Title: Attachment Strings
Author: Chris T. Kat
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Length: Novel (244 pages)
Rating: 1 star out of 5
A Guest Review by J.K. Hogan
Review Summary: A book that I had high hopes for based on the blurb, but I ended up struggling to finish.
Detective Jeff Woods and his partner have a new case. Someone has been making threatening phone calls to the mayor’s daughter, vowing to kill her disabled child. Though there have been accidents at the girl’s school—enough to take the threats seriously—the facts are few, and leads are sparse.
Needing a breather from the burden of the case, Jeff heads to a bar, where he meets Alex Fisher. Alex isn’t his type, but he’s young and cocky and perfect for a one-night stand. Or two. Soon Jeff starts thinking about how difficult and lonely it is being a cop, and that maybe Alex could fill a void in his life. But Alex has his own obligations: a disabled brother who is the target of threatening letters.
Jeff isn’t sure he’s ready to play house or overcome his prejudices, but he begins to think Alex might be worth it. Caught between his growing affection and his inner demons, Jeff struggles to focus on the case and protect Alex and his brother as the danger builds.
I very much wanted to enjoy this book. I’m a sucker for a good cop drama, and I’m more likely to ‘forgive’ certain things when I’m reading my favorite trope. But, I’m sorry to say that this one just had too many problems or me to ignore.
Here’s my little disclaimer: I’ve never read anything by this author before, and I usually give an author at least a couple of chances, so I haven’t counted her out yet. This book wasn’t badly written, though the style didn’t really resonate with me—however, if there were no other issues, I wouldn’t even bring it up. My objections to the book were the attitudes and general unlikableness of the characters, plus the offensive theme which I will get to in a moment. Keep in mind that this is only my opinion, and I had a very strong adverse reaction to this story.
Let me get this little nitpick out of the way first. While I certainly wouldn’t call the writing bad, due to little things like odd word choice/sentence structure and some grammar issues, it wasn’t my cup of tea. One minute, the narrator (Jeff) would describe the tiniest minutiae of action and the next, there will be a mid-paragraph time/location jump. It didn’t fit the first person perspective very well.
For instance, this was a single paragraph:
Pictures were taken, the dead guy roughly examined, then carried away. Not surprisingly we didn’t find a passport, driver’s license, or anything else that could give us a clue to the guy’s identity. Later, Trenkins and I drove back to the station, changed into dry clothes and filled out the paperwork.
The story is told in first person, from the POV of Jeff Woods, a police detective in Atlantic City. He and his partner are investigating the murder of a disabled man. Here is the introduction to the offensiveness. Jeff makes no move, either in his internal narrative or in his dialogue, to disguise his disgust and hatred for disabled people. Jeff’s internal dialogue makes him sound like equal parts petulant toddler and acrimonious blowhard.
“My husband,” Mrs. Anderson added in case we weren’t sure how they were related. I swallowed down my sarcasm, wondering for a brief moment about my anger.
“What would anybody want with a guy like Phil? What was he useful for?” [Jeff speaking about the disabled man they found murdered]
Jeff decides to go to a bar and find a one-night-stand, and there he meets Alex. Alex acts like a bratty asshole and Jeff is completely rude to him back, yet for some reason they end up having steamy sex in a hotel room.
Jeff and his partner Parker investigate death threats and suspicious accidents of disabled children, all who attend the same school. Jeff and Parker seem to have trouble realizing that they had a case, even though they had at least two instances of death threats against children. They kept talking about how it could be a ‘conspiracy theory’, which I didn’t understand.
“Does she think there’s a conspiracy against disabled children?” Trenkins’s voice dripped with skepticism.
“How could she love someone so distorted, someone who was and would forever be a burden, so much? [Jeff speaking about the mother of the little girl who received the death threats]
“How can they be so fucking caring and nice and all with a daughter like that?” I muttered. [Again, Jeff talking about the little girl receiving death threats.]
[This one made me nauseous] “I mean, I can understand—understand I want to stress, not sympathize with—some of the arguments as to why they shouldn’t be allowed to live and so on…”
Jeff finds out that Alex has a six-year-old brother with cerebral palsy, of whom Alex is the sole guardian. Sean goes to the same school as the children who are being threatened and hurt. Through some questionable interrogation techniques, Jeff also finds out that Alex has received a threatening letter against Sean. Jeff decides he needs to stay with Alex and Sean to protect them, despite his quite obvious and often stated disgust and loathing of Sean.
“I wrinkled my nose. The sight of this kid was not pretty. Most definitely not.”
“Horrified, I watched Sean crumple the salami in his hand, then smash it onto the bread. I glanced at Parker, who stared at the scene in front of him in fascination. He didn’t show any sign of disgust, though, which bothered me. Since when was he so open-minded?”
“The boy opened his mouth willingly and this time Alex didn’t help him close his mouth while he chewed. It was a revolting sight and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep my face impassive.”
“Alex had to swaddle Sean. That translated into Sean wearing diapers, right? Wasn’t he six years old? Gross. Absolutely gross.”
“Inwardly, I cursed Alex for having to care for Sean. The one time after years I fell for another guy and he had to come with an appendage.”
I could go on with the offensive quotes, but I’ll move on to the rest of the review. I didn’t buy Jeff as a cop, because he seemed to hate his job. He complained a lot about having to do his duties in his internal narrative.
“We always had to be on high alert because we wouldn’t want to miss out on any important detail, but I still loathed those endless hours of asking questions.”
I also didn’t buy Alex as a guardian. He gets very pissed off at Jeff for not realizing Sean could hear and comprehend what was going on around him, he just couldn’t communicate. And yet, Alex curses in front of Sean several times and has very noisy sex with Jeff up against a wall with Sean having just gone to bed in the next room. That part was definitely implausible.
I think I sort of get what the author was going for here. She was trying to present Jeff as this unlikable, prejudiced guy, who would then fall in love and see the error of his ways. It just wasn’t executed effectively. I think way too much time was spent on showing us just how much of an asshole Jeff was (and really Alex too, although he wasn’t that way towards anyone but Jeff), and the ‘change of heart’ moment came too late and fell short of the mark.
The only redeeming part of this book was the action sequence at the end. It almost felt like it was a different book, because it managed to draw me in and I stopped hating Jeff for a moment.
I never bought into the love between Jeff and Alex, partly because Jeff never won me over so I never rooted for him, but also because it just wasn’t believable.
Again, I’ll say that this is my own opinion. I am a bit more sensitive about the attitudes presented towards disabled children because my mother was a special education teacher for many years and because of this, I was friends with a lot of the children she taught. They were some of the sweetest people I’ve ever encountered. I would hate to imagine what a family member of a disabled person would think if they ended up trying to read this book. As for other readers, I would peruse all of the reviews and decide for yourself if this is one you’d be interested in.