THE BEGINNING FOR HARCOURT AND KAGE
Jory Keyes is the personal assistant to Dane Harcourt, a renowned Chicago architect. Twenty-two years old, Jory has survived being abandoned, then orphaned, and then years of foster care. Working for Harcourt since graduating high school, he has put himself through college with a degree in graphic design. However, his duties for Harcourt have little to do with his degree work and everything to do with managing the famous architect’s time.
One day, after work, Jory agrees to retrieve his friend Anna’s dog from the home she has fled. Just as Jory locates the dog, Anna’s abusive husband returns with several companions. Hiding behind the curtains, he witnesses the husband murder one of the companions. The gunshot startles the dog, Jory trips and his presence is discovered. Running for his life, he flees right into the net of a vice squad sting. And, it is there, sprawled on the ground with a dog licking his face, that Jory meets Vice Detective Sam Kage for the first time.
As the only non-cartel witness to a murder, Jory is pressured by Kage to go into protective custody until time to testify. Jory refuses and finds Kage on his doorstep daily, trying to persuade him otherwise, particularly when attempts are made on Jory’s life. Openly gay, Jory finds himself attracted to the detective who appears to be straight. And Kage, who has never been involved with a man, finds himself overwhelmingly attracted to Jory as he tries to keep him alive.
A legitimate romantic suspense, rather than disguised male/male erotica, this is a story that is played out over six novellas / short novels. This entry, “A Matter of Time Vol 1,” contains only Book 1 and Book 2. So be warned that, at this point, there is no HEA on the last page, far from it, in fact.
In Jory, Mary Calmes writes a character that is well received by his peers, with a personality that is charismatic. In fact, Ms Calmes writes him as overly so, with everyone he meets, male or female, gay or straight, draping themselves over him, hanging onto him, complimenting him on his physical beauty. Every man he meets wants to take him to bed and every woman he meets want to take him to the kitchen
But the writer extends this character trait to the other male protagonists also. Sam Kage and Dane Harcourt, although very different in physical appearance, social standing, wealth and personality, are each written as people that attract women like pollen attracts bees. In fact, the people who are written into the scenes with Jory, Sam and Dane are so effusive, so clingy, and so enthralled so quickly that their constant fawning becomes quite annoying and gets old quickly.
But beneath this superficial glitter, Calmes writes a character in Jory who knows what he wants, what he doesn’t want, and when he says “no,” he means it. He explains himself once, then walks away quietly if pressured to change his mind. While others interpret this action as being that of an overly sensitive drama queen, it is far from that. Being comfortable in his own skin, he doesn’t confront, he doesn’t challenge, he doesn’t beg. He just leaves.
However, in Sam Kage, Calmes writes a character that I find very difficult to like, in spite of her attempt to endow him with a commanding presence. He is loud, he is angry, and he is domineering as opposed to being dominant. He sets a standard of expectation for Jory by which he is not willing to abide himself. And his words and actions are polar opposites.
Regardless of whether I like the character of Sam or not at this stage of the series, I am more uncomfortable with several other devices. First is the charisma issue. Secondly, the premise that a man who has lived to be 34 years old, and who has spent most of his hormonal life engaged in predominately male-oriented sports and careers, is just now suspecting that he may be bisexual is a bit unbelievable. Using a closeted cop for Sam’s character would have achieved the same type and level of personal conflict and would have rated much higher on the reality scale than a straight-one-day-gay-the-next scenario.
While the set-up of Sam’s situation may feel forced, Jory’s is not. While the secondary characters around Jory may act like pod-people in their mindless adulation, Jory himself is an intelligent soul. He is flawed and he is alone but he is quite self-aware. He is loyal to his friends, he cares about others’ feelings, and he cares about his own. He is selfless on one hand and self-protective on the other. So, forced set-up and caricatures aside, Jory is worth reading about.
Cover Art from Goodreads