Beneath the Shield


Title: Beneath the Shield
Author: Diana DeRicci
Cover Artist: Deana C. Jamroz
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: Beneath the Shield Genre: Contemporary m/m romance
Length: Novel
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

A Guest Review by Feliz

Summary Review: Handsome doctor Brant wins over guilt – ridden cop Jack with patience and loving determination.

The Blurb: Jack Torres has been harboring, zealously nurturing a hidden guilt for three years. This mire of emotions has hardened his heart and his want to reconnect to the living world, keeping him isolated and unapproachable.

 
Brant Teller is a chance encounter Jack keeps from growing physically violent in a crowded nightclub. Parting ways, Brant doesn’t expect to see the brooding, silent officer again. Yet when a domestic violence call brings the surly officer right to his ER, Brant takes a chance. What begins as a Sunday of football has the possibility to become so much more. If Jack will open himself up enough to release the agony of his own personal nightmare.

The Review: When we first meet Jack, he’s in a bad mood, getting himself drunk in a gay bar on his 30th birthday. When a lover’s fight threatens to become violent right next to Jack, forcing him to intervene, Jack has had it and leaves. Outside the club, Jack comes across the quabbling couple once again and gets to watch how the seemingly weaker man lays the bully flat. The man, Brant Teller, then offers Jack a ride home, during which the viewpoint shifts and we learn that Brant feels very attracted to handsome Jack.

 
Some days later Jack is called to the local hospital’s ER on a domestic violence case. To his big surprise, the victim’s attending physician is none other than Brant,who ist likewise pleased to meet Jack again. Before Jack knew what is happening, he has agreed to spend his free Saturday at Brant’s with football and beer.

 
They have a pleasant afternoon, and  Brant finds himself more and more fascinated by Jack. The man seems to have brick walls around his heart a foot thick, which only heightens Brant’s determination.  When by a fortunate coincidence Jack manages to save Brant from violation and rape, things are forwarded to their first kiss, which soon leads to more. But Jack fails to really open up to Brant. The closer they become, the more Brant feels hurt by what he perceives as lack of trust on Jack’s side – all the more so since Brant knows he’s fallen in love with Jack. Hurt and disappointment lead to  Brant confronting Jack, and leaving in anger.

Ever since the death of his lover and work partner Leo three years previously, Jack has harbored a serious case of survivor’s guilt. When he finds himself developing feelings for Brant, he fights them resolutely as a means of his self-punishment. Yet, confronted with Brant’s ultimatum, Jack realizes he has to overcome his fear and feelings of guilt if he doesn’t want to lose the one man who has managed to worm his way into his grief-frozen heart.

I really enjoyed this entertaining, character – driven book. Both heroes were very likeable characters. As a newcomer to the city of Arbor Heights and caught in a stressful schedule as an ER doctor,  Brant recently suffered through a heavy disappointment with his latest boyfriend (the bully) and was eager for a real connection with someone else. Seemingly unattainable Jack tickled Brant’s ambition, but this turned into real emotion fast. I liked Brant’s patience, his sensitivity and concern for Jack. But Brant is no doormat, he knows what he wants and goes about it with determination, and he refuses to let Jack hide in his shell.  Although Brant is a tender lover, he can also be demanding in bed and beyond. He’s a very likely person to cut through the fog of self-blaming that surrounds Jack.
Jack was a well-drawn character too, understandably grief-stricken but with just the right amount of humor to keep him from being pathetic. Yet, I found the drastic means he resorted to in order to deny himself pleasure a little over the top. There was one particular scene where he gave himself a decent case of blue balls –  literally! –  that had me squirming in heartfelt sympathy while at the same time I laughed myself to tears at the sheer unlikeliness. Aside from this, the issue of his survivor’s guilt was respectfully dealt with and believable.

The writing was smooth and laced with slight irony at times. I liked this, although I found the phrases missed the mark at times.  I also  had some problems with the timing, though, as sometimes days or weeks passed between chapters almost unnoticeable, which conveyed an unfortunate impression of insta-love between Jack and Brant.

All in all, this was a delectable, well-written story, solid entertainment and a pleasant read. Highly recommended.

Author

Aside from owls, I love all kinds of birds, particularly the odd ones. Also dogs, Queen (the band), motorbikes and books.

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