Title: Digging Deep
Author: Jay Hogan
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Page Count: 354
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.20 stars out of 5
A Digging Deep Story
Drake Park has a complicated life. As a gay male midwife, he’s used to raising eyebrows. Add Crohn’s disease and things get interesting—or not, considering the sad state of his love life. Experience has taught Drake that most men are fair-weather sailors when it comes to handling his condition—gone for dust when things get rough. Staying healthy is a full-time job without adding in any heartbreak, so a little loneliness is a small price to pay. If he says it often enough he might even believe it. One thing for sure, the cop who arrested him isn’t about to change that.
Caleb Ashton does not have a complicated life. A senior detective with the Whangarei Police Department, he likes his job and is good at it. He works hard and plays hard, happy to enjoy as many men as he can while he’s still young enough—or at least he was. These days he feels adrift for the first time in his life, and the only thing sparking his interest—a certain prickly young midwife.
But can Drake find enough faith to risk opening his heart again? And does Caleb have what it takes to cope with the challenges Drake’s condition presents?
Well, did I learn things in this book! Mostly about a health condition called Crohn’s disease, which I did know by name, without having more information than that, to be honest. Seems to be a nasty little bugger, one of those incurable long-term conditions that can seriously f*** up your life as well as the lives of your beloved ones. Not that our first MC, mid-thirtyish midwife Drake Park, who suffers from that disease, has too many of those: an unconditionally supportive family, two fabulous colleagues, his bi bestie, that’s it. Count a couple of clients he might consider friends, but all in all, he’s living a busy, but lonely life ever since his lover of two years left him the last time the disease flared up. That was the moment he decided there was no place for love or for a lover in his life anyway.
Then, one day, during a demo, he gets arrested by local police detective Caleb Ashton. Sparks are flying, but wary Drake keeps his protective walls up despite the cop’s follow-up attempts to get a date with him. Somehow, he must have guessed the handsome cop is no reliable boyfriend material. True enough, Caleb has led a rather self-centred life, fluttering from hook-up to hook-up like a bee with the attention-span of a gold-fish. You can count his friends on one hand too: there’s his colleague Leanne, and his oldest friend, bitchy but insightful drag queen Carmen. He’s not estranged from his family but has been careless and offhand about them for a couple of years. So, it seems strange to everyone that he should be so interested in Drake. It’s just that something in that prickly young man makes him pause, makes him want to have more. Even if Drake quickly updates him about his serious condition and everything it entails, he won’t take no for an answer, wooing the young midwife quite skilfully, I have to say, until the latter’s protection shields meld down little by little. In a nutshell, the novel is a recounting of the twisted ups and downs of their relationship until at last—I sighed with genuine relief, not for me, but for the MCs—they get their shit together, pardon my French, and stumble towards their sorely deserved HEA.
I can’t say this wasn’t a pleasant read. It didn’t blow my mind, but there was enough suspense, tension, plus a huge amount of drama moments (often self-induced by either one or the other MC) to keep me interested and turn the pages. The last 10% were maybe a tad too long—I admit to skipping one or two steamy scenes which, although well written, didn’t add anything to the plot. But all in all, the two MCs are likeable guys, the added “obstacle” of Drake’s health issues a welcome change from otherwise nice, but oddly problem-free romance stories. Jay Hogan knows how to write and how to create characters (even secondary ones: Carmen—a hoot; Drake’s mom—another hoot). The health issues she wove in seamlessly, the easily comprehensible reluctance on both parts, plus some additional plot twists I won’t disclose so as not to spoil the surprise really set a solid pace.
I was maybe expecting more “NZ exoticism”, which I found lacking. You know, typical expressions, peculiarities, settings that don’t sound like your average US small town. This is perhaps not Jay’s fault (she sticks to UK spelling, as one would expect) but might have been “edited out” by her editors. My advice would be, if it’s set in NZ, make it genuinely New-Zealandish. But that’s my opinion, and it could be that many readers from the US would beg to differ, anyway, so, you know, take it for what it’s worth. The whole small-town-thing we’re supposed to feel going on is sometimes hard to believe, too. How is it possible in such a small town that the two MCs have coffee in a bar they both didn’t know? But all in all, this is a book I can recommend if you’re looking for a romance with some drama. Almost forgot: some dialogues were outright funny, and Caleb’s wooing efforts are epic.