Dr. Cyrus Irvine is a well-known psychiatrist. He gets called in on the more difficult cases and that’s where he is currently headed—to give a second opinion on the mental health of a man accused of murder. Cyrus’ professional life is stellar, but it’s his personal life and low self esteem that beat him up time and again. Cyrus is shocked to see River, the man he spent the weekend with a few months ago, locked up for murdering three women. The same man that refused to answer Cyrus’ texts after that weekend. Cyrus knows he’s compromised and should turn around, but he can’t seem to walk away from River.
River doesn’t have a lot of ties. He grew up in foster care and has no use for relationships. He likes his hookups and even though River was intrigued by the older doctor, shutting contact down after that weekend is the way he rolls. Now, River needs Cyrus’ help. Cyrus learns quickly that everything about River is a lie. But that doesn’t mean he’s a murderer. As Cyrus and River team up to get to the truth, Cyrus isn’t only putting his career on the line, he’s putting his heart.
Whenever Nicky James has a new book come out, I always look to see what she has created. Her characters are always intriguing and the plots always draw me in. The cover on Not What it Seems was striking to me and further made me want to see what was going on with River, making it a great choice for Judge a Book By Its Cover Week of the Reading Challenge Month.
There are two different characters here in Cyrus and River. Cyrus lives by the rules, is close to his parents, and everything has a structure. He was in a manipulative relationship and now, even after it’s been over for two years, the damage lingers. River grew up in many foster homes and his drug addicted, prostitute mother showed up for random visits, but it’s been a long time since River has had contact with her and he assumes she is dead.
The book opens with River and Cyrus meeting in a bar. Cyrus stands out in his business attire and while Cyrus is not River’s usual type, he can’t stay away from the man. We don’t see that first weekend on page, but we do learn about it throughout the book and the impact it had on both men. River was the first man Cyrus had been with since his breakup two years prior, and Cyrus is lonely. He’s not good with hookups and he really wants to find his person, but being in his 40s, he doesn’t think that is possible. He also likes to let go of all the rigid control he needs to carry throughout his workdays, and Cyrus likes to take orders and has a mild kink or two.
Cyrus has also lived by a strict moral compass and he feels that slipping more and more with each interaction with River until he is completely comprised. It felt like Cyrus just needed the right set of circumstances to tip him over the edge and as a mental health professional, he certainly has plenty of his own issues and you have to be on board that he abandons his moral code so quickly. Nicky James’ books hook me with the opening scenes and I was definitely intrigued here. However, as the mystery unraveled and the story progressed, I didn’t find the plot particularly twisty or fast paced, some areas didn’t quite come together for me, and I did find the big reveal lackluster.
The scenes of Cyrus and River working together and falling for each other added to the book and if you are looking for a light mystery with two opposite characters, then Not What it Seems could be a book to look into.
This review is part of our 2021 Reading Challenge Month for Judge a Book By Its Cover Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of five $20 JMS store gift cards from JMS Books (you can see the details on the bundle in our Prize Preview post)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing Grand Prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! And don’t forget if you read along with your own challenge book this week, you can earn ten contest entries for writing a mini-review on our wrap up post on Friday! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Judge a Book By Its Cover Week here.