Rating: 2.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novella

 

It has been Jamie’s dream to travel across Europe and, while his parents are wealthy, they also believe the world outside the USA has nothing to offer. That means Jamie is on his own when it comes to funding such a trip. To that end, he decides to take a graveyard shift at a store where he will sling inventory overnight. The job just manages to fit in with his college class schedule, and gives him the hope that he will one day be able to travel abroad. The night shift crew are an eclectic bunch. There are a few troublemakers, but Jamie has learned to stay away from them. With his friend Cindy and fatherly Arnold, Jamie generally doesn’t have any problems at work. Every night it’s the same routine. Then, a mysterious new worker gets relocated to Jamie’s store and suddenly, Jamie’s eager to act on his mostly unexplored sexuality.

According to the gossip mill, Derrik is going through a terrible divorce. His ex also worked at Derrik’s former store, so a relocation was in order. Derrik is the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome, but he’s also taciturn. He keeps his head down and his lips closed. That doesn’t prevent Jamie from taking a keen interest in the mysterious man. The attention does not go unnoticed, but wary of fanning the flames of office gossip, Derrik wants to make sure they are well away from their workplace when they meet. After weeks of silent pining, Derrick and Jamie can barely keep their hands off each other. But things are not as they seem. Jamie’s home life is far more turbulent than Derrik realized, and Jamie comes to understand the man he knows as Derrik is hiding much bigger secrets.

Night Shift is a contemporary get-together story set in the present day southern United States. Our two main characters reflect a bit of an age gap situation: Jamie is in college and Derrik is old enough to have been married and gone through a supposedly messy divorce. They also have some opposites-attract energy. Physically, Jamie is rather slender and has light colored features, like blonde hair. Conversely, Derrik is described as having an “excitingly” hairy chest with long dark hair.

As far as the plot goes, the introductory chapters take place during the graveyard shift at the store where Jamie works. Haircrow goes into great detail about Jamie and his coworkers’ various tasks. However, despite all the description, I was never quite sure if this was a grocery store, a big box store, or something else entirely. Being so zoomed in on the details gave me the impression of ignoring the forest in favor of the trees. The upshot was that it created a relatively blank canvas that left me primed for just about any genre. For example, the midnight hour and the battery of supporting characters seemed like prime set-up for “last man standing” horror. Eventually, however, the story settles into a much more down to earth, slice-of-life story that centered around Derrik.

The relationship that develops between Derrik and Jamie to me felt like it came out of nowhere. The words on the page made me understand that this was not instalove for Jamie or Derrik. However, a combination of the pace of the story and how scenes were cut together made it feel like our MCs went from 0 (silent pining) to 100 (intimacy and declarations of love) in the span of a day. Specifically, once Derrik first invited Jamie out for breakfast, events flowed from breakfast to Jamie’s house to sex to declarations of love. This felt abrupt to me, especially considering Jamie admits that he identifies as gay, but has virtually zero experience with lovers. Also noteworthy, as far as anyone knows, Derrik was a straight man recently divorced from his wife.

Next, our mysterious Derrik. It’s clear that he’s not just from a different store, but from a different country. It seemed like this was being treated as a secret and a tantalizing one to Jamie, with his intense interest in Europe. When Derrik makes an offhand comment that reveals his home country, however, Jamie doesn’t make a single comment on it. It was also odd to me that there is such a big deal made out of Derrik not being American, but that facet of his character seems to be solely to make Derrik even more appealing to Jamie. Apart from the mystery of where Derrik is from, the nature of Derrik’s job becomes another mystery. This one adds a strong element of angst to the final climactic scenes, but suffers from too little detail. Specifically,

Spoiler title
Derrik is actually executing some kind of undercover work, but it’s not clear for whom
. After all the wind up about this character, the reality was an unsatisfying mishmash of random details that failed to coalesce into a coherent character for me.

Finally, I want to mention a conversation between Jamie and Derrik, where Jamie is trying to get Derrik to clarify some comments Derrik made about coworkers (asterisks my own):

“Just be careful, Jamie,” was Derrik’s cryptic response. “Be very careful. Watch out for yourself.”

Jamie looked at Derrik curiously, but the other man’s face was again expressionless, though that gaze delved into his for a moment longer as if to reinforce some point before it was turned away. When Derrik glanced back, the charming half-smile had returned.

“Not everyone who says they’re your friend really is.”

“I know that,” Jamie said, a bit miffed. “I’m not a total ret***.”

If anything, Jamie is generically painted as a sensitive waif who gets teased for being effeminate, has dreams of traveling the world, and just seems to want to do his own thing. I have no idea why this slur would appear, but it was extraordinarily off putting.

Overall, I thought Night Shift didn’t really work for me on several levels. Despite a lot of detail, there was a striking lack of cohesion that tied these details together. The pacing of the story felt rushed, especially with regard to the romance between Jamie and Derrik, robbing them of any real chemistry, in my opinion. This is one story I unfortunately am reluctant to recommend.