Title: Wearing Death
Author: Jamie Craig
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: contemporary gay romance
Length: Novella / 90 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5
A guest review by Kassa
When veterinarian Jeremy Reed hears a thump one night on his front step, he expects to find an abandoned animal. What he gets is battered and broken cop Brendan Wheeler. Kidnapped from his apartment five days earlier by an unknown man, Brendan now sports a vivid tattoo across his back depicting a young woman’s death, a woman nobody knows.
Until the next morning when Jeremy discovers her dead body.
Brendan wants to find the killer. Jeremy wants Brendan to survive. And someone wants both of them to pay…
This book has one of the more fascinating and instantly riveting ideas that I’ve seen in mysteries lately. Unfortunately, the book goes nowhere with the idea. The story isn’t really a mystery but instead the flirting dance between two men as they act on the chemistry between them. That’s not bad per se, although I struggled to keep my attention and interest in the story, but given the potential in the tattoo idea – I couldn’t help being deeply disappointed that the concept was ignored in favor of bland sex with absolutely no mystery. For a light summer read, fans of the author will want to read this story but don’t be fooled by the blurb; it’s actually a fluff romance.
The story begins with an injured and desperate cop, Brendan Wheeler, arriving bloody on local veterinarian’s doorstop. The chemistry between the men is instantaneous and when Jeremy discovers the dead body of a local woman, the two men are kept on close surveillance as Brendan recovers. The men dance and flirt around each other for a few days before giving into the passion between them.
Although the blurb and beginning of the story hold promise for a mystery, there is actually no real mystery component. The resolution to murder and identity of Brendan’s assailant are wrapped up in four pages out of the 90 page book. The remaining space is devoted to the burgeoning relationship and mundane details of Brendan’s recovery. There is some mention of Brendan trying to get involved in the case but he’s well shut out by his police chief and relegated to combing through his recent cases. However, there is almost no time devoted to this except a passing mention between the men making dinner, having sex, flirting, and the developing emotional connection. While a story about two men connecting and starting a relationship is always a welcome staple of romance, the lack of actual mystery given the elaborate set up and concept is surprising and deeply disappointing. The actual assailant is instantly identified by Brendan when he sees him and there is a very loose rationale for the actions.
The characters are sadly two dimensional without much depth, although the attempt to add more is there. Both men are strong, mentally and physically, with deep integrity and compassion. However, beyond that there is very little to either man as the story follows superficial activity over any deeper subtly. The large graphic tattoo now spanning the entirety of Brendan’s back is almost unimportant beyond the basics of treatment for the wound. Even as it depicts the brutal murder of a young woman, the men almost ignore it except when speaking of how to change the tattoo to something palatable. Even that conversation is brief and off hand between the sex and easy companionship.
The writing is decent but I found it difficult to connect to the story and characters once I realized this was simply a man meets man and has sex story, despite the blurb. The summary built up my expectations for a fascinating twist on a murder mystery and perhaps a love interest along the way and although rare for me, I couldn’t change that expectation once the book veered off into the romance. The lack of substance to the plot and characters had me struggling to keep my attention on the story. Neither the romance nor mystery injected any tension or drama into the story, although there are a few darker moments. This would have been much better as either a fully devoted mystery with the tattoo component or a simple romance between two men.
If readers are looking for an easy romance with some darker elements in the setting, this might fulfill that niche for summer reading. However, the dark aspects don’t impact the story too much and the mystery is negligible. I think in this case the elaborate set up is a disservice to the story since it’s taken nowhere and unfortunately offers little.