucking know knives. I effortlessly chopped, diced, and sliced vegetables for the chili. The razor-sharp knife flew through the onion like an extension of my hand, almost faster than I could keep up. My eyes widened. Maybe the chef thing wasn’t too off the money.
But as it simmered, I flipped through the cookbook again and doubted my theory anew. Trying to understand phrases like Bain-Marie and brunoise made my head hurt. My professional chef theory was further destroyed when I took a sample taste of my chili, which could be described as edible, but just barely.
Food blogger, I thought. I gave it a quick stir as if the power of stirring would improve the taste. I was probably a food blogger with awesome-as-fuck knife skills.
When Gray came home, he was pleased…until he tasted my offering. I had to give credit where credit was due—he powered through a full bowl. He drank a lot of water though. Like, a lot. I watched him eat like a creepy stalker before I realized what I was doing and tucked into my bowl.
He cleaned since I cooked and then told me he was going to unwind with some TV. Once again, I found myself following him aimlessly, lingering in the doorway as he flopped down on the lounger portion of the couch and flicked on the TV.
He turned, surprised to find me still in the doorway, and beckoned. “Come sit with me.”
I sat on the other end of the couch as he flipped through channels, and it was…nice. I had a feeling I was a man who wasn’t used to nice. When he passed by the Food Network, I perked up. “You think I’m a chef?”
“God no,” he blurted. “I mean, probably not.”
I sniffed. “I’m thinking I’ll make some sort of meatloaf tomorrow. And maybe some mashed potatoes. What do you think?”
He looked resigned. “I think I’m going to jail for burning down my kitchen and filing a fraudulent insurance claim.”
I gave up on being a polite guest and whacked him with a pillow.
The connection between Gray and Chris is so well done. Even as they are at odds and Gray is trying to keep some distance, there is still such a clear pull between them. It is obvious that Gray feels strongly about Chris, even as he sometimes wishes he didn’t. And Chris would literally do anything for Chris to keep him safe and happy. They have some great chemistry when they are together and the soft, mild mannered (but strong-willed) Gray is the perfect match for Chris. What I think works particularly nicely here is that as Chris learns more about who he used to be, he realizes he doesn’t want to be that man anymore. He begins to separate from his past and see things with a new perspective, which helps to rebuild things between him and Gray. Which is not to say that Chris isn’t ready to fuck someone up if needed, particularly if they threaten Gray. But also, it is clear that he is not the same person anymore and is wanting to make changes in his life.
Of course, not everyone is ready to let Chris move on from his past and things come to a head as the book closes and the truth is all revealed. This is the first story of a two-book series, so while we leave the guys in a good place and we hit a moment of closure in the action, this book is very much leading into the second story. I can not wait for the next book and to see how it all plays out. I found this one such an excellent romantic suspense, with a great balance of intensity, twisty plot, clever premise, and lovely romance. Definitely give this one a try.