Author ~ Ethan Stone
Publisher ~ DSP Publications
Published ~ 9 August 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romantic Suspense
A serial killer known as the Confessor is kidnapping and torturing gay men, and Reno Police Department Evidence Technician Leif Carson is determined to catch him.
His personal life isn’t any less stressful. Despite being a virgin and having zero experience with men, he can’t stop thinking about his best friend’s ex, Rafe Castillo. Rafe is suffering from PTSD, but that doesn’t stop Leif from wanting to be with him.
Complete opposites, they’re an amazing fit once they do get together—until Rafe’s PTSD gets in the way and he walks away from the relationship before it has a chance to truly blossom. Even though he has intense feelings for the man, Leif has no choice but to let him go.
When the Confessor kidnaps Rafe, Leif does everything possible to locate him before he’s murdered. Rafe’s near-death experience changes him profoundly, but the danger isn’t over yet. Leif and Rafe will have to face pure evil together if they’re going to last.
Leif is lonely and yearning for something more. He wants a family outside of his friends and even more, at 23 he’s ready for sex, but it has to be more than just a hook-up. Rafe is in bad shape mentally from an undercover job and his apparent PTSD appears to be getting worse as he is in town and doing nothing but drinking and sleeping with any man he can find. Leif’s best friend Jeremy (who also happens to be Rafe’s ex) is trying to help but becoming increasingly frustrated by the reckless behavior. His friends warn Leif off of Rafe, but Leif has lusted after the man since briefly meeting him months ago. Now that he is in town Leif is determined that Rafe is the one he wants to be his first. A run-in with a drunken Rafe as he’s about to be kicked out of a bar finally gets Leif what he wants, but things go far from smoothly afterwards.
The mystery is the main part of the story and that has Leif, an evidence technician, and Detective Cristian Flesh (of the author’s Flesh series), working to stop what appears to be a serial killer of gay men. The murders are gruesome and the killer is taunting them with videos. When Rafe becomes one of his victims, everything changes for him and Leif.
Although Rafe and Leif have only met once prior to Rafe showing up again, Leif is already quite taken with him. The romance is insta-love. The two spend very little time together before things go bad then once they are back together they are basically ready to commit. Leif knows he’s in love after their first time together and Rafe falls almost as quickly. I really missed having some relationship development and that made it difficult for me to feel any connection other than the sexual chemistry, which was definitely there. Leif spent more time bonding with his new friend Bailey than with Rafe. Leif has himself pretty together from the start, but Rafe does go through quite a bit of change during the story.
When I picked this story up as a first in the series I was unaware that this is a spin of Ethan Stone’s Flesh series, which I hadn’t read. The first chapter introduces most, if not all, of the couples from that series and there is some background from the books that is explained. While the story works as a standalone, Cristian Flesh plays a significant part here and there were times where I felt like I had missed out on things by not reading them, especially when it came to the motivations behind the manner in which he investigated the case. Also, although we eventually find out what happened, I did wonder how much of Rafe’s background story, if any, played out in that series. When he first shows up, he has obviously been on a downward spiral for some time and the characters from the prior series seemed to have an idea of what was happening.
I did enjoy the mystery storyline, which provided enough intrigue and suspense to keep me happy. While Leif may have low self-esteem in his personal life, he is highly intelligent and confident when it comes to his work. With good instincts and a brilliant mind he is able to provide information and possibilities necessary to the investigation. There comes a point where he suddenly questions himself when he shouldn't, but I guess that was necessary for some tension and to set up the final showdown. I was concerned about Flesh’s tunnel-vision during the investigation, which is eventually explained and again, is something I might have understood more if I had read the Flesh books. I did get frustrated toward the end with Cristian and Leif’s actions which seemed to be a change from their prior work on the investigation. Perhaps fans of Flesh may have more background and react differently to the characters than I did.
This was my first Ethan Stone book and I enjoyed the writing style and the characters. The mystery is fully resolved here, but I would hope to see more of Leif and Rafe as the series moves forward. I see myself reading more in the future and would pick up the next installment of this series. I’d recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the Flesh books or any reader who likes mystery with a side of sexy.
Connect with Ethan Stone
Ethan Stone doesn’t write your typical boy meets boy stories. With a combination of love and suspense he makes his characters work hard for their HEAs. If they can survive what he puts them through, then they can survive anything. He enjoys Romance with an Edge.
Ethan has been reading mysteries and thrillers since he was young. He’s had a thing for guys in uniform for just as long. That may have influenced the stories he writes.
He’s a native Oregonian with two kids. One of whom has made him a grandfather three times over; even though he is way too young.