Title: Jack: Grime and Punishment
Author: Z. A. Maxfield
Cover Artist: Valerie Tibbs
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: Short Novel
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 rating points
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Very engaging portrait of a damaged guy dealing with a tough time and involving gritty unusual crime scene clean up business but this just felt a little off the mark on some character motivations for me.
Blurb: The Brothers Grime is Jack Masterson’s way of helping people in crisis after disability ends his career as a firefighter. Jack’s people get to a scene long after the physical trauma ends. They don’t solve crime or rescue the victims. They help people move on. The new job is all Jack wants or needs, until he gets the call about old flame Nick Foasberg’s suicide.
Ryan Halloran’s cousin Nick has been on a downhill slide for a long time. Despite that, Ryan does everything he knows to help. Ryan only understands part of what happened between Nick and Jack in high school, but after Nick’s suicide, Ryan agrees both he and Jack need closure. They work together to clean the scene and despite the situation, heat flares between them.
Jack is keeping a painful secret and fighting his attraction to Nick’s lookalike cousin, Ryan. Ryan calls himself a magnet for lost causes and worries Jack might be the next in a long line of losers. Despite his misgivings, despite the past and the mistakes they’ve both made, Jack gives Ryan something to look forward to, and Ryan gives Jack a reason to stop looking back, in Grime And Punishment.Blurb:
The Brothers Grime Series
This book is set within a particularly challenging time for the main character ex firefighter Jack, that of ongoing recovery from a life changing trauma. A damaged, darkly funny guy, he has suffered two dramatic incidents in his life; one involving a very personal physical and emotional betrayal, while another work related injury has forced him to cope with a permanent disability and set up a new business. The time scale is unusual in that it is not about the immediacy of his injury, dealing with disability, and the intensity of setting up a new business with his cousin Gabe and friend Eddie. That is all done and dealt with. Jack is in the no man’s land of an emotional journey gone so far but no further.
I found the fascinating details about his work and the business were a clever way to reveal a lot of Jack’s personality and gave an unusual and dramatic way in to the story. His relationship with Ryan is developed very believably, it happens quickly, but there is a lot of history and situational intensity that holds this up. This makes the timescale almost irrelevant. Their attraction has a certain amount of real life to and fro within it that prevents it escalating into high note fervour. I liked these guys together. Ryan is an almost understated personality, with a personal integrity that served to emphasise his difference to his cousin Nick. He does also have to bear the weight of being the personification of Jack’s emotional springtime which perhaps flattened his character a little. That said there are some gorgeous descriptions of them together,
Neither of them spoke. They lay frozen in time, locked together in the throbbing, watercolour lassitude of fucked – out repose.
However I must say I was personally surprised that when earlier the cat jumped on Ryan’s naked sweaty back his response was one of ‘pleasurable writhing’……
There was perhaps a mismatch of how I saw Jack and how the guys, including the Token Girl, saw him. Consequently, one of the things I puzzled over was the feeling of quite serious intervention in the actions of Jack’s friends/family; this was demonstrated by the thoughtful thing with the cat, but more dramatically by his friend Dave’s later outburst. I did not really get his urgency about Jack’s actions. The importance placed on Jack’s ‘secret’ seemed overplayed to me and not up to sustaining it’s pivotal place in the plot.
I found Jack’s internal life backed up a view of him as coping well with his life albeit being in a holding pattern emotionally. Given that it is closeted, closed in Dave who is very much part of the friends with benefits status quo, his fervour for truth and openness seemed contrary, unless we are meant to regard Jack as deceiving himself as well as us. Silly old romantic me regarded his stasis more as he hadn’t met Ryan yet so how can he change – Ryan is the kick start.
The other characters in the story, mainly those involved in the business were vividly created – especially Skippy who I wish was not straight and happily married – giving what is a short novel, a well established but teasing depth, with some good hopes for future books.You may have noticed I found Dave’s determined enigmatic facade a little irritating. I guess this means that next book in the series will be about him….sigh.
I was very engaged by the gradual and intense build up of the first half of this book, the descriptive language is distinctive and just added a touch of class. However the action later on including the big scene towards the end left me with some questions which drew me out my original total immersion. This doesn’t stop me Iooking forward to see how this series develops, any new book by this writer is a treat, even if the title of this one gave me a reluctant groan.