A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary review: Paramedic Nick and cop Andrew are a perfect match in bed and beyond, but they need to overcome their mutual speechlessnes in order to find real intimacy together.
When paramedic Nick Swain responds to a shooting in a seedy neighborhood, his entire world is thrown off its axis. His life is threatened…twice. Allegations of racism and medical neglect threaten his career and his ability to sleep at night. Not that he’ll be sleeping any time soon after the incident throws him into the path – and arms – of Detective Andrew Carmichael.
One hot night after another with Andrew may help Nick relieve some stress, but sex won’t solve every problem in his life. With the media hounding him and the city watching his every move, he starts to wonder if the world is out to get him.
The world may not be out to get him, but someone is.
And that someone wants Nick dead.
Triage is by far the hardest responsibility a medical professional can encounter. When at an emergency site there are too many victims and too few hands to treat them, the most experienced first responder must decide, often within a split second, who will be treated first. But this can also mean to knowingly let people die, since they are so far gone that trying to save them would withhold manpower from those who have a real chance to be saved if treated immediately.
It’s easy to imagine the fury and desperation of someone who has to witness a loved one bleeding to death while others who appear less seriously injured receive treatment. And it’s also easy to imagine the stress having to make such a decision puts the decider into. What if he makes the wrong decision? After all, he’s forced to play God, in a way, and that’s how his decision will appear to those who more or less stand on the sidelines. Add to that the fact that the emergency takes place in a neighborhood where blood and thunder are daily fare and handguns are commonplace, and Nick Swain has had his fill.
When Nick and his colleague arrive at the scene of a shooting/ stabbing, they find three critical victims, and Nick must do triage. According to usual practice, he tags the victims as black (doomed to die, don’t treat), red (treat immediately) and green (not critical). Unfortunately, the woman Nick tags “black” is also that skin color, which drives her companion and the bystanders to accuse Nick of racism. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Nick’s life is threatened physically when he has to hurt his patient in order to save her life. No wonder Nick is about to break down once the situation is back under control and the victims are taken care of.
It’s just coincidence – and Nick’s luck – that Detective Andrew Carmichael is there when Nick needs a sympathetic shoulder to lean on. Compassion turns into companionship, and once Nick and Andrew admit to the physical attraction between them, there’s no holding back.
Never before has Nick felt so deep a connection with someone. Andrew can relate to the emotional strain Nick’s job entails – Andrew is a cop, after all, and he has his own nightmares to deal with. Furthermore, Andrew is the first person who can fully understand that sometimes all Nick wants and needs after a hard day is stress relief through sex, not talking – mostly because Andrew tends to do exactly the same. They should be perfect for each other, shouldn’t they?
Yet, sex, even if it’s mind-blowing, can’t heal everything. As the pressure on Nick grows, as he’s pushed into the focus of public again and again, the not-talking becomes more and more of a problem between Nick and Andrew, to a point their mutual silence threatens to tear them apart. Oh, it isn’t as if they didn’t talk, they do – but with both their bottling – up issue, they tend to talk past each other rather than with each other. When they finally realize they both need to lower their defenses in order to find a real connection, it’s almost too late. Suddenly, Nick must triage again, but this time, the wrong decision can cost him his lover forever.
This is a strong story, with very real and believable conflicts. As far as I can judge, the medical details are absolutely correct, and the job – related background regarding paramedics felt well-researched and authentic. The same is true for the media frenzy around Nick. I liked the way he knocked a particularly pushy journalist into shape, although I can’t quite believe a real life journalist would react the way this woman did. It still felt good.
Both Nick and Andrew are great characters who totally made sense together. Since the story is told from Nick’s 1st person POV we got better insight into his inner musings, but Andrew felt still well – developed and real, his reactions authentic and easily comprehensible. The dialogue is one of this book’s big fortes; whether it’s Nick’s banter with his colleagues, the pretentious officials, or Nick’s and Andrew’s pillow talk, fights and painfully gentle attempts at finding real intimacy, the dialogue flows easily and never sounds stilted or forced. And the erotic scenes are hot enough to burn the pages, with none of them superfluous in my opinion.
However it were in part Nick’s inner thoughts which brought this book short of being perfect for me. I found Nick’s musings by far too wordy, even to the point of annoying. Granted, he’s under duress, and almost paranoid which is no wonder given that his life is really at stakes, but even his reasonable fear turned repetitive to a point where I was tempted to skip those parts – or smack the back of his head and tell him to snap out of it. Also, I felt that Nick and Andrew rehashed their worries and what-ifs too often without coming to any kind of conclusion, which may have been in character, but became oppressive after a while.
Still, this was a great, skillfully written read with a realistic, gripping plot and well – wrought, well-developed characters. Highly recommended.