BETTER THAN VOLUME 1
It has been three years since Jory Harcourt deliberately took a bullet meant for Sam Kage. And it has been three years since Sam Kage walked out of the hospital and walked out on Jory, ostensibly to work undercover to find the cartel leader who ordered the hit. But Jory was conscious, though unable to speak, when Sam left and he heard him relate the other reason he was leaving. Sam would be disciplined, possibly jailed, if his relationship with Jory while he was a material witness in one of Sam’s cases came under official scrutiny due to the shooting. So Sam chose his need to be a cop over his need to be with Jory and left.
And it has been one year since Jory found out that Sam had returned, accidentally spotting him with a woman and another couple on the street. Sam had been gone for two years without a word and now he was back without a word. Just barely back on his emotional feet following Sam’s betrayal, he walks away unseen by Sam. But Jory doesn’t know that when Sam returned, Sam came to find him, only to see that Jory was in a relationship with a wealthy hotelier named Aaron Sutton. So Sam walks away, unseen by Jory. Then, a year later, Sam sees Jory alone going into a hardware store. This time Sam doesn’t walk away.
This entry in the series, “A Matter of Time, Vol 2,” is a legitimate and serious romantic suspense, not thinly disguised male/male erotica. This volume begins with Book 3, a short novella that details Sam’s struggle with Jory to re-establish their relationship and Jory’s struggle to maintain his tenuous hold on emotional stability. It is a hard-fought journey for Jory and Sam, from the moment they first meet again until the last page of Book 3.
The volume then continues with Book 4, a full-length novel that takes Jory and Sam, just barely established as a couple again, through a scenario that is essentially the reverse of what happened three years prior. This time Sam is the one critically injured. And Jory leaves Sam this time, still unconscious after surgery, to find the perpetrator. Jory finally and truly understands exactly why Sam left three years prior – he has to be true to himself and he cannot rest until he takes direct action to find who ordered the hit.
However, unlike Sam, Jory does not go completely dark. While he refuses to reveal his exact whereabouts, he stays in contact with Dane, and eventually Sam, outlining his plans and relaying the results. And thus, Mary Calmes creates a nail biting page-turner. One paragraph early on points obliquely to the identity of the murderer and, from that moment, you are terrified as you know that the murderer is closer to Jory than he could possibly imagine.
In this volume, the author tones down the unrealistic charisma with which she endowed Jory, Sam and Dane in Volume 1. And she deftly and pointedly paints a clear picture of the effects on Jory, both to his emotional stability and to his reputation, that Sam’s betrayal set in motion.
Unfortunately, just as she did in Volume 1, Calmes seems to establish her main plot line on a thin and hard-to-accept premise. In Volume 1, the story was based on an unrealistic viewpoint regarding sexual orientation. This time, Calmes bases Jory’s investigation on the supposed incompetence of the police in asking even the most basic questions regarding the appearance and actions of the attackers. Oh, please! We’re not only talking about the Chicago PD unit assigned to the case, we are also talking about a special FBI task force that is involved. It is completely inconceivable that every last one of those people are that stupid. So just as we had to do in Volume 1, we have to roll our eyes and engage our system of disbelief in order to move forward.
Now at this point, I have to declare a SPOILER ALERT. There is simply no way to explain the ruination of the book without a spoiler. Early on, before Jory went on his manhunt, he and Sam had decided to get married. This decision was emphasized by repetition over several scenes. So when the murderer was caught, did Mary Calmes use her final chapter to take us down the aisle with Jory and Sam? OF COURSE NOT! After spending an untold number of pages detailing the events of Dane’s wedding at the beginning of the volume, she spends the last chapter detailing the events of Sam’s brother’s wedding. To further extend the insult, this wedding is taking place a full year AFTER Jory and Sam get married. And the details of their wedding are simply alluded to in a two-paragraph “memory” that Jory has.
Why did Calmes skip the joy of their wedding and move forward in time to that of Sam’s brother? She did it so that she could write a “jealousy” scene. It seems that Sam and Jory have been asked by the brother to essentially stay apart during the rehearsals, parties, etc. due to the ultra religious bias against gays on the part of the bride’s parents. This enforced separation thus sets up a scenario where the stunningly beautiful maid of honor can put a full-court press onto Sam, right in front of Jory. While they have reluctantly agreed to the public separation, they have refused the request to lie about their relationship if asked and they are both wearing their rings.
And having written all these facts down for the reader, Calmes commits the final sin of faulty premises. You see, a woman on the hunt always checks the man’s ring finger. Even if that ring is inconsequential to her plans, the woman will check to see if the marital partner is in the vicinity. And there is no way, over three days of nearly constant contact, that the maid of honor would have failed to see or comment on that ring. Once that little universal truth was ignored by the author, the whole jealousy thing, coupled with the comeuppance experienced by the maid of honor, lost its punch and any possible real importance to the story. And it soured what should have been a very good end to an acceptable romantic suspense.
Cover Art from Goodreads