REVIEW CONTAINS WHAT MAY BE CONSIDERED SPOILERS
Title & buy link: City Falcon
Author: Feliz Faber
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M contemporary
Length: Novel (240 pages)
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie S
Review summary: An unusual setting combined with strong characters and masses of raw, painful internal conflict make this a great read.
What on earth is a live falcon doing in the middle of JFK airport? The answer to this question brings PAPD officer Mark Bowman face to face with falconer Hunter Devereaux, right in the middle of a fascinating field experiment using falcons to keep runways free of nuisance birds. The falcons are intriguing, but it’s arrogant, out-and-proud Hunter himself who really rubs Mark the right kind of wrong. Too bad Mark can’t act on the attraction: he’s deeply in the closet, and since he wants to keep his job, that’s where he’s determined to stay.
However, every time their paths cross, Hunter gets a little deeper under Mark’s skin, until Mark can’t deny his feelings any longer. Giving in to his desire makes Mark happier than he can remember being, but Hunter isn’t willing to hide their relationship forever. If they’re going to make a life together work, something has to give. Someday soon Mark will have to choose, or life will make the choice for him before he’s ready for it.
This is the sequel to Desert Falcon, which I reviewed here a few months ago, though you don’t need to have read that story to enjoy this one.
It’s 1994, and New York ports and airports cop Mark Bowman has a surprise at work when he sees a man with a falcon walking through the terminal. Mark stops the guy, Hunter Devereaux (who’s very sexy, he can’t help but notice), and learns that both man and bird are part of a pilot programme called Falconry Against Birdstrike, in which birds of prey hunt nuisance birds like gulls and geese around JFK Airport to reduce potential problems with birds flying into jet engines.
Mark is gay but keeps himself firmly in the closet as far as work goes. His friendship with Evie, the head of the canine unit at the airport, seems safe enough as a smokescreen – she’s twelve years older than him and divorced – until they go out for dinner one night. During the meal she mentions Hunter’s good looks and obvious homosexuality, telling Mark that she thought Hunter was hitting on him. Mark reacts violently, then tries to laugh it off. Later, Evie kisses him, and though Mark thinks he should go to bed with her, he can’t bring himself to hurt her. Instead he makes an excuse and goes to a gay club for some anonymous sex, desperate to clear his head.
Mark’s interest in Hunter leads him to join the Birdstrike team for the day. He enjoys watching the birds at work and can see how it’s an important resource for the airport. He asks permission to start training with the team, and it’s not just a move to get to know Hunter. The two men dance around each other – you can feel the UST coming off the pages! – and finally they have a meal together and get to know one another outside of work. When Hunter makes it clear that he’s attracted, Mark tries to deny it. Their exchange during this scene is my favourite in the whole book:
Mark realized he was almost yelling and toned his voice down. “I don’t mind. It’s just… being gay is not exactly popular here, you know? It can get you into trouble.”
“Trouble,” Hunter echoed. “Okay. I get it.” He sighed. “What a pity. In Dubai, I could have been sentenced to death for being gay, and here, it can still get me into trouble.” He cocked his head. “What kind of trouble, if you don’t mind? For the purposes of my social education, I’d like to know what I’m facing here.”
Hunter’s flippancy sparks something in Mark, and you can really feel the emotion in the rest of this scene. They go to bed, but afterwards Mark can’t wait to run away. He can’t cope with Hunter’s openness and he doesn’t want to face outing himself. What makes it worse is that Hunter understands, and mockingly offers to refrain from jumping him if Mark comes back on falcon patrol. But Mark knows he can’t control his desires around Hunter, and he storms off, trying to forget about both the man and the Birdstrike project.
The book shows us Mark’s day to day routine, but since Hunter came into his life, Mark is seeing things differently. On patrol one day, he’s sent out to bust hookers, and while he chases one of the girls, he crosses into the gay cruising area. He stumbles across two men in the bushes, and when his colleagues arrive as back-up, instead of arresting the gay men he pretends he hasn’t seen them. Mark feels guilty for what he sees as a dereliction of his duty. His denial of his emotions is killing him but he can’t see a way out.
When he sees Hunter again he lashes out, blames him for everything. Mark’s anger is born from frustration, and he simply can’t understand why Hunter can be so accepting of his nature. But Hunter has seen a lot, been through a lot, he’s lost almost everything he had (this references events of Desert Falcon but as I said, you don’t need to have read that to follow what’s happening here as Hunter’s backstory is slowly explained as the novel progresses).
Mark can’t fight his addiction to Hunter, and they begin a relationship. Mark is continually jumping at shadows, though he finds acceptance and tolerance from unexpected quarters. But his biggest problem, the one that might just tear him and Hunter apart, is his devotion to his job. Should love come before duty? Can he live a half-life for the rest of his days and turn away from Hunter?
City Falcon is a wonderful, accomplished story. It’s what I’d call a ‘quiet’ novel, in that while big things are happening to the POV character, Mark, life around him is normal. There are a couple of big external events towards the end of the book (one of which was very startling, but brought together many things!), but mainly the story focuses on Mark and his battle to live his life on his own terms yet also to fit in with ‘normal’ heterosexual society. Mark’s fear of being outed as gay is often painful to read – this is 1994, remember, which (to me) seems only like yesterday, but it’s easy to forget just how far society has come since then in regards to gay rights and acceptance. Especially in the police force, which is hidebound at the best of times, being an openly gay cop would have been extremely difficult so I couldn’t blame Mark for keeping his private life to himself. This gives the story a lot of natural internal conflict and Faber works with it to great advantage.
The same things that impressed me in Desert Falcon are here in this longer work. The attention to detail, the obvious knowledge about birds of prey and the way they behave and hunt, the Birdstrike initiative, the way the PAPD works – it’s all so realistic, and even better, it’s shown in such a visual way, at times it was like watching an episode of a cop drama.
The attraction between Mark and Hunter is believable and electric. You can feel the sparks even when they’re just talking. The romance is taken slowly – overall the book is slow-paced to reflect ‘real life’ – and when the love scenes come along, they’re very hot and entirely in keeping with what we’ve learned about the characters.
Since the story is written wholly in Mark’s POV, we don’t see any of Hunter’s feelings, though this is one of those rare books where it doesn’t matter. Usually I prefer dual POV books but Hunter is so open as a character that it would probably have been too much to include his POV.
There’s a strong supporting cast, too. Mark’s family aren’t present, but his father and uncle cast long shadows. Evie is a lot of fun, and I also liked the characterisation of Sean, Mark’s patrol partner. Sean is a ‘regular guy’ and a homophobe. He and Mark are friends at the start of the book, but as Mark falls for Hunter and starts facing his own issues, his friendship with Sean is stretched to its limit by Sean’s continual homophobic sniping. The slow disintegration of their friendship was fascinating to watch as the novel progressed.
This is a strong, emotional portrayal of one man coming to terms with love and with himself and his place in society. The PAPD and Birdstrike project add an unusual and interesting dimension to a well rounded story. Recommended.
City Falcon is released on August 26.