Title: Subject 13
Author: Ethan Stone
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Novel/280 pages/70K words
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: Although I liked the MCs I thought that the plot was confusing and its execution needed some work.
Luke Kincaid’s life is exploding all around him. First his lover leaves him to marry a woman, then childhood nightmares return with a vengeance.
Luke’s friendship with Ben Skinner and relationship with Kyle Morgan helps him heal his broken heart, but the nightmares, which are actually repressed memories, threaten to destroy the peace he has found.
Soon, Luke’s investigation into his past puts his life—and the lives of the people he cares about—in danger. But he refuses to give up, not even when he finds out he is connected to a massive government cover-up…
As if his life didn’t suck enough with his lover of eight years dumping him for a woman, Luke Kinkaid’s world is complicated by vivid nightmares triggered by repressed memories from his childhood.
The same day he buried his mother, Luke’s lover Shane told him while they were in bed together that he was getting married to a woman. Luke was heartbroken and even tried to stop the wedding but his best friend Ben, the bride’s brother, saved him from himself. The story got even stranger. The new bride Elaine sought Luke out and told him she wanted them to be friends; she even gave him permission to continue having sex with her husband (apparently she knew about the affair all along) so that she, Shane and Luke could be one big happy untraditional family.
Luke decided to remain in town after the funeral and his first priority was finding a job as well as a place to live. As luck would have it, Ben had a spare bedroom in his house and offered to share his home with Luke until he found his own place. After living with Ben for a few days Luke realized that he was attracted to his straight friend, but since he didn’t have a chance with him he found another man to satisfy his sexual urges, hot looking Kyle whom he could dominate as payback for the way Shane treated him! However, when he was alone with Ben he was getting strange vibes from him; it seemed that although he had a girlfriend he wasn’t as straight as he appeared. Ben was very conflicted and he eventually told Luke he had been attracted to him since high school but when he realized that he and Shane were an item he decided to pursue women, which didn’t work because his attraction to Luke never diminished.
Luke’s repressed memories and the burgeoning romance with Ben ran on parallel tracks as they were together a lot when they weren’t working, so they joined forces on the investigation. Apparently Luke’s nightmares were tied to the deaths of his parents. A mysterious virus and biological weapon had been tested on unwitting human subjects decades ago. The test went horribly wrong and resulted in the deaths and/or murders of most of the residents of a secure commune, including Luke’s parents. The majority of the survivors were children at the time these experiments took place; when they grew up some of them showed signs of being affected by the virus, so the perpetrator decided that the only way to get rid of the evidence and elude detection was to kill the survivors who were sick.
The worldbuilding and plot of Subject 13 reminded me a lot of Area 51, the US government top secret airbase and testing facility in the Nevada desert that has been the subject of many movies and books for years. The one thing I can always depend on Ethan Stone for is imaginative, fast paced and complex plots, and Subject 13 has all of these elements, but the romance appealed to me more than the mystery although I had issues with both. The mystery was very complicated and IMO it lacked excitement until the end which made up somewhat for what I perceived as a deficiency earlier on, but I did wonder where all the guards at Oasis were once the action started. 😕 I didn’t guess the identities of a couple of the major perpetrators until the story was about three quarters of the way through, but maybe that was because the plot involved too many secondary characters who had roles in the original disaster or in covering it up. As for the romance, the story was told in Luke’s voice and that was the reason I liked most of it because he had an unusual way with words and he seemed to be vulnerable at times, although not always the brightest bulb.
On the negative side, I thought that there were way too many movie and television references sprinkled throughout the book and clichés like “balls to the wall,” product placement such as “new book by Carter Quinn” 😆 and gay stereotypes – pink furniture in Kyle’s apartment – how is it that his Navy buddies didn’t figure out he was gay? and phrases from Ben’s mother like “icing on the big pink cake.” Conspiracy theories abounded especially around the mysterious DG, the mastermind who gave us his perspective at the beginning of every chapter. I also thought that there were too many coincidences and the solutions to problems that could have been huge stumbling blocks were simplistic e.g. the password for a high security, secret safe that was incredibly easy to crack.
Luke was flawed as are all of this author’s MCs, and he used Kyle just as Shane used him. I don’t know if he did this unknowingly or if it was a way to restore his self esteem because of the mental abuse he suffered at Shane’s hands, but I thought he treated Kyle badly, although Kyle seemed to like it because he, too, had low self esteem as a result of issues early in his life. Kyle sure got over his anger and hurt feelings very quickly after being dumped for Ben which seemed a bit strange since he professed to love Luke, but this is fantasy and not reality.
Since this is a book by Ethan Stone there was a lot of hot sex which his fans love.
It appears from the epilogue that there may be a sequel to this book although I don’t know what’s left to tell. However, I’m not the author so I’ll wait to see what new adventures await our heroes.
Subject 13 is a departure from his usual type of story but if you’re a fan of Ethan Stone’s In The Flesh series, I definitely recommend this book – it just didn’t work for me on all levels, but YMMV.