Title: By The Numbers
Author: Chris Owen and Tory Temple
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: 55K words, 188 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: A nicely written story but the dogs had a bigger role at times than the MCs.
The last thing Nathaniel, aka Deuce, expects to see when he gets home from work is his street jammed with fire engines and police cars. When he realizes that it’s his apartment building that’s on fire, Nathaniel can only think of one thing: his pregnant dog, trapped inside.
When firefighter Trey Donovan delivers Nathaniel’s unharmed dog to him, Nathaniel is exceedingly grateful. After all, it isn’t every day that he meets muscular, attractive rescue workers. Nathaniel manages to find out where Trey’s station is with the idea of saying thank you and offering him a puppy, but discovers that he and Trey have something else between them that needs exploring.
Trey, however, has responsibilities that could prove to make that exploration difficult. He has shift work to contend with. His seven year old daughter is a priority, plus he shares custody with his less than friendly ex-wife. Since Nathaniel is the new owner of one dog and six puppies, and doesn’t even have a place to live, he isn’t exactly in an ideal situation to explore a new relationship. Even if it is with a hot, handsome fireman.
Can Trey and Nathaniel find some common ground amid the yapping of puppies and Trey’s complicated family life?
By the Numbers Series
I love Chris Owen’s writing so when I saw this book that she co-authored with Tory Temple I grabbed it, thinking it would be a wonderful story and maybe another 9-1-1 which is one of my favourite comfort reads and has been for years. Firemen and puppies – how could it miss? However I thought that By The Numbers lacked excitement and it failed to hold my interest. There’s nothing really wrong with the book that I can put my finger on but …
I’m a huge dog lover and the opening scene is one that would break any pet owner’s heart – A dog trapped in an apartment fire with the owner looking on helpless to do anything but hope, until a hunky fireman rides to the rescue on his steed to save the pregnant dog’s life. The owner is so grateful he shows up at the fire station a week later to thank the fireman for his heroic rescue and offer him a small token of his appreciation – a puppy. The two men find out a few days later that they have something in common, they are both gay. So far so good.
What could go wrong with a story that had such promise? For me in part it was way too much puppies. The story was so focused on the puppies that the authors forgot who were supposed to be the stars, Trey and Deuce, until it was time for sex. At 20% of the book it was still all about the care and feeding of the puppies. In addition to the puppies there was a sub plot with Trey’s daughter which detracted a bit more from the main plot, the romance between our two MCs, and then there was the usual bitchy ex wife who had never recovered from being dumped and blamed the divorce on Trey’s sexual orientation. I wish that the ex wives/girlfriends in these books would be given a break at times and portrayed positively as women who had moved on with their own lives and didn’t stomp on their ex’s balls for fun. I also wish that Holly wasn’t referred to as a “hose-hopper” which is an offensive term for women who sleep with any firefighter. However, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Trey had been a fireman since he was 23 and he was in the same job 15 years later. He had been married for 8 years, divorced 2, and shared custody of his 7 year old daughter Lacey with his ex Holly. He had never dated other than a few women and his ex when he still considered himself to be bi so his world was quite different to Deuce’s who had been out for a long time. Deuce had no baggage to speak of, and other than his job as a project manager/website builder his only other responsibility was Q his pregnant dog.
After the fire Q, her 6 puppies and Deuce were staying with a friend in his guest room until Deuce’s apartment could be repaired. Trey rides to the rescue again when he sees Deuce’s crowded living quarters and offers to have him stay in his guest room, with attached bathroom and a backyard for the puppies. All very convenient but I would have thought that Trey might have investigated Deuce to be sure he was not a serial killer (okay I exaggerate a bit here since he was one of the heroes and could not therefore be a serial killer 🙂 but he could have had a criminal record), before offering to share his house since his daughter would be staying there.
Of course they fall in love but even that didn’t light any fires (sorry :)) for me.
There was a lot of filler that didn’t interest me, such as a lengthy and detailed list of Trey’s duties when he took Deuce on a tour of the fire house and showed him all the nice shiny fire equipment, the sleeping quarters, kitchen etc. and told him how much underwear he wore each shift. I also suppose their names were intended to be cute – Trey, Deuce, and the puppies Six and Pi.
The characterizations were the usual “opposites attract,” but instead of Trey the firefighter being the alpha in the relationship he was a softer version of what most people assume a fireman would be like, which was refreshing, while Deuce was the opposite, and Trey didn’t push for sex immediately but once he and Deuce started sharing the house no surface was safe, not even the fire truck. 🙂 The sex was frequent and repetitious and in my opinion it didn’t advance the plot.
Chance from Heat and Flashover by Tory Temple was Trey’s captain which added another layer to the story.
To summarize, I didn’t find the plot and characters engaging enough although the MCs were well drawn and there were occasional flashes that reminded me of other books I loved by these authors. Because there were so many distractions and sub plots (the adorable puppies, Lacey the perfectly behaved daughter, the horrible ex) it seemed that the MCs didn’t have an opportunity to grow during the story and the only real conflict centered around the ex. Although this is a pretty long book, at the end I didn’t feel as if I knew Trey and Deuce other than superficially.
The writing was good and if you love puppies and stories about firefighters you will probably like By The Numbers, but it wasn’t my favourite book by these two writers.