Ashley Pandy reported abuses by his company in their biomedical research. It put him in the sights of a dangerous cartel and now life as he once knew it is over. Ashley is currently testifying and about to enter witness protection. It means leaving behind his entire life and starting all over. Ashley’s family abandoned him when they found out he is gay, but it is hard to leave his best friend, Oliver. It is also difficult to leave Jamie MacDougall, one of the Deputy U.S. Marshalls assigned to protect Ashley until the end of the trial. Ashley has fallen for Jamie, but as soon as the trial is over, Ashley’s new life will begin and he will have to leave everything, including Jamie, behind.
Close to a year later, neither Ashley nor Jamie have been able to put the other out of their mind. Both know that they can’t have any contact with each other for Ashley’s safety; Jamie doesn’t even know where Ashley is living or his current identity. The men never even got physical or shared their feelings with each other, knowing they would have to separate. But that doesn’t stop both men from missing one another deeply and feeling like something is missing in their lives.
When Ashley makes a risky decision, he ends up putting himself in danger, threatening his new identity and getting the cartel back on his trail. The only person he can think to call is Jamie, who is quick to come to Ashley’s aid. The two men hole up in Jamie’s family cabin while they try to sort out what is next for Ashley. Now that they men are reunited, however, the feelings that they have tried to put aside are too hard to ignore. But with Ashley still in danger and needing to once again assume a new identity, figuring out a way to build a future together may be impossible.
Save Me is the first in the Love in the Pacific Northwest series and the debut book for author Beck Grey. It seemed like a great choice for New-to-Me Author Week for our Reading Challenge Month. The story starts off with a prologue set during the trial while Jamie is protecting Ashley. Grey does a really nice job here establishing a connection between the men, even in this short introduction. I could feel the longing they had for each other, the chemistry between them, and the sadness that they would ultimately be separated. So I could believe that these feelings carried over even once Ashley started his new life, as well as the way they fall hard for each other once they reconnect. There is a nice sensuality to the writing that enhances the connection between the characters. Little everyday moments become intensely charged and it gave some nice chemistry between them.
I think that bond that is established between them early is helpful as Ashley isn’t always 100% easy to like. He tends toward snark and can take his temper out on people undeservingly. I liked that Ashley is aware of these shortcomings though, and he has spent time in therapy in the intervening months working through some of these issues. Jamie is a big-hearted, sweet, protective man who adores pretty much everything about Ashley. He is charmed by some of Ashley’s more prickly qualities and the two fit nicely together.
The set up here is a lot of fun with a sort of lovers reunited feel (though Jamie is strictly professional while protecting Ashley during the trial). I enjoyed the way we are seeing the men on the aftermath of their separation after they have already built this initial connection. It was a nice bit of twist from stories where the looming separation is the focus. However, I feel like there was not enough development to really flesh out the bigger picture surrounding Ashley’s testimony. We get a brief explanation that Ashley’s best friend, Oliver, is sick with an incurable disease and Oliver’s father (and Ashley’s boss) was doing some questionable experimentation to find a cure. Ashley was the whistleblower who called him out on these unethical actions. But we get such a bare bones explanation here that I felt like so much is left out. For example, we are told Oliver is Ashley’s best friend and we see Ashley make some extremely questionable choices in order to see Oliver when he is sick because he cares for him so much. I wondered how Ashley felt about testifying against Oliver’s father, particularly given that his dad’s research was to find a cure for Oliver’s illness. Or how he felt about putting Oliver’s dad in jail, leaving Oliver with no family as he succumbs to this deadly illness. Or how this generic feeling “cartel” gets involved to take Ashley down as punishment, even after the testimony is over and the dad is in jail. We get so little information about what transpired that it seemed way too vague given that this is the impetus for the whole story and the main conflict.
We also just get a very basic understanding of the connection between Oliver and Ashley. We are told they are best friends and grew up together, but the development felt so sparse given how significant this friendship is supposed to be. As I said, Ashley makes some incredibly foolish choices in the name of this friendship, risking his life and the lives of others more than once. He also risks his entire relationship with Jamie for Oliver with about two seconds thought. So given how significant this relationship is supposed to be, I needed to see and feel a lot more of a connection between these two men. As it was, Ashley just comes across as fool-hardly for these dangerous risks he takes.
The ending also comes across a bit pat and easy. Given the set up, I wanted some more intensity with regards to the danger, as well as a little more work to make it all come together. But some outside intervention smooths the way for everything, and there is some suspension of disbelief required for how easily things come together on a variety of fronts.
Despite some issues with parts of the story development, I found this one an entertaining book. Grey really excels in building that connection between Jamie and Ashley and there is a nice heat that plays over their interactions, even before they are together. I enjoyed the author’s style and this story was a nice introduction to their work.
This review is part of our 2021 Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of TEN great book bundles from almost 100 authors (you can see the details on the bundles, including the fabulous authors who donated books, 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! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on New-to-Me Author Week here.