A guest review by Buda
Summary Review: A somewhat misleading blurb and many, many issues contributed to a disappointing read.
In high school and through their first year of college, Jase Thoman and Matt Lester were best friends and lovers. But then Matt’s family moved across country, Matt transferred to another school, and the pair eventually drifted apart.
Now, ten years later, they meet again by chance. Jase is a private investigator, desperate to find his kid brother, Donny, who, in addition to two other teenage boys, has mysteriously disappeared after last being seen at a local gay bar. Matt is an undercover police officer brought in on the case by the local police department in the hope he can succeed where they have so far failed.
Matt is the only man Jase has ever really loved, but ten years is a long time. They’re not the same people they once were, and when Matt tries to pick up where they left off, Jase takes a step back. His first priority is finding his brother, yet he appears to Matt like a deer caught in the headlights of a vehicle with little or no chance of escape—confused, unsure, and at the same time, positive whatever he does will be the wrong thing.
Can Matt help Jase solve the mystery of his brother’s whereabouts, while also convincing him to give their relationship a fresh start?
When first we meet Jase, he is in a local disreputable gay bar, Rafe’s, investigating the disappearance of his younger brother and two other teenage boys, all of whom were last known to have been in that bar, despite all being underage. Jase is a private investigator who is attempting to solve the mystery of his brother’s disappearance on his own time, since it appears the local police have reached an impasse. He is following up on an anonymous call tipping him off to the possibility that there exist more than two exits (the main entrance and the delivery door). While waiting for the bartender to take his drink order, he watches what he presumes to be a young hustler at the bar. The hustler is clearly unwashed with glittery eye shadow, chipped black nail polish, a sequined top (with some of them about to fall off) and skintight jeans. Jase, feeling sorry for the down-on-his-luck kid, offers to buy him a drink. And here’s where the whole story begins to unravel for me.
The street urchin is, in actuality, Jase’s long-lost college lover and current police officer (in another town), Matt. It seems Matt is on sort of a special assignment in the bar. He’s been brought in as a pair of outside eyes, charged with finding answers the local police cannot. Despite being undercover as part of the band (hence the grungy appearance), he breaks cover as soon as Jase offers him the drink, even though it is clear Jase has no idea who Matt is. After all, it has been ten years since they’ve seen one another.
As the story progresses, it is clearly the story of Matt and Jase’s reunion. Both men are still in love with the other, but Jase is more hesitant than Matt to start things up again. Matt lives in another town, they’ve been separated for ten years, and they may have grown into adults who have very little to nothing in common, so why should Jase risk his heart on the off chance he and Matt can recapture what they once had. Yet, Matt is persistent and Jase’s defenses where Matt is concerned are minimal at best.
The romance is sweet and, except for Jase’s initial reservations, angst-free. Unfortunately for me, that translated into not having any driving need to see them together. There was nothing for me to lose if they simply went their separate ways at the end (or at any other part) of the book. Sadly, this means that the many, many issues I had with the book far outweighed the possibility of a happy ever after.
These are my issues, so hopefully they won’t bother you if you read the book, but I want to forewarn those of you who have similar tastes to mine. First, Matt breaks cover at the first opportunity, which strikes me as incredibly bad police work. Second, there were some particularly bad turns of phrase, such as this one that reminded me of a horrific Tori Spelling Lifetime movie, “Jase was an adult, and if he wanted to flirt with danger, that was his business.” Then there’s Jase’s bubble-gum chewing secretary who reminded me of Flo from the TV show Alice. When Matt shows up at Jase’s office to apologize for the argument they got into that first night, Teri pokes here head into Jase’s office:
“There’s a man here who wants to see you, boss,” she announced around the fat wad of gum Jase kept asking her to lose. “He’s really cute, but he doesn’t have an appointment, and he won’t give me his name. Want me to tell him to get lost?”
Really? At a private investigator’s office, someone might not want to give his/her name? Mightn’t he be a potential client? Why was she so eager to get rid of him? Methinks Jase needs to find a new secretary–quickly!
Aside from the numerous little quibbles I had with the book, two stand out. Matt tells Jase that, while he’s on assignment undercover to investigate the disappearances of the three boys, he has not only not seen the case files, but he didn’t even know Jase’s brother, Donny, was the first to disappear:
“Maybe so, but I haven’t seen the files. The chief doesn’t like mysteries, and he wanted a fresh face with a fresh eye and a completely open mind. He figured if someone who hadn’t worked the case previously and knew none of the details hung around Rafe’s for a few weeks, there was a chance he might pick up on something everyone else has missed.”
What sort of police department would put one of their men undercover in an obviously dangerous situation without even the slightest idea what to expect? Matt actually explains this twice in the book, and Jase takes it at face value, not questioning it either time.
Second, and most important to me, was that the pair didn’t even begin investigating the disappearances until the 64% mark. The blurb had led me to believe that this would be a good old-fashioned mystery that I would enjoy solving along with the guys. Not the case at all. Their first clue comes at 69% and it’s all over except for the cleanup by 91%. There are no red herrings, no false starts and no dead ends. These boys are pretty smart, because it all worked out exactly the way they theorized (endlessly).
In the end, I was disappointed with this book. The characters are only mildly interesting, not stand-out. The mystery is almost non-existent. For me, the niggles were more memorable than the story itself. Recommended to fans of the author, those who don’t like angst, and those who prefer the romance to dominate the mystery.