Author: James Buchanan
Cover Artist: Winterheart Designs
Publisher: MLR Books
Genre: Contemporary M/M/Police procedural/BDSM
Length: 123K words
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Review Summary: Secrets are revealed that could end Joe’s relationship with his family and negatively impact his love for Kabe, but love triumphs in the end.
Joe and Kabe must lay the ghosts of the past and bring closure to a family scarred by loss to move forward in their life together.
Some families are haunted by tragedy. Some people are haunted by their pasts. Some men are haunted by who they are. Joe Peterson is haunted by all three. His parents’ return from their mission, combined with a family reunion, forces Joe’s kin to deal with his new life: out of the Mormon Church, out of the closet, and living with his lover Kabe. When a decades-old murder of a child lands on Joe’s desk, digging into it dredges up long buried truths and festering secrets about folks Joe thought he knew — including Kabe. Joe and Kabe must lay the ghosts of the past and bring closure to a family scarred by loss to move forward in their life together.
I really love James Buchanan’s writing and Deputy Joe is one of my favourite M/M characters. Laying Ghosts is the third book in this series and it covers a lot of ground after Spin Out which was released in 2011 and reviewed by Feliz here.
I met Deputy Joe in 2009 in Hard Fall reviewed here and I’ve been in love with him ever since. He is authentic, honest, a good ‘ole boy, unsophisticated, driven, loves his parents unconditionally, and his voice is so distinctive I feel as though I have met him at some point in time. His back country speech, thought patterns and approach to life permeated every aspect of the book effortlessly, making him seem real. There’s one person for whom he would do anything – Kabe Varghese, his ex con boyfriend who holds his heart in the palm of his hands.
In Laying Ghosts Joe faces the daunting task of telling his parents who are returning from Russia after 2 years on a mission, the secret he has never revealed to them before, that he’s gay and to complicate matters he’s living openly with a man. The fact that he has been excommunicated from the Church is almost incidental in terms of everything else that’s going on in his life, as he has to bring them up-to-date with other important events such as the serious accident from which he’s still recovering, and his demotion due to his relationship with Kabe while he’s still on parole. While he doesn’t regret the sacrifices that he has made to have Kabe in his life, Joe is definitely not looking forward to telling the ‘rents about his new status. Their reaction was textbook but Joe didn’t quite expect its impact on his mother who was devastated, as her dreams for Joe’s future were shattered.
As a result of being put on light duty due to his injury in book 2, Spin Out, and his demotion, Joe is now relegated to desk duty, reviewing dead files on unsolved crimes. One file about a decades-old murder of a child opened a huge can of worms which exposed the vulnerabilities and Achilles heels of the people he trusted most, and Joe is faced with a choice that could change everyone’s lives if his investigation proved their involvement in a crime, as he would be screwed whatever decision he made.
The major thrust of this book is about secrets – Kabe’s, Joe’s family, and the community and in one fell swoop everything blows up in Joe’s face as he’s faced with a terrible choice that could ruin his family or end his career. Complex issues are raised about Joe’s family as everyone confronts their fears, and at times Joe seems to drown in his doubts as the story stalls and the pacing slows down, but he never loses himself.
Also, Joe’s relationship with Kabe is threatened when he finds out that Kabe was not upfront about his past and they have to lay that ghost before they can move forward. Sexually they seem to be on the same page and Kabe’s daredevil attitude is even more evident during their scenes, which once almost had tragic consequences. I assume that the danger is part of the attraction, and living on the edge for Joe and Kabe was definitely part of the thrill. If there was any doubt about the Dom/sub relationship, this book showed that a sub is really powerful when he controls the Dom and the action in bed, and Kabe sure drove that bus. Some of the scenes may give you pause as Kabe is a pain slut, and although BDSM was Joe’s kink, Kabe loved it more and it showed.
Laying Ghosts revealed a lot about Kabe’s character and I really got to know him through the evolution of his relationship with Joe. Seeing him blossom into the man he was meant to be was wonderful as well as surprising as he showed the greatest character growth. His interactions with Joe’s family, especially his mother, were delightful as he held his own and gave back as good as he got. His new temporary job fighting fires allowed him one more outlet for his penchant for danger, excitement and thrills and he seemed to glow from within as his life came almost full circle to that of a man fulfilled.
The book is told from Joe’s first person POV like the others in the series but here he seems more introspective as he ruminates about his life, his family, Kabe, and his fears for the future, the stress that comes from living in a bubble on the job, with his family, and the Mormon community, none of which is forgiving.
There is a lot that I enjoyed about this book as the story revealed different sides to Joe’s family including a lot of skeletons in their closets, but on the flip side this caused the book to stall a couple times as the pacing slowed. However, whenever it reached the point of being buried in minutiae, a major event would occur to save the day. The writing was wonderful and I enjoyed Joe’s voice as always as I wanted to live in his head because it was so revealing and complicated, like a puzzle.
To summarize, I think that for the first time Joe revealed all his weaknesses and fears for the future, but his strengths far outweighed them. Also, his family was at last somewhat accepting of his lifestyle in a community that shunned gay people. Secrets played a huge part in this story and there were many revelations and laying of ghosts but I thought that coincidence played a significant role in resolving a few issues, including the mystery. However this is, after all, fiction. On the downside, I had one major problem with this book and this related to the number of editing and spelling errors which marred an otherwise beautiful romance and prevented me from enjoying it as much as I should have. Deputy Joe is one of my favourite series and I felt cheated, as Laying Ghosts deserved much better editorial treatment than it received and it’s one of the reasons I couldn’t give this book 5 stars. James Buchanan is writing book 4 in the series, Requiem in Leather, and I hope this new book fares much better as it deserves no less.
This book is not a standalone and should be read with the other books in the series.