Dylan Forest is really pretty happy. He’s a successful architect, lives in a great little town, and has good friends. More than ten years ago, Dylan’s first boyfriend betrayed him. Since then he’s learned to appreciate men briefly and intensely, with no lingering complications. But Dylan finds himself wanting something more with Michael Gilmore, the new art teacher in town.
Michael moved to Raven Pass to get away after a bad break-up. He just wants to teach and he’s got an exhibit of his own work coming up. He doesn’t expect to find himself attracted to anyone just yet. He has to give up his fear so he can explore a possible relationship with Dylan.
The guys manage to get past their insecurities and into bed, where they find out just how compatible they are. Before their romance gains momentum, however, life gets complicated. An old dead body and a new murder are both connected to Dylan’s love life, and it appears that Michael will be next.
What’s going on? And can Dylan and Michael stop it before it stops them?
Ian Gallagher and Dylan Forest had been a couple many years earlier while they were in college, until Dylan found out that Ian had been cheating on him when he was away studying for his degree in architecture, so he dumped him. Since that time Dylan hadn’t had any serious relationships, and played the field with his ice cream guys as he called them, until he met Michael Gilmore, an artist and art teacher, who had just moved to Raven Pass to get over a bad breakup. They hit it off immediately but neither Michael nor Dylan was really looking for a relationship. However they couldn’t resist each other, and soon they were having hot and heavy sex with the possibility of a long term commitment.
Then Ian came for a visit and it was clear that his reason was to try and get back into a serious relationship with Dylan, more than 10 years after they had parted. When Dylan turned him down he became unreasonable, extremely emotional, and even displayed violent tendencies. After he left town Dylan knew that the problem with Ian was only delayed because he would have to see him again in Philadelphia at an art exhibit where both he and Michael were showing their paintings.
Soon, however, Dylan had bigger worries than Ian. The first indication was the discovery of a body on one of his work sites which had been there for some time. Dylan identified him as one of his many temporary lovers who had been missing for a while, but who everyone assumed had left town. He became the prime suspect in what soon turned into a murder investigation, but as there was no evidence linking him to the crime he was released.
Shortly after the murder Dylan received a serious threat against his life and it appeared that Michael’s life was also in danger. To compound their problems, when they arrived in Philadelphia for the art exhibit, Ian had obviously not changed his mind about pursuing Dylan, and in fact he seemed more determined than ever to win his prize when he realized that he had a rival in Michael. Things came to a head after the exhibit when he again became violent, and the next morning another dead body was found. Dylan and Michael were the likely suspects and the murderer upped the ante by making it clear that someone wanted Michael dead. Things went further downhill after they returned to Raven Pass as the danger to Michael intensified and the police set up a sting operation in hopes of catching the murderer.
There were a few cliff hangers and the adrenalin and excitement kept the pacing of the story at a high level until the murderer was revealed.
What worked for me
Dylan’s and Michael’s relationship was not “slam bang thank you man” as they both had issues to work through, but when they decided to go for it the sex and the emotions seemed to be in sync. They were three dimensional and most of the secondary characters were as well.
The murder investigation and the way it tied into Dylan’s previous relationships was well done, although at times I thought that there were far too many complications and clues for such a short story.
What didn’t work for me
The character that I had the greatest difficulty with was Ian who changed drastically from the urbane, creative professional into a man who lost all control over his emotions, and his behaviour was so extreme that I wondered if this was the same man or if he was schizophrenic. There was no explanation for the 180 degree turnaround other than he claimed to still be in love with Dylan, and I couldn’t rationalize his obsession with Dylan with whom he had had no romantic or sexual relationship for over 10 years. One explanation could be that he was tired of running after younger men and wanted a stable relationship, but there was no explanation for his fixation on Dylan after all this time.
The second issue I had was with the murderer and the big reveal. There was a plausible explanation for the killer’s actions and I didn’t guess who the person was and their motivation, until close to the end of the book, which shows that the author thought this through by throwing up many false leads. However, I was somewhat surprised at the killer’s identity and I did wonder about the characterization, as a few of the clues did not seem to fit and left unanswered questions, for me anyway.
This story was a pretty ambitious effort for a first book, with the mix of murder most foul and romance and I did have a bit of difficulty with a few characters; at times I couldn’t figure out their purpose in the story.
Despite the issues mentioned above I do recommend this book because it was well written, the protagonists were three dimensional, the pacing was right, and the author is obviously talented. I look forward eagerly to other books by Wren Boudreau.
If you’re in the mood for a murder mystery to go with your next romance novel, Ice Cream On the Side should be on your TBB list.