Title: Digging Deep
Author: Jay Hogan
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Page Count: 354
Reviewed by: Bob-O-Link
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 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?
Let me start with a personal note. Growing up, a family member suffered from Crohn’s
disease, and while we were all generally aware, the details of the disease remained an
uncomfortable and, often, mysterious problem. The world has come a long way. Not to
say that Crohn’s isn’t still as uncomfortable, but hopefully we are (or can be) more
educated to the condition.
Ms Hogan has produced an excellent and surprisingly entertaining work during which the
reader is provided an education into the basics of Crohn’s and, more import, how it can
affect both the lives of those with the condition and those around them. (As an example,
we are given a list of the “usual suspects” of causes: genetics, autoimmune responses
going haywire, and environmental stuff like infections, etc.)
Digging Deep, a densely constructed novel, is a complicated but very satisfying romance.
It starts out slowly, introducing and emphasizing the personal relationship of two fully
presented main characters. Drake lives with Crohn’s, yet functions as a midwife – a
productive job in every sense of the word. Cautious about emotional commitments, he has
suffered previous disappointments in his love life, but now is inextricably drawn to Caleb.
And, it’s a hot and vibrant Caleb presented to the reader; who wouldn’t be ready to strip
down and give him whatever he needs. Surprising himself, Caleb has matured to where he
seems ready for a serious relationship – even facing those real life problems which are
unavoidable. The development of their attraction and slowly generated physical intimacy
is also wonderful – more so because Ms Hogan details how it’s affected by Crohn’s and
boy, it ain’t easy! Ms Hogan has not succumbed to a facile format! We are actually
observers to the main characters’ problems and emotionally participate in their great
satisfactions. (“No guy is gonna want to put up with the distasteful vagaries of my fucking
condition. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”)
Digging Deep is multilayered. The main characters are three dimensional, maintaining
their humor. ( “ . . . they called me on my shit as well, pun fully intended.” or “The man
turned me on quicker a damn faucet.” ) The secondary characters are also delightfully
individual, keeping the readers’ interest piqued – often with appropriate comic relief. But our
author surpasses the “expected,” giving us a marvelous side-kick, Carmen/Daniel – a married drag
queen, so often way over the top! And the families of our main characters are as varied
and idiosyncratic as our own might be.
Multiple crises eventually bring about the novel’s denouement, forefronting Drake and
Caleb’s respective ambivalence. Drake, in particular, is terrified of losing Caleb and
equally terrified of wanting him to stay.
Surprise! HEA to follow. Without surrendering details, it’s sufficient here to wind up the
review with Drake’s well-earned philosophy: “Fuck my health. I’ll survive. I’m a person,
not a disease, and I’m not letting this damn condition take away the best think to ever
happen to me . . .”).