Title: One Day at a Time
Author: Dawn Douglas
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com;
Cover Artist: L.C.Chase
Length: Novella (62 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A slice of life, two crucial days in the lives of two men that could mark the beginning of a great friendship… or more.
The Blurb: DEA agent Pete Olivera has lived some hard times, so when a local cop is forced to shoot a teenage boy in the Indiana city Pete’s temporarily assigned to, he’s uniquely qualified to understand what Officer Joseph West is going through. Joseph’s actions were justified and saved lives—his own and those of the people around him—but knowing he did the right thing doesn’t ease his guilt.
Pete knows Joe needs to come to terms with the shooting. But neither man realized that the friendship and love growing between them would be the most important step on the journey to peace—for them both.
The Review: LA-born Pete Olivera, former Army Ranger and now DEA agent is temporarily assigned to the Evansville, Indiana Police Department as a drug-related crimes instructor. He doesn’t know Joe West, the officer who shot a 14 year old gang member in self defense, but he’s all too well aware how Joe must feel right now. It’s not Pete’s way to play good Samaritan, but Joe’s case hits too close to Pete’s own bitter experience to just let it go. So he decides to take Joe away to a place where he can help him, if not to forget, but to start coping with what happened.
Pete was prepared to meet with Joe’s reluctance to come along, with remorse, sorrow, guilt and impotent fury, which he all gets from Joe and deals with. What he wasn’t prepared for was feeling attracted to the other man, and even less, having the attraction returned. Unlike Pete, Joe is fairly inexperienced when it comes to sex with men, but definitely more than willing to broaden his horizons. Even more so, Joe has a naturally submissive side that calls loudly to Pete’s dominant tendencies. Over the course of a short weekend they spend together in a remote cabin in the woods, Joe gets to Pete, more than anyone else has for a very long time. And by the time they return, Joe hasn’t only begun to heal, but a bond has started to form between the two men that, even though it can’t be exactly called love yet, is certainly more than mere friendship.
This is a very short story, and so there isn’t much room for background information. The why’s and how’s of Pete’s assignment and the shooting are all done during the first few paragraphs, so lapidary that I had to read some sentences twice in order to get all the info that was squeezed into. But once this was out of the way, the story had some very intense and deeply emotional scenes, both within and outside the context of sex scenes. I found the connection between the two men very well done, the tension and attraction between them came alive on the pages even though there’s only one narrative perspective, Pete’s.
The writing was skilled and well-paced, though I had a small issue with the frequently used ironic metaphors that were obviously intended to add a humorous touch but to me only sounded artificial and forced. (which is likely just a matter of taste) Like here, for example:
“We both went to work, and twenty minutes later, when the sun finally waved the white flag, the cabin was warm, bright enough that we weren’t going to trip over our own feet moving around, and smelled like sizzling Spam garnished with a hint of propane.”
As I said, probably a matter of taste, others might very well love this writing style.
There’s also not a whole lot of characterization; most facts about the characters are told in inner thoughts or just stated rather than shown through actions.
Pete, the first-person narrator, is obviously more elaborated; he’s your typical hardboiled, world-weary tough guy who has his heart wrapped with a triple layer of barbed wire. Reaching out a hand of friendship to a stranger is so out of character for him that it surprises himself as much as it does Joe. He certainly didn’t mean to get attached–for one, his time in Indiana is limited, and for another, Pete may be bisexual, but he keeps his sex life carefully free of emotions. So developing feelings towards Joe definitely wasn’t on Pete’s agenda.
Joe, on the other hand, is a wholesome small-town cop, volunteer Little League baseball coach and generally good guy. He may have experimented with guys at some time, but mostly, he’s straight, as this is what a cop is supposed to be in his eyes. The awful snap-decision he had to make in order to save his and other people’s lives has thrown him off the rails, but meeting with understanding and compassion from such an unexpected source well and truely shatters him. After Pete helps him put himself back together, Joe’s view of life has shifted, to a point where he not only can see the inevitability of fate, but where he also reconsiders his picture of himself–which includes his sexuality.
By the end of the story, both men are ready to give what has started to bloom between them a chance to grow, though whether they might end of as friends, lovers, or even just as each other’s fond memory isn’t clear. It’s a true HFN ending that comes somewhat rushed and makes this short novella feel like a teaser or at least, like the beginning of something more–which I’d definitely like to read.