And here's the unprofessional-professional, and here's where I check out of this series.
I don't understand Jericho or what Sherwood is doing with his characterization. She wants me to believe this dude survived eight years in the Marines, four tours in Afghanistan (acquiring a Purple Heart, a Silver Star and a bachelor's degree all in that time), and went on to be a beat cop for the LAPD and eventually made detective. But here's the thing: Jericho's in idiot. He has no balls, no backbone, no brains; he's constantly being shoved around in one direction or another by everyone around him, not just his ubercrush Wade, and he does nothing about it except dig himself in deeper. Oh, but he has authority issues. If that's the case, how did he make it through boot camp? He survived four tours and eight years as a Marine but can't figure out how to get a gun out of someone's hand whose standing a mere three feet away from him? Really? He has authority issues but willingly lets himself be manipulated by Wade even after Wade says straight to his face that's what he's going to do? Jay needs to grow a pair and grow up.
At least Hockley shows some flexibility here and doesn't just keep up the "I'm a fed so I'm a jerkface for no other reason than I'm a fed" nonsense that he's had going on in the last book, but frankly, I'm getting close to being over the "locals vs the feds" nonsense that fiction writers just love to drool all over. There is at least an explanation of sorts in this one about why they're being such major tools. Kayla's tough and decisive where she can be, but really, by the time the feds are done with this town, I doubt she'll have anything resembling respect from her subordinates the way things are going right now.
As for the biker wars story - please. Just...that was the most convoluted plotline I've seen in awhile. And Nikki and her kids - honestly, I don't understand why Jericho gives a crap about any of them, when Nikki is constantly taking advantage of him and the kids are so horrible. Clearly, the only conclusion I can draw at this point is that he's a masochist. Which brings us to:
Wade Granger. Why am I supposed to give a crap about this dipshirt and Jericho's star-crossed obsession with him? If it really is star-crossed since Jericho's just barely pretending to act like a cop at this point. And is Jericho serious about his "if they made drugs legal then they wouldn't be a problem" logic? I guess he's a-OK with elementary school kids being used as mules and pushers, and teens getting hooked on this stuff and people OD-ing left and right and throwing their lives away for a high. But hey, if they're legal, then his ex-boyfriend would have a legitimate business enterprise and it'd be all good for them. Well, except the illegal weapons running and whatnot. Shoot, I guess we're just going to have to make that legal too. (And even if Wade ends up being revealed as being undercover (unlikely) or an informant (somewhat more likely) that still doesn't excuse Jericho's behavior up to this point.)
Writing is still good, but I have get off this stupid train.
After finishing this book this morning and thinking it over for most of the day, I'm going to give this 3 "I liked it but..." stars. I think my opinion of this book is going to depend on where exactly Ms. Sherwood takes this series and these characters from here, as there is a lot left unresolved, so it's difficult to judge it on its own merits.
The "mystery," such as it was, was written pretty decently and was wrapped up in this book, so unlike my original impression of this so-called serial (these books are really too long to call this a serial) where I assumed it was going to be one mystery extended over all four books, but it's actually a different case in each book. Ok, I guess Eli's murder might be the over-arching mystery, but again, I'll have to see how the rest of this series unfolds. Considering how little Jericho seemed to care about that, I can't see it carrying the weight of a four-book series.
This book is fast-paced and the action is pretty well-written, and it doesn't keep you waiting to find out who is behind everything. Or rather, it doesn't keep the characters waiting the entire book to figure it what you figured out in the second chapter.
The writing in the establishing chapters that set up the premise and gives you most of the background on Jericho and the town is a bit clunky and info-dump-y. There's this bizarre scene where he's pulled into an interrogation room for absolutely no plausible reason right after he gets into town. It was head-scratch inducing, and the DEA agents are unreasonably hostile. There's some good humor here though, since Jericho is something of a wiseass.
I liked Jericho well enough despite his at-times confusing motives, and so far he hasn't crossed into unprofessional-professional territory with Wade, who was Jericho's teen love and now the town's main crook. Kayla seems nice and everything but we don't really get to see much of her. She's a tough sheriff but doesn't mind bending a few "minor" laws here and there. Wade is... well... a crook and it's questionable at this point just how cold-hearted or ruthless he is or isn't, though his criminal activity doesn't leave much wiggle room for me to form a good opinion of him. Nikki is a complicated character and I'm not sure what to make of her or her kids at this point either.
It took me awhile to get into this one because the snipping-at-each-other form of enemies to lovers is just not that entertaining to me. I also couldn't understand why Tom was allowing Phil to drag him along on his investigation, when he really shouldn't be giving him the time of day. Also, Tom has a day job he was constantly neglecting and Phil wasn't pay him. Though to his credit, Phil did make an attempt.
Here's the deal: Phil had bullied Tom back in high school, which resulted in an accident that permanently injured Tom and altered his life in significant ways. Even if that was 13 years ago, I just don't get the "fancying the guy who bullied you" trope, and Phil kind of quasi-stalking Tom didn't help. Nor do I get Tom just going along with Phil's demands for help before anything was really resolved between them. Thankfully, things do eventually get resolved and in satisfying enough ways to make me forgive the slow, awkward, weird start.
The mystery was well done and there was no obvious villain, though I do admit I wasn't paying as much attention to the details and clues as I usually do since I was getting hung up on trying to figure out Tom. Still, there were enough red herrings and everyone had possible motives, so it wasn't easy to pick any one character out as the whodunit.
Gary and Darren were the standouts here. They're only side characters, but they steal the show every time they're on page, and they're a hoot and a half. Then there are Merlin and Arthur, Tom's cats, who are very catty and fluffy. :D And even though there were a lot of Britishisms, there was only one I couldn't figure out. The humor is very dry though, so might not be to everyone's taste.
Actually, that's a good way to sum up Tom and Phil, innit?
I was hopeful when this started and our two guys, both fresh out of relationships, one after 16 years and the other just a few weeks, decided to take things slow. And they actually talk! For about ten pages and then this becomes the standard old m/m romance with lots of sex and little substance. *yawn* I deleted it at one point, but I was curious if my theory about James was going to end up being correct, so I downloaded it again. (My theory was correct. It really wasn't that hard to figure out. It bit too convenient and unbelievable, but whatever).
There wasn't anything bad about the book, per se. It would've been nicer to have more of the actual relationship development (outside of the sex scenes) to be on page, because I just wasn't feeling any chemistry between these two guys or understanding what they saw in each other. It would've helped if there had been anything else going on in the book, but this is all romance. If the MCs aren't talking to each other or thinking about each other, or boinking, then they're talking to other people about each other. Hardly anything else happens. The only good thing is that the guys's honest all the time policy prevented a Big Misunderstanding.
If I hadn't read similar stories a thousand times already, I'd probably like it better. But as it stands, it's just meh.