A guest review by Sirius.
Summary: Excellent beginning of the relationship mixed with suspenseful story.
Calvin Quarry thinks Felix Bracks is a fantastic lover. He fulfills all of Cal’s deepest fantasies, allowing him to fully embrace the wanton side of his sexuality. But Cal’s fantasy shatters when he realizes Felix was the driver in a fatal accident that killed Cal’s best friend back in high school.
Forgiving Felix his past digressions is hard, but when Cal’s young cousin Robby becomes entangled in a dark and dangerous affair, Cal realizes there’s more to both their stories than what meets the eye. As a journalism major, Cal has a duty to not only shed light on the sinister world young Robby has stumbled into, but also to uncover the truth about Felix’s accident so many years before.
But those they fight have power, and ways of making them and their families suffer. Cal and Felix have to be willing to sacrifice everything to stop these horrors from happening again. But this wasn’t what either signed up for. This was supposed to be a casual sex hookup anonymously scheduled online. Can they truly trust each other enough to bring the crimes of the past to light, or will their budding relationship be demolished in the process?
I requested this book for review because I saw Astrid Amara’s name on the blurb. This was enough information for me to start jumping up and down and muttering that I want the book now :). I am used to reading fantasy from this writer. I mean, I have read her holiday themed contemporary novellas, but in my head when I hear her name I still think fantasy. So it was a very nice change of pace to read her longer contemporary work. I have to admit though that as much as I trust her name, I was a tiny bit worried that the book will have more sex than I usually like based on the blurb and that it may interfere with the story.
I worried for nothing – yes, there was more sex than I am used to from this writer, no it did not become the plot, but instead became important and integral part of the plot and characterization. The blurb is more than a little misleading – no Cal and Felix are not lovers yet when Cal recognizes him. They are about to become lovers, but there is no reason for Cal to think of Felix as fantastic one yet. For a second there when the story begins and Cal finally gathers a courage to meet his Internet chat buddy for a hook up, I almost screamed at my computer. I was so annoyed that they were about to have sex on the first few pages of the novel. Only they didn’t or I guess I should be more precise and say “not quite”. And I was reminded right away why I think of Astrid Amara as one of the best writers in m/m genre. Not only she went into a completely different direction than what I expected the book to go, but she also threw in a suspenseful storyline and made me wonder what exactly happened with this accident in the past that blurb refers to. I thought it was very well done, that the narrative built the tension almost right away and maintained it.
And then when the main question which Cal was worried about Felix’ past was resolved, suspense did not disappear, but instead kept building up when Cal tried to figure out what happened to his cousin Robbie and tried to investigate what happened mostly because he wanted to help his cousin, but also because this is what he was good at. And I really liked that Cal whose major is an investigative journalism was actually shown doing some investigating. Because to me if the character in romance works in certain profession or studies certain profession, it makes sense to show that he actually does something in this profession. It is a big part of who Cal is and I was glad that he got a chance to show some of his skills as future investigative journalist.
While I thought that the suspenseful part of storyline was very well done, for the first part of the book I was worried that building romance between Cal and Felix may suffer. Let me explain, while I thought that it was very realistic that the relationship which started with the casual internet hook up developed into something more, I just wished the guys were more together than apart. I do not mind when romance takes a second fiddle in the story, but then I need the guys to do action stuff together and see that they are growing closer through whatever other things they were doing. And I felt that in the first part of the book the guys were not together enough.
It absolutely changed in the second part of the book, it is as if the writer read my mind :). Cal and Felix did some investigating together and even helped Robbie together. I thought it was nicely done overall, and after I did some thinking I thought what I saw happening was the beginning of the relationship and very believable one at that. What I am trying to say is that I do not think that this romance between them piqued yet when the book was finished – a lot happened and they are definitely continuing with this relationship, but they are not at the stage where they would propose to each other yet. And I think the page length of this story was used very wisely – there was just no way the romance could come full circle and for suspense be interesting, so I thought she made some very good choices.
I adored Robbie, who was probably most important amongst the secondary characters – sixteen year old gay kid, who had bad things happened to him, but who truly came alive on page and I thought that Robbie was not defined as a character by bad things that happened to him. I thought his love for Cal, his love for his parents was very visible and despite the fact that Robby is shaken up for the most of the book, I could believe Cal’s musings that Robbie was usually a very lively, dramatic person. The moments when his true personality shine through made me believe that.
I loved this book. I usually reread almost every book I review because I think it is a good practice (there were very few exceptions when I just could not bring myself to do so), but it was a joy to reread this one. Of course I cannot predict how memorable it will turn out to be, but right now I cannot see myself forgetting this one any time soon.