Rating: 3 stars
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Struggling to wrap his head around Keir’s fantastical declaration that he can see and talk to the dead, Dash decides to take a break—a big one. For a month, he plans to do nothing but soak up the Italian countryside and work with the people at Ducati to build his dream bike. Dash’s distraction turns sour, however, when he gets into a boating accident that leaves him hospitalized for weeks and his phone (and only means to contact the bike shop he runs or the man he loves) at the bottom of the sea. Not only that, but something big has changed. Dash may have suffered a blow to the head and inhaled a lot of water, but he’s also discovered that he can see things that shouldn’t be there. When his own deceased family and even Keir’s deceased father sit him down for a heart to heart while Dash is unconscious, he learns a whole lot more about his new supernatural vision powers. Just as he learns he and Keir are truly meant for one another, Dash also learns that a terrible evil is brewing and it’s focused on the funeral home Keir calls home.
Keir thought Dash might have trouble accepting the truth about Keir’s supernatural powers. But dumping their romantic New Year’s plans on a moment’s notice for some motorcycle people in Italy feels like outright rejection.To add insult to injury, Dash doesn’t even bother to call. Crushed and hurting, Keir is glad to have a few rather attractive distractions. One is Detective Jay Frick, ready to swoop in and romance Keir off his feet. The other is Valentino, an attractive young model who doesn’t know he’s not exactly among the living any more. As the weeks pass without a word from Dash, it’s all too easy for Keir to imagine he really has been dumped and Jay is very willing to pick up the pieces. Keir is just starting to come to terms with Dash’s rejection when the man returns with the most fantastic story and a whole lot of heartfelt apologies. However, even as the men begin to reconcile, an accident at the funeral home leaves Keir and Dash with a growing understanding of the evil lurking right under their feet.
Dearly & Vain Valentino is the second book in L.A. Kaye’s Dearly and the Departed series. It takes place in contemporary California with a brief bit in Italy during Dash’s short crisis of emotion. Like book one, this story is told in alternating perspectives with Keir and Dash sharing the narration duties. Unlike the first installment, though, I felt there was less distinction between the two characters’ narrative voices. After they patch things up, they even start sharing similar terms of endearment for each other.
Honestly, I struggled to get into this installment of the series. From the start, I was rather skeptical of Dash’s trip to Italy. At first, I was convinced he was just feeding Keir a story to buy himself time to grapple with his boyfriend’s paranormal revelation. But no, Dash actually dropped everything on a moment’s notice to run off to Italy for the chance to buy a Ducati. Functionally, I suppose this trip served an important purpose insofar as Dash got his own paranormal abilities on this trip…but it was because he had a major accident, not because he was in Italy specifically. I suppose the Italy trip was also a chance for us to learn that Keir and Dash weren’t quite so attached at the hip, despite how book one ended. Dash is one hundred percent mulling things over and Keir ends up believing he’s been dumped and starts wondering if he should just go for the detective. Ultimately, I just thought this whole contrivance forced Keir and Dash’s relationship needlessly onto shaky ground and shows Dash to be stunningly immature (and this is the guy every other paranormal on their “team” is convinced will protect Keir from the baddies).
Apart from the messy interpersonal relationships, the plot felt confusingly chaotic. Take Valentino, for example. He is literally a titular character, yet I could not tell you what he actually adds to the story or the plot or anyone’s character development. Maybe he was meant to demonstrate that Keir can see “spirits” who aren’t strictly from deceased bodies (which may or may not be important in future books; it wasn’t the least bit meaningful here). Maybe Valentino is meant as a way to prove to Keir that Dash has paranormal abilities now because Dash can see (but not hear for some reason?) Valentino’s spirit, in addition to people’s auras. Dash’s new paranormal abilities were a black box to me, too. He can see auras and he’s being told these powers will help him keep Keir safe—yet Dash seems to constantly wear corrective glasses that prevent him from actually seeing auras. On top of that, he barely has any curiosity about what different color auras mean…like why Jay’s aura went from gray to black after a brush with something otherworldly, or why Keir’s body coler is fire-engine red and thrumming with weird energy. Maybe all these islands of plot devices will come together in future books, but insofar as this installment is concerned, these characters’ non-reactions to any of these plot elements was tedious and frustrating.
Overall, I was disappointed with how events unfolded in this story. There’s no shortage of things happening, but the only real substantive event for me was Dash sabotaging his relationship. That had a clear arc to it and I was glad to see Keir and Dash eventually patch things up between themselves (and if nothing else, they consummate their rekindled relationship often). All the other plot elements didn’t come together coherently for me. I understand there was evil afoot and the characters have varying levels of awareness about that fact. It just seemed utterly bizarre to me that no less than seven characters have otherworldly powers and connections, but not one of them bothers to have a sit down to discuss what they all know.