REVIEW: Slow Burn by Sam B. Morgan
Dear Sam B. Morgan,
Detective Douglas Brody has only ever known the life of a cop. Raised strict but fair by his police chief father, he joined the academy right out of school, climbed the ranks hard and fast, and now works homicide for the City of Charleston. The job is his entire life. For years it’s kept him happy enough to minimize the side of him that craves what he believes is wrong. An accident on the job puts him on medical leave and everything in Brody’s world changes. He has to prove himself once more to be best cop in the department, all while dealing with Zack – his persistent, sexy, and out of the closet physical therapist.
Zack is tan skin, big grins, floppy hair and tackles his job with the same full-blown enthusiasm he does everything else. When the “patient from hell” is thrown his way by another PT who can’t handle him, Zack is committed to achieving the impossible. His new patient is a head strong and hot as hell homicide detective, who oozes as much resentment as he does sex appeal. Any involvement with a patient, especially a man who is so deep in the closet he can’t see light, is something Zack swore he’d never do. But Brody slowly proves too much to resist…
The first thing I need to say is thank you for not getting these characters together until after Brody was no longer a patient of Zack’s because: ick. There is unacknowledged attraction on the part of both men but there is also a professional respect for one another and the beginnings of a friendship. After treatment is finished, Brody asks Zack to help him out with some private personal training so that he can be in top condition when he takes the police department’s physical exam. While there was some talk of Brody paying for the personal training but if it actually happened, it didn’t appear on the page. From then on, Brody and Zack are more like friends who work out together. The men do have a clear connection friendship-wise and it was nice to see them relating about things other than sex.
Brody is a hardass, usually grumpy and very uptight. He’s so far in the closet he could visit Narnia. Being near Zack, especially after Zack gives in and kisses him (and Brody kisses him back), makes Brody want to break his own rules – no local hook-ups and only with people he doesn’t know in his real life. Zack has been badly hurt in a previous relationship where his (then) boyfriend was closeted and is reluctant to step into a relationship with Brody and be hurt again. But he soon realises it’s too late already. Zack is laid back to Brody’s uptight and he’s far more in touch with his feelings. But that doesn’t in any way make him a doormat. He stands up to Brody when they first meet and doesn’t take his garbage during treatment (and thus earns Brody’s respect). And he confronts issues with Brody head-on – something I liked very much.
There is a suspense subplot but it was the romance which was more fully developed. The suspense part of the book kind of bookends the main romance. Brody is investigating The Strangler – someone who first struck 10 years earlier (Brody found the body when he was a uniform cop so he has a special connection to the case). After Brody injures his knee chasing a suspect, his focus is on getting better and The Strangler case is on the periphery. Once Brody goes back to work, he begins to get involved in the case again and unfortunately office politics means he’s told to keep his mitts off. This, in turn, causes Brody to lash out at Zack and Zack, unwilling to be Brody’s (metaphorical) punching bag, leaves.
The denouement of the suspense plot brings about a change in Brody’s thinking and he realises that he doesn’t want to be in the closet anymore.
I felt the suspense side of things was a little underdeveloped – while I read mainly for the romance, it still felt a little tacked on to me. There were also some continuity errors which confused me. For example, Brody was told to report to work the next day but, from the text, he stayed home and worked on The Strangler case privately. There was no fallout of him not turning up to work. There were a number of these sorts of issues which didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t understand quite how Brody was allowed to just do his own thing whenever he liked. But, for the sake of the plot, that’s what appears to happen.
I did think Brody was going to fall into too-stupid-to-live territory and was very glad when he didn’t. I didn’t think it was necessary for him to credit Zack for that though – he’s an experienced cop. He should know better anyway.
Brody identifies (but only internally and very very quietly) as gay, so this is not a gay-for-you story. It is an out-for-you story. Brody’s coming out process wasn’t covered much in the book and I would have liked to have seen how he dealt with his genuine fears about how being out would affect his job.
I did like the romance between Zack and Brody however. I could see why Zack was attracted to Brody and vice-versa. It wasn’t just physical. Even though Brody is the more aggressive of the two men, when they are together sexually, Zack is the more experienced partner – (he’s more experienced in relationships too – in that he’s had them before and Brody has not. Not ever.) and there is a kind of mild D/s vibe which Brody finds he’s very into. It’s not particularly kinky but he does like Zack to be in charge and I liked the dynamic this revealed. Brody has a long way to go in terms of learning to share his feelings and emotions with Zack but I felt sure he would get there – he’s very motivated and Zack won’t let it slide.
While there were some niggles for me during the read, overall I enjoyed Slow Burn and I’m planning on reading more from you.