Reviewed: June 15, 2012
Genre: LGBT-M/M Contemporary Romance
Series: N/A ~ (Non-Series / Stand-Alone)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 200 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Dreamspinner Press via NetGalley.
This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
After three years, Detective Kurt O'Donnell knew that he and his partner wouldn't be starring in any buddy cop movies any time soon, but he thought he knew the man, trusted that Ben was a good cop and had his back. Then a tip Ben gets goes as bad as a tip can go and the building they are entering explodes, killing Ben instantly and sending Kurt to the hospital. He's lucky to survive.
It isn't until Ben's funeral that Kurt starts to realize just how little he knew about his stoic partner, including the fact that Ben may have been gay. When Kurt reaches out to Ben's family and goes to his house to speak to the person he suspects he'll find, he comes face to face with the broken and grief-stricken Davy Broussard. Ben's other partner.
Upset not only because his partner of three years had kept so very many secrets from him, but because of how wrecked the poor young man is over his loss, Kurt reaches out to Davy and slowly befriends him as he pulls him back from the ragged edges of despair. In so doing, Kurt doesn't just learn more about his partner, a man he is no longer sure he would have liked had he known who Ben really was, but he learns so much more about himself than he had ever bargained for.
As time passes and Davy slowly heals, a strong friendship forms between the two men. A friendship that starts to unsettle Kurt when thoughts of Davy start to invade his dreams and his fantasies. And when Kurt realizes his body isn't responding to a very blatant sexual invitation by a very gorgeous woman, but the thought of Davy stirs him in all sorts of carnal ways, he gets very nervous.
Kurt has lived his whole life believing he's straight. But what if he's wrong?
This was a very sweet, if relatively uncomplicated romance. Kurt is the focus of the story, and the journey he takes from beginning to end is fraught with life changes and personal angst. A lovely depth of character adds solid definition to Kurt as he goes from feeling content with his life and job and secure in his partnership with Ben at work to having the ground yanked out from under him and everything he thought he knew about himself brought into question.
It wasn't a sudden transformation, and kudos to Burn for taking it one step at a time throughout the story. Kurt has to deal not only with his own injury on the job, but the death of his partner, then the realization of every piece of information that Ben had kept from him. The hits just seem to keep piling up and knocking Kurt down, drawing his own judgement into question.
More than any of the romance elements in the story, Kurt's evolution into the man he truly is was a plot-driving tour de force. I found his calm caring for Davy, the solid, steady presence he becomes in his life, and the deft concern he showed for Davy's grief was very appealing to me. It seemed organic to the character and the situations Kurt gets into and the life he'd led to date. Being the baby of a large family has had an effect on Kurt, and the comfort he gets from assuming a caretaker role for Davy had psychological implications that were nicely addressed.
I wasn't nearly as fond of Davy as a character or a romantic interest, though that's no fault of Burn's. When we first meet Davy in more than a passing fashion, it's over three weeks since Ben was killed and Davy is still so devastated he's barely functioning, not eating, and looks dangerously close to potential suicide. He hasn't shopped for food, hasn't paid bills, hasn't looked through Ben's paperwork or answered any of the letters or phone calls from Ben's lawyers. He just unplugged and caved to his desperation.
It's a long time before Davy really starts to get his feet under him and be his own person. Kurt takes care of him for a while. That level of weakness, spread over weeks, then months, was a problem for me on a very intrinsic level. It's not only that Davy is less masculine than I prefer in my M/M romance, though that's an issue. It's his abject helplessness, however, that bothered me the most.
Damsels in distress and other weak personalities, be they male or female, are a personal bugaboo of mine and always cause me trouble when I'm reading, even when they're well written or the characters have some cause. That is especially true when they are a main character or one half of a romance relationship whole. Davy's initial helplessness could be forgiven for the grief, but after almost a month he should at least be able to shower and get himself to work or feed himself. Maybe help his struggling sister, who has health problems because of her pregnancy. There were just too many things about his character that bothered me too much to be able to really like this story, even with as happy as I was with Kurt.
The story as a whole was well written, though, with enough emotional complexity to appeal to me. I'm certainly interested in other books by Burn. Personally, I'd love to see Kurt's brother Ian given a turn to star in his own book and find his HEA. I liked him, and his revelation at the end needed further discourse. Here's hoping Burn gives it to us.
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