Title: Beginnings and Ends
Author: Suzanne Brockmann
Publisher: Random House
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Short Story/approximately 35 pages
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Review Summary: This well executed short is not a standalone and would be of interest to fans of Robin and Jules of the Troubleshooters series.
In this original short story, available exclusively as an eBook, Brockmann returns with two of her most beloved characters from the Troubleshooters world: Jules Cassidy and his husband, Robin.
After years of playing the tormented actor, Joe Laughlin, on the hit television show Shadowland, Hollywood star Robin Chadwick Cassidy is ready for a change. Joe’s character embodies the real demons of Robin’s past—his struggle with his sexuality, his battle with alcoholism—and portraying the part has taken a heavy toll on his personal life.
Robin’s husband, FBI agent Jules Cassidy, has noticed the strain and will do whatever he can to make Robin happy. And what Robin has in mind will forever transform his career, his marriage, and his family.
While the title is appropriate as this is about the beginning of one life and the end of another, the story is more of an interlude in the lives of Jules Cassidy and his husband Robin Chadwick than a full fledged short story.
Beginnings and Ends opens with Robin’s television character in Shadowland, Joe Laughlin, being given an ultimatum by his manager Richie West – marry the “beard” he had been escorting to high profile public functions for several weeks to squelch rumours about his sexuality, or his acting career would be over. To show that he meant business and that he wasn’t taking “no” for an answer Rich had already sent out a press release announcing the upcoming wedding, without first informing Joe, who had no option but to go along with this form of blackmail if he wanted to keep his job. If he balked, Rich, who seemed to be pretty powerful in Hollywood, would see to it that he never worked as an actor again.
The stress of acting as Joe for years had taken a toll on Robin mainly due to the similarities between his television character and his real life as a recovering alcoholic. Playing the challenging role of a closeted drunk every day who also abused drugs and was not the most likable person was getting to be more and more difficult for Robin, to the point that it was affecting his health. He didn’t want to act as Joe anymore because the stress was also affecting Jules who loved him deeply and hated to see him so devastated every day after rehearsals. Obviously this situation could not be allowed to continue or it might even send him back to the bottle.
If you expect a lot of Robin and Jules in this short you would be out of luck as almost 50% is about Robin’s t.v. character, Joe Laughlin, a role that mirrors Robin’s continuing battle with addiction. The way Ms Brockmann managed to shift seamlessly between the two characters, Robin’s past, his television persona as Joe, and his RL present day character as actor and husband was cleverly done and her message was clear.
The characters are by no means as fully fleshed out as in the series due to the length of this story, but there is growth because of the decisions they made to resolve Robin’s career issues. Would he continue in the role of Joe which was killing him, or seek another path? Robin’s scary solution moved the yardstick of their relationship in a direction that Jules never anticipated but this was apparently something that Robin had been mulling over for quite some time.
What I liked about the story was it showed how Robin’s television role and his RL could easily have followed a similar trajectory, but I also thought that everything was resolved much too easily (I can’t say any more as that would be a huge spoiler). The love between the MCs was realistically portrayed during an emotionally charged sex scene which was more sensuous than explicit and showed in a few pages how much they cared about each other.
If you buy this book because you’re craving more of Jules and Robin together, be aware that you’ll get a lot more of the imaginary Joe of Shadowland fame who takes up a disproportionate number of pages of this short interlude. In addition, this book is marketed as a 50 page short when in reality it’s about 35 pages (approximately) and the rest of it is taken up with excerpts from previous or upcoming books. Beginnings and Ends was apparently written because Troubleshooters fans had begged the author to write them a new story about Jules and Robin and they got their wish, but maybe not exactly what they were expecting.
While I felt that there wasn’t a lot to this story in terms of content, it was well written and Ms Brockmann delivers as only she can. Given the context and the reason for this story, I’m recommending it but only if you’re a fan of Robin and Jules and the Troubleshooters series since it is not a standalone.