Somebody Killed His Editor

Somebody Killed His Editor_JoshLanyon_6553364

BUG AND WINDSHIELD

4 STARS

Christopher Holmes is an award winning, NYT best selling author multiple times over. At least he was. Now, his long-running cozy mystery series is not so popular, and Holmes’ editor has chosen not to renew his contract.

Trying to revitalize his career, Holmes’s agent has pushed him into revamping his image from that of a stodgy recluse into that of a trendy urbanite. The agent has also pressured Holmes into attending a writer’s conference at a secluded lodge upstate. There, she has arranged for a meeting with the editor to reopen contract negotiations for a new series with a more popular bent.

The only problem with this approach is that Holmes does not care to be a trendy urbanite and he doesn’t want to deal with beginner-level seminars. And he most certainly doesn’t want to write a new series that revolves around nosy cupcake bakers, smart-alecky female PI’s, bounty hunters or demons. However, Holmes doesn’t want his writing career to be over at the age of 40 nor does he want to be penniless, so he agrees to both suggestions.

He should have stayed home!

First, Holmes blows a tire during a driving rainstorm only a few miles from the lodge. Then, the wooden bridge he is crossing by foot collapses beneath him. Soon after, he discovers the barefoot body of a pajama-clad female next to the road. And when he reaches the lodge and reports his grisly find, the victim turns out to be a mystery writer who only recently savaged Holmes in a highly publicized critique.

With the bridge out and the high winds and rain, the police cannot get to the lodge. That means all the conference attendees are stuck on the premises with the body – and probably the murderer. But the body and its murderer are now the least of Holmes’ immediate worries because he is also stuck at the lodge with J. X. Moriarity. Moriarity is an ex-cop turned highly successful thriller writer. He is also a man with whom Holmes had a 3-night affair a decade ago. And that affair ended very badly.

And to add the proverbial insult to injury, Holmes’ editor turns their meeting into a public humiliation in front of all the conference attendees, including Moriarity. Holmes then mouths off a sarcastic remark about poison and drinks when the editor mockingly toasts the demise of Holmes’ career.

Sure enough, the next morning, Holmes finds his editor dead. When Holmes’ ear stud is found under the man’s cheek, the conference attendees demand that he be locked away until the police can arrive. And Moriarity does the honors.

Moriarity is probably the only person at the lodge, other than Holmes’ agent, who believes that Holmes is being framed. But Moriarity has an agenda of his own regarding Holmes. Even though it has been a decade, he has never completely resolved the aborted affair in either his own mind or in his heart. So for a majority of the book, we are wading through 10 years of misunderstandings and the resulting personal and professional acrimony between the two men. As a result, Josh Lanyon provides us with a read that is far more emotional than it is sexual.

Even though the story is told from Holmes’ POV, Lanyon portrays Moriarity as the most injured party in the failed affair all those years ago. And maybe he was, but the tack Lanyon takes with Moriarity made me grind my teeth, over and over, scene after scene. Moriarity doesn’t ask for any explanation as to why things ended the way they did. What he does is use sex as a psychological weapon and then blindsides Holmes with vicious, cruel and demeaning verbal assaults.

I have no use in real life, or in novels, for people who “shoot first and ask questions later.” It was not long into these set-ups where Moriarity claims to be helping Holmes and then proceeds to crush him to rubble that the only words I wanted Josh Lanyon to put in Holmes’ mouth were “Get the H—l away from me and don’t come back.”

However, Lanyon had other plans for Moriarity before the murderer’s identity could be revealed. A little pain, a lot of fear, and a healthy dose of comeuppance did much to level the emotional playing field between the two men. In the end, I still was not a fan of Moriarity, but there are two more books currently in the series. Perhaps, he will redeem himself.

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Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie_SamanthaKane_22612639

LOST AND FOUND

4 STARS

John Ford is lost. Oh, he knows where he is physically. He is in Mercury, NC, a small town he moved to from LA several months ago. About a year ago, Ford’s long-term partner, Steve, had been killed while on military assignment to Afghanistan. And when multiple lovers – both past and current – showed up for Steve’s funeral, Ford lost his self. The exclusive relationship that Steve had declared he had with Ford was anything but, and Ford had unknowingly lived a lie for years.

Now, in Mercury, a town where Steve once said he would like to retire, Ford has purchased a ramshackle house. There, he is trying to rehabilitate both the house and his soul with good, old-fashioned, hands on, hard work. And neither project is faring very well.

Conner Meecham is also lost. Yes, like Ford, he knows where he is physically. He’s in Mercury, NC, standing in front of his mother’s old house, the house where he was raised, the house that is now owned by John Ford. Conner lost his college education when a knee injury ended his football scholarship. Conner lost his dignity when he became addicted to the painkillers for his knee and turned to prostitution to pay for his habit. Conner lost his self to a year in jail for possession. He lost his mother to disease while he was in prison, not even able to say goodbye. And Conner lost his mother’s house to auction when he couldn’t pay for it from jail.

Now, out of jail, finished with probation and clean for over a year after voluntarily seeking rehab, Conner has come back to Mercury. He believes he lost himself here, so here is where he has come to get his soul back.

John Ford is at the end of his road, living day to day. Conner Meecham is back to the beginning of his road, living the same way. And the two men, bound to the same house, find themselves on a collision course with each other, with their pasts and with their needs for a future.

Samantha Kane has written a character-driven romance that stresses the importance of communication skills, self-respect, and acknowledgement of need, another’s as well as one’s own. The sexual encounters are appropriately placed, and are graphically but sensitively written. These scenes actually serve, not as gratuitous erotica, but as catalysts for character growth and as precursors to the various conflicts that the two men must resolve.

Even though “Cherry Pie” is a relatively short novel, coming in at less than 150 pages, it is not short on clarity or continuity. There is no murderer for our protagonists to ferret out or extra pages needed to thwart an ex-lover come to make trouble. Kane gives us just the right amount of time and space to see that losing your way as you try to get what you want may be exactly the path that helps you find what you need.

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Snowball In Hell

Snowball In Hell_JoshLanyon_10834443

“I’M NOT LEAVING TOWN”

5 STARS

Regardless of what the promotional blurb intimates, this novella is, first and foremost, an historical murder mystery and police procedural. Secondly, the story is an expose of some of the era’s concepts of what constitutes “normal” and “legal,” concepts so entrenched in the societal framework of the time that their very import is enough to drive a soul to the brink of suicide. And finally, as a result of the other two scenarios, this is a story of two men who find the beginning of peace and salvation in each other.

The year is 1943 and the place is Los Angeles. That means America is in the middle of WWII. The war is significant to the story because at least three of our characters, including the two main protagonists, have been seriously wounded in combat. And they have returned home with various scars, physical and mental. On the other end of the spectrum, the murder victim had been removed from the draft, never to see combat, because of the influence his captain-of-industry father had with the local board members.

But the year and the place carry another significance. Despite the closed eyes and turned heads often afforded to the Hollywood community and its LA offshoots, the closet door is firmly and legally shut. Quite frankly, a person of that time could be arrested just on the suspicion of being homosexual, no evidence required. And that same suspicion could end a person’s career in a heartbeat and/or have the person committed to a mental institution.

From these societal issues, Josh Lanyon constructs a full-bodied mystery. As the tale opens, LAPD Homicide Lieutenant Mathew Spain is looking down on a body that has been thrown into the La Brea Tar Pit. But for the winter cold and rain keeping the tar stiff, the body would probably never have been found. But it has been found and there is no ID on the body. Since the victim is rather expensively dressed, Spain looks over to the reporters hovering close by, thinking one of them might have some idea as to who the man is.

Spain recognizes all the reporters save one, a thin, wiry, attractive male. The lead detective for the case tells Spain that the man is Nathan Doyle, a decorated war correspondent who now works for one of the local but highly reputable newspapers after being critically wounded in the war. Spain calls over Doyle as well as the lone female reporter, and shows them the body.

The female reporter recognizes the victim immediately and blurts out the name. But it is Doyle’s reaction that rivets Spain’s attention. Doyle has jerked in surprise, he has paled, and he has tried to cover it all up.

Spain casually questions both reporters, trying not to spook Doyle any further. His experience tells him that Doyle is fudging the truth on just how he knows the victim. His experience also tells him that Doyle’s surprise contained a large element of fear, but not the kind of fear that is evidenced when a perpetrator is trapped. This was the fear of being thought guilty of something else entirely.

Spain’s war injuries may make him a quasi-administrator now, but he has not lost his field shills. It takes him less than half a day and a quiet stakeout to discover that Nathan Doyle is gay. Now Spain knows the source of Doyle’s fear. Just by knowing the victim, he will be investigated, his sexual orientation will probably be exposed and he will go to jail.

At this point, Mathew Spain has two major mysteries to solve. First is the murder of Phil Arlen, the younger son of a prominent and influential oil magnate. It seems that Arlen was a nasty little creature, a ne’er-do-well favorite son, a spousal abuser, a gambler with large debts and no money to repay, and a womanizer.

The girl friend on the side, his refusal to work a regular job and his father’s constant financial underwriting makes Phil’s wife, his brother, his wife’s brother, his brother’s wife, the gambling club’s owners and even his father very viable suspects in the murder. And to top it off, Phil Arlen had supposedly been kidnapped and held for ransom on the very weekend of his murder. And, yes, the large ransom had been paid.

So Doyle, in short order, is pretty far down the suspect list, but he is the object of Spain’s second mystery, the mystery of his own feelings. Spain has always known that he is bisexual, and he has always been protected from his leaning toward male alliances by the love he has for his wife. But with his wife dead, Spain is now ripped to the core by the depth of the attraction he feels toward Nathan Doyle, an innate pull he has had since the first time he laid eyes on the man at the tar pits.

As Josh Lanyon alternates the story between the POV of Spain and that of Doyle, we learn far more about Doyle than about Spain. Doyle is not bisexual and has none of the cultural protections that Spain has enjoyed his entire life. Lanyon brings out very clearly the uncertainty and the depression that rule Doyle’s life. Lanyon also makes it very clear why Doyle feels he must discover enough evidence to turn Spain’s official attention clearly and permanently away from him. The question of wanting Spain’s personal attention is another matter altogether.

The mystery that is Phil Arlen’s death is a well-crafted one. It is very easy to miss the clues that point to the killer’s identity amidst the lies, the screw-ups by the investigators under Spain and the emotional tension between Spain and Doyle. Throw in Christmas and its tendency to prompt suicides among people in the grip of personal trauma and the story just gets more absorbing with every turn of the page.

But as you read through this most excellent tale, always keep in mind, page by page, incident by incident, that the story is taking place in 1943. The idea of gay rights may be past the Spanish Inquisition phase at this point, but the concept is still firmly entrenched in the Salem Witch Trials construct.

Only with a firm and constant grip on the historical time frame can the reader fully understand and appreciate the terror felt by the main protagonists over their circumstances. It is to Josh Lanyon’s credit as a writer that I could understand why a gay man in that era might truly think death was a better choice than life. But the naked emotions expressed by Spain in the final scene, his plea for life, his wish for a future, are perhaps the best words that Lanyon writes in a novella full of excellent expression.

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Desires’ Guardian

Desires' Guardian_TempesteO'Riley_22446047

SECOND-BOOK BLUES

2 STARS

This second full book in O’Riley’s Desire Entwined series does not stand up well against her first. In the beginning of the novel, the storyline is strong, with just the right allusions to the events of the previous entry. We are introduced to our main protagonists who were significant but secondary characters in the first novel. In fact, Chase Manning’s role in that entry was highly important.

And then, in Chapter 4, one sentence shook the story’s foundation to its core. My first thought was that what I had just read couldn’t be right. And then my second was that O’Riley had chosen drama over context and believability. And for this reader, that is not a good thing, but more on that later.

Chase Manning and Rhys Sayer met during the course of events in “Designs of Desire.” It was not a pleasant meeting either, with Rhys slashing and cutting at Chase based on his appearance and his popularity at the club where they met rather than on Chase’s personality or philosophies.

Chase does his best to avoid Rhys from that point on as Rhys’ PI firm often does work for Seth Burns, the domestic partner of James Bryant. James and Chase are best friends, but James has become friends with Rhys also. Rather than cause the physically fragile James any undue stress or make James feel that he has to choose between them, Chase simply makes himself scarce when Rhys is around. This is actually hard for Chase because he is very much attracted to the man he has come to see as a “gentle giant” even if he is a Harley-riding ex-Marine, a private investigator and a security specialist.

Unbeknownst to him, Chase is the object of Rhys’ daydreams, too. Also unbeknownst to Chase, Rhys’ repugnant behavior toward Chase was predicated by the fact that he had just thrown out his boyfriend after catching him in his own bed with another man. And Chase just happens to look remarkably similar to his ex-lover, not only in face but also in physical size and dress.

When Rhys’ forensic IT specialist moves away, James brokers a deal with Chase to take the position. With space to pursue his own freelance consulting firm provided as partial compensation, Chase reluctantly accepts the deal.

As could be expected in this romance tale, Chase thaws toward Rhys and they begin a tentative relationship. And, as could be expected in this type of tale, an ex-lover of Rhys makes an unexpected appearance, lies are revealed, a fight ensues and so does a make-up scene. Unfortunately, in that make-up scene, Rhys calls out the wrong name at exactly the wrong time and the relationship comes to a grinding halt. And at this point, the execution of the storyline begins to fall apart, scene by scene.

DEFINITE SPOILERS FOLLOW:

The initial degradation of the plotline occurs in Chapter 4 when Chase learns of the lies that Rhys told months earlier (in the previous novel). Chase is so angry he begins throwing objects from his desk at Rhys. And that action is the beginning of the end as far as credibility is concerned, as this action is absolutely 180 degrees out of characterization for Chase.

In the first novel, Seth, in anger, throws a phone against a wall and breaks it, with James close by. Because some of James’ physical problems stem from repeated abuse, Chase lights into Seth with a vengeance and tries to get James to end the relationship. For pages, Chase goes on and on about throwing objects being absolutely unacceptable. And now, in this entry, Chase begins screaming and throwing objects at Rhys, actually hitting him in the face and drawing blood. Very dramatic but very out of character.

After this scene, a number of small-to-medium events occur – or do not occur – within the story, which cause the reader repeated pause. For instance, after Rhys calls out the wrong name, Chase flees in the night and refuses to take Rhys’ calls or respond to his texts. And, at that point, that subplot just stops. Even though they are in the same office for hours every day, Rhys never once goes to Chase and asks what went wrong, even though he wants to reconcile. And Chase does not confront Rhys about the name even though he gladly bloodied Rhys’ face over that name only hours earlier. Then, after several weeks, they are back together, having never discussed the issue at all. Chase alludes once, in a backhanded way as to why he fled, but that’s all. Sizzle, fizzle, stop.

O’Riley’s writing style deteriorates in other ways also. Transitions between scenes and chapters cease to flow smoothly. Many scenes feel disjointed as if edited for word count and the parts we need for comprehension are now on the cutting room floor.

Another point of confusion is that no one’s professional choice is ever given any substance, not Chase as an IT expert nor Rhys as a PI. Even Dal Sayer’s position and experience on the police force is washed over. We don’t actually know why any of them are qualified to do what they do, especially when they get involved in the investigation of the murders of gay men that have been disguised as suicides. This is far different from the way in which professional creds supported the events in the first novel. And since the murder investigation leads right to Chase’s doorstep, not as perpetrator but as ultimate victim, it seems that O’Riley just expects the reader to believe these guys are capable of rescuing him before it’s too late.

O’Riley’s glossing over of easily researchable issues leads to other inconsistencies and inaccuracies. For one thing, Chase is beaten unmercifully and repeatedly while bound, both hands and feet, and tightly gagged. Even though he vomits with that gag in his mouth, he doesn’t aspirate the vomit (don’t try to imitate that in real life if you intend to see tomorrow!). Even though he is kicked viciously, over and over, in the torso, he doesn’t sustain even a single cracked rib, let alone kidney or spleen bruising. Dramatic, yes; intense reading, yes; realistic, absolutely not!

Then, when the group attempts Chase’s rescue, Dal Sayer, Rhys’ cop brother, does not call for backup. Of course, had he done so, then he would probably not have been shot or ultimately wind up on the wrong side of an IA investigation. Again, O’Riley goes for drama and angst rather than believability.

Finally, there was the issue of the wristband that Chase wears. This leather band plays a significant part in the story, a subplot in and of itself as far as Chase’s backstory is concerned and as far as his ability to continue in a relationship with Rhys is concerned. Then, with the blink of an eye and a swipe of the pen, the leather band is gone. We are told, oh-by-the-way, in retrospect, in the epilogue, in the space of one whole sentence, that Rhys replaced it with a platinum band – six months prior to the events of the epilogue! So, a scene that would have actually been legitimately dramatic and emotionally fulfilling isn’t even written. Again, sizzle, fizzle, stop!

Earlier in this review, I stated that it appeared O’Riley had chosen drama over plausibility, essentially fluff over substance. I watched and read as her main storyline and subplots degenerated into events based on unrealistic or false premises, utilized inaccurate medical and police procedures and reached the point where even suspension of disbelief could not save the proverbial day. She consistently placed the need for emotionally dramatic interludes above the need to convince the reader that the drama had a legitimate basis to build on.

Based on this entry, I do not believe that I will purchase the third book in the series when it comes out. And, I hate to feel that way, because the first book in the series is absolutely outstanding!

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On Thin Ice

On Thin Ice_JessicaLee_13511458

POOR RESEARCH SABOTAGES A GOOD PLOT

3 STARS

If an author is going to write a story that takes place in the Alaskan Bush, that author needs to either spend some time in said Bush or talk extensively with several people who have. My first uneasy suspicions arose when Lee described the plane that eventually crashed. Those suspicions increased when she described the area where the cabin was located and the cabin itself, never mentioning the need for the off-grid facilities that type of area usually demands. When she described a sled that had just transported three months of supplies as barely able to carry a 200-pound man, I really furrowed my brow. But when she called a vehicle a “snowmobile” instead of using the Alaskan term “snow machine,” I knew that Jessica Lee had probably never seen Alaska by any other means than a cruise ship.

There were other obvious research errors, particularly since Lee is clear to the reader that the story takes place in northwestern Alaska. Therefore, the natural travel patterns would involve Fairbanks, not Anchorage. Also, the distance between the Bush area and North Carolina is repeatedly referred to as 3000 miles and that one of the main protagonists travels this pattern several times in just one day. By car or by plane, 3000 miles will only get you from North Carolina to Washington State. And then you need to traverse Canada and the Yukon before you climb almost the entire state of Alaska to get to the region described – closer to 5000 miles than 3000. And that one day of travel? Even by plane, it’s at least two – one day to get down to the Lower Forty-Eight and another to get to North Carolina. Lee didn’t need to visit Alaska to get these facts straight. All she needed was a good map and the Delta Airlines website.

And then there are the editing errors. Missing words, misspellings, and incorrect words abound. And please, using the word “prostrate” instead of “prostate” in this genre is absolutely inexcusable.

Once you filter out the geographical and the cultural inconsistencies, the storyline is fairly substantial. Silas Murdock is the alpha for a pride of lion shifters in North Carolina. He is returning from a hunting expedition in the Alaskan Bush when one member of his party attempts to kill him but shoots the plane’s pilot instead. Though not a pilot himself, Silas tries to get the plane under control. But without sufficient altitude and with too great an airspeed, the plane crashes.

Dr. Theodore Lucas is nearly mowed down by the plane as it careens over his cabin. After arriving at the crash site, he finds only one survivor, Silas. Theo hauls Silas back to his cabin and is successful in treating his injuries. Himself a wolf shifter, he can tell that Silas is also a shifter, but he cannot tell what kind.

When Silas regains consciousness three days after the crash, he realizes two things – he doesn’t know WHERE he is and he doesn’t know WHO he is. And Theo realizes one more thing – Silas doesn’t know WHAT he is.

The remainder of this short novella revolves around the relationship that develops between Silas and Theo. The fight scenes and the shifter sequences are well done, concise and realistic. The sexual encounters are appropriately placed in the storyline and, while explicit, are neither crude nor gratuitous in nature.

Because of and through their relationship, Silas regains his memory and learns the identity of his enemy. Because of and through their relationship, Theo learns to deal with a past circumstance that had him leaving his Bush medical practice and his wolf pack. And both learn about second chances and the transcendence of love over genetics.

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But For You

But For You_MaryCalmes16007018

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT FAMILY

3 STARS

As we begin this book, the last in the saga of Jory Harcourt and Sam Kage, the story line has advanced about four years since the events of “Bulletproof.” During these years, Jory and Sam have adopted two children, a boy and a girl, from countries outside the US, have rescued a psychotic cat from the shelter and have bought a home.

The first pages introduce us to the children and their histories while Jory is getting them ready for school. As he is returning home from dropping them off, Jory finds himself in a traffic gridlock. While helping a frightened woman with a baby, he finds himself caught between a pedestrian swinging a tire iron and an irate driver swinging a fist. With multiple but minor injuries, Jory winds up in the ER.

When Sam enters the cubicle that contains both Jory and his attending physician, both Sam and Jory get their respective worlds leveled. It seems that the doctor, Kevin Dwyer, had been Sam’s lover for three months during Sam’s two-year undercover op in Columbia. But years ago, after the op, when Sam and Jory reconciled, Sam did not tell Jory about Dwyer, just admitting to a few one-night stands instead. And now, Kevin makes no secret of wanting Sam back 

At this point, and we are only on the first page of Chapter Two, the book begins its inexorable slide downhill into mediocrity. First, the promotional blurb for the book builds this ex-lover angle up as a serious emotional threat to Jory. Nothing could be further from the truth. Within five pages, Sam has explained all – not only the relationship but the very plausible and realistic reason for the lie of omission. And Jory is satisfied, no tantrums, no running, no ultimatums. Even as the doctor crops up repeatedly in the storyline, he is never an emotional threat to the Harcourt/Kage relationship.

The next point deduction comes from the slant the book takes after the “good doctor” scenario is resolved. An ongoing case for Sam becomes violent and that violence spills over onto Jory and the children. But instead of developing this case in detail, Mary Calmes shoves Sam into a quasi-undercover role, pulls the case away from the reader and focuses on Jory’s day-to-day struggles while Sam is gone.

And in doing so, Calmes converts a romantic suspense into a self-help manual for gay male couples raising children. She covers everything from temper tantrums, pranks in school, and corporal punishment to blatant relationship questions, homophobic jabs in front of children and physical abuse by teachers and the parents of peers. While as a parent and as a teacher with 30 years in the classroom, I agree with virtually every point she makes, that was not what I thought I was paying to read.

And finally, Calmes did, near the end of the novel, what seems to be her classic trademark in this series: she crafts an emotionally laden scenario that is based in a blatantly false premise. In this instance, we learn that the current events involving Sam go all the way back to the first pages of the first book in the series, 13 years in the story’s past, to when Jory is witness to a cartel murder. The drug kingpin, who slipped from Sam’s grasp during that long ago Columbian undercover operation, has tried to kidnap Jory twice. The multi-agency task force is 99% sure of the real identity of the kingpin, so they convince Jory to let himself be “taken,” wired for sound, in an attempt to get the kingpin to incriminate himself. As expected, the kingpin’s ego takes over, Jory gets the confession, and the task force immediately moves in. And here is where Calmes makes it all go wrong – Jory is handcuffed along with the bad guys and put in a small room with the kingpin and several of his associates.

Oh, please! In the first place, every task member knows who Jory is and why he is there – they escorted him there! He would not have been handcuffed; he would have been escorted out, de-wired, and de-briefed. Secondly, none of the suspects would have been allowed within earshot of each other, let alone dumped into the same holding area, so that supporting alibis could not be manufactured. And thirdly, the victim – Jory – would hardly be forced into the same room, particularly handcuffed, with the person who had tried to kidnap and murder him. But Calmes did all of this just so that Jory could have the emotional last word regarding Sam.

At this point, I believe I’ll pass on any other books by Mary Calmes. Even though I enjoyed the saga of Jory and Sam in the broad sense, I don’t want to pay good money for, nor invest precious reading time in, further works using literary devices that mock the reader’s good sense and intelligence.

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Bulletproof

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“YOUR GUARDIAN ANGEL IS OVERWORKED AND WAY UNDERPAID”

5 STARS

It has been three years since the events of “A Matter of Time, Vol 2.” Jory’s graphic design business has failed in the sluggish economy and he now has a job with an event planning company that he hates. To top it off, Sam has been undercover – gone without a word – for the last four months. Needless to say, Jory is not in a good place mentally.

So, in the space of two days, Jory makes three bad decisions. First, against company rules, he and one of his workmates slip into an event his company has coordinated. While there Jory stumbles upon several thugs attempting to throw a young man over a balcony railing. Creating a distraction, he affects the man’s release. This will lead to Jory learning the next morning that the host of the party has somehow, himself, sailed over the balcony.

Secondly, that next morning, while evaluating the home of a client for an upcoming event, Jory speaks his mind, without filters, leaving the client and his team with mouths agape. This will lead to him being unemployed by the following morning.

And thirdly, that same morning, the young man he saved from the high dive, Eddie Liron, shows up again. It seems that Eddie’s brother, Cristo Liron, wants to meet Jory and thank him personally for his assistance with the situation the previous evening. Even though Dane has warned Jory that Cristo is a drugs and arms dealer masquerading as a construction company owner, Jory decides to meet with him anyway. This will lead to Jory coming face-to-face with Sam who is posing as a smuggler trying to make a deal with Liron.

The Rule of Three is in effect now and not in a good way. Three poor decisions, three major consequences, and Jory is not only in for the fight of his life, physically, emotionally and professionally, he has Sam’s life in his hands, too.

At this point, Mary Calmes takes us on a roller coaster ride of emotions and events. For all practical purposes, Jory is the only storyline in this entry. Sam is physically absent for most of the book, but his emotional presence is on every page, a presence that drives Jory to survive and to grow. Having to maintain Sam’s cover, at all costs, in order to keep them both alive, Jory finds himself re-evaluating his professional future, the manner in which he deals with his acquaintances, and his image as others see him. And with Sam’s physical life at stake and Jory’s whole concept of life at stake, Calmes writes a coming of age tale that rings true.

Another thing also rings true – the traumatic injury detailed in the final scenes of the book. Lest the reader think that this is just a fictionalized literary device used to dramatically seal Jory’s and Sam’s relationship, as Calmes has been want to do in previous books, this one is not fictional. I suffered the same injury some years ago, different cause but the same injury. My prognosis was exactly as Calmes explains. And my end result was exactly the same as she writes and within almost the same time frame.

Good research, good premises for the various scenarios, good book.

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