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REVIEW:  Slow Burn by Sam B. Morgan

REVIEW: Slow Burn by Sam B. Morgan

SlowBurn

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.

Grade:  B-

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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REVIEW:  A Reason to Breathe by C. P. Smith

REVIEW: A Reason to Breathe by C. P. Smith

Dear Ms. Smith:

I understand that this is some sort of homage and I’ll tell you I picked it up on the strength of Goodreads recommendations and Amazon message board posts because it was billed as a sexy romance featuring an older couple in the vein of Kristen Ashley.

reason to breatheThe problem is that the heroine is one of the dumbest women I’ve had the misfortune to read for a long time. KA’s women aren’t dumb.

The book starts out introducing us to Jennifer Stewart, a lifestyle reporter for a tiny Colorado town. She’s never been a reporter before but she starts insinuating herself into a serial killer crime in her new town. And apparently Jennifer is the most intellectually incurious person ever because she learns when she is researching serial killers by reading newspaper articles that serial killers like to collect trophies. Seriously, you would have to avoid all books, movies, and television shows to not know that this is a trait. Later on she learns that killers have profiles and promises to pass that two old guys (Ben and Gerry) have created. Opening then closing my mouth, it occurred to me that, that wasn’t a half bad idea. If this guy had a type, then we could figure out who in the county matched it, and feed the info to Jack.

That Jennifer thinks that Jack is so incompetent that he needs a lifestyle reporter along with two guys who have no investigative experience to create a suspect list isn’t cute or endearing; it’s insulting. Worse, it makes her look so incredibly foolish.

I don’t get why she even wants to engage in this behavior? Why does she want to make the local Sheriff mad at her? Why does she want to make her boss mad at her? Why does she think she’s a mother effing hard crime beat reporter? And does she worry at all about jeopardizing an active investigation? Of course not because her antics are supposed to be cute and charming when in fact they are stupid and irritating.

After a couple of run ins with the Sheriff (one which includes one of Sheriff Jack’s castaway women), Jennifer fears a disturbance, calls 911 and repeatedly asks for Jack to come. Why again? It’s not like she has had any positive connection with him, yet she thinks she should call up 911 in the middle of the night and beg and plead for the Sheriff of the county to come and get her?

At 9%, after two so brief encounters that you’d be barely able to call Jack and Jenn acquaitances, Sheriff busts into her house, saves her from some intruder (which I question was even there) and we get this ridiculous internal dialogue:

I took a step back as her head buried in my neck, and I’ll be damned if that didn’t wash right over me and settle warm in my gut, as the word “Mine” rang in my head. I didn’t hesitate; I wrapped my arms around her and buried my face to her ear and whispered.

I’m at 9% people.

While there weren’t any obvious misspellings, dialogue was rendered difficult to read because the action after the dialogue was often by the person NOT speaking. Frex:

“Just Jack , remember?” I smiled at that; he’d remembered this afternoon.

“So how’d it go with Naomi? You guys back on again?” He grinned slowly, and then shook his head.

Yeah, the first sentence is by the Sheriff and the second sentence is Jenn but it’s hard to tell when you are reading. I had to read it twice to make sure. This type of action after dialogue occurs a lot.

“I can be a bitch; I can eat up balls, spit them out and then trample them with my boots.” Jack’s eyebrows shot to his forehead.

Then there are the mangled sentences such as “Learning long ago that women liked to flirt and not to take offense, even though he was eating with me, it didn’t stop these women from trying to get his attention.”

Conflict was stupidly inserted because Jennifer gets  mad that the Jack the Sheriff wants her to back off her stupid investigation. She tells him that no one tells her what to do, making her look like she’s twelve instead of thirty nine.

“Jenn, research on serial killers doesn’t mean making a suspect list; that shit will get out. You and the boys back off and let me do the investigating, you hear me?”

I narrowed my eyes at Jack, and my best “excuse me” look, but of course he didn’t even flinch. I appreciated his concern , but he couldn’t dictate what I could and couldn’t do. Jack watched my reaction, and his face got hard, as well. In a staring match, Gerry chuckled and broke my concentration, saving Jack from the daggers I was spearing him with. I looked at Gerry and bugged my eyes at him; he patted me on the shoulder then turned to Jack.

But Jack seems to spend more time kissing Jenn on public sidewalks than investigating the fact that three women in his county have been killed, probably by the same man. Where’s the urgency, Jack? I mean, other than in your pants?

The whole idea that Jennifer, a newbie to the town, is fueling a serial killer’s madness and that every male over the age of eighteen is trying to engage Jack in a flesh colored sword fight renders the story farcical.

The actual relationship parts of the book aren’t bad, minus the insta-setup. It was the ridiculous romantic suspense element that undermined all the advances that were made by the emotional connection between the characters. I felt like Jenn got stupider and stupider as the book went on, placing herself in frequent situations where she needed to be saved.

The insertion of past relationships coming to haunt Jack seemed out of place as well. Dialogue like this did little to elevate the story:

“Baby, go to my office, I’ll be there in a minute.” Jenn looked at me with huge brown eyes, then nodded and headed down the hall.

“BABY! Did you call her Baby? You’ve never called me anything but Babe,” she shouted trying to pull her arm from mine, as I walked her to the front of the station.

While there were some parts of the book that were readable, a lot of the story had me cringing in a bad way. D.

Best regards,

Jane

 

 

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