Author: Kaje Harper
Cover art: Winterheart Designs
Buy link: Home Work (Life Lessons)
Length: novel/356 PDF pages/108,000 words
Genre: Contemporary/Romance/Mystery/Police Procedural
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: Good sequel which focuses more on the men’s relationship and less on mystery. A very enjoyable read.
Blurb: Mac and Tony thought the hard part was over. They’re together openly as a couple, sharing a home and building a life with their two children. It’s what they dreamed of. But daughter Anna struggles with the changes, Ben is haunted by old secrets, Mac’s job in Homicide still demands too much of his time, and Tony is caught in the middle. It’s going to take everything these men can give to create a viable balance between home and work. Especially when the outside world seems determined to throw obstacles in their way.
Home Work is the third book in Kaje Harper’s Life Lessons series (the first book was reviewed here; Breaking Cover – here). Unlike the first two books which concentrated more on one of the protagonists, this is the story of them both, their new family and challenges they are facing. Because of this, Mac’s case was in the background and, perhaps, not as well balanced with the rest of the story as was the case in the first two books. That, however, didn’t take away much of my enjoyment in the book.
Three months after the events from the previous book, Tony and Mac are trying to balance their newly found family life, their relationship and their careers. Both of the kids have a difficult time adjusting to the new circumstances: Anna misses Brenda and the rituals of her previous life, while Ben fears abandonment and has difficulties expressing his feelings. Parenthood isn’t easy for either man, but Mac’s long hours often leave Tony with the entire burden of responsibilities, making him feel inadequate.
What really worked in this segment of the book was how Ms. Harper described their struggles and how the men worked through their problems. Tony and Mac are not the perfect parents – they make mistakes, they lose patience. When frustrated Tony finally explodes, it is as realistic as it gets. Still, their mutual love is as clear as day, their stolen moments romantic and sexy. When the tempers cool down, they are able to compromise and find the best solutions for both kids and themselves. Their relationship moves forward in a way that will satisfy even the most romantic soul out there. Additionally, considering their ages and experiences, the two children are described as realistically as I have seen in M/M fiction. The characters of both Anna and Ben have grown and deepened and provided some of the more touching moments in the novel.
The author also deftly handled Mac’s situation at work and his interactions with colleagues after his coming out. One of the things I usually dislike in books is the portrayal of homophobia in law enforcement which completely disregards the reality – the time we live in and the laws as well as people’s differences. From Oliver’s discomfort to Detective Ramsey’s complete acceptance and support, Ms. Harper gives us the whole range of people’s reactions and opinions. I particularly liked how the author treated the progression of Mac’s relationship with Oliver.
The one thing that didn’t work so well or, to be fair, not as well as in the two previous books was Mac’s case. While the book did a great job to show Mac’s dedication to his job and his effort to solve the case regardless of the victim’s background, I was bothered by the use of coincidences to move the case forward (Tony just happens to know the man who knows the man who…). As I said at the beginning, in spite of being a mystery fan, I wasn’t very bothered by this because the focus of the book wasn’t on the mystery. In the end, the case provided one of the most important plot points, which I won’t disclose here, but it added another dimension to the men’s relationship and gathered their entire family around them.
I don’t know if the author plans to write more books, although the events in this book indicate that we might look forward to at least another addition to the series. Whatever happens, Home Work is a well-written novel which will certainly satisfy the author’s fans and people who enjoy this series. I really enjoyed the progress of Tony and Mac’s relationship and the insight into their family situation. If you haven’t tried this series yet, I highly recommend that you do, only make sure to start with the first book.