Reviewed by Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
I found this a curious kind of story. I enjoy BA Tortuga’s writing, which is intentionally informal and colloquial. In this case I especially liked her deep-dive into the personalities of both Brantley Dime and Alex España. Brant is a Texas-born veteran and a pediatric nurse in Albuquerque. Lex is a policeman, born in the Burque (which I learned is the nickname for Albuquerque, where my father was born and raised) but now working in Las Cruces.
The oddness of the book is that is starts out with a powerful scenario in which Lex meets Brant again after a decade, in the aftermath of the random shooting death of Brant’s best friend Matt. When they first met, Brant was Matt’s best man at his wedding to Travis Garcia, Lex’s best friend and best man. Lex is called at three in the morning to drive up to Albuquerque to comfort the shattered Travis, while Brant, himself in shock as the sole witness to the brutal killing, does his best to help his best friend’s grieving husband.
The opening chapters revolve around this confluence of horror and grief, as families and friends arrive, and the various players adjust to the reality of the awful situation. Lex and Brent, who really don’t know each other, are tied to the murder in different ways, and through this shared tragedy begin to connect in unexpected ways.
Following this intense opening, the entirety of the rest of the book is all about Lex and Brant, and the surprising rapidity with which their connection blossoms into something neither of them have ever hoped to experience. Both men have some baggage, which complicates their budding relationship, but Tortuga takes us step by step through the evolution of something beautiful germinated by something ugly.
It’s as simple as that. In description it might seem a little slight, but in the reading is was surprisingly satisfying. While the healing power of love is in there, what it’s really about is the surprising ability of love to grow in unexpected places.
If I have reservations about the story, it’s simply because Lex and Brant are not the kind of gay guys who would ever have been my friends. Big, butch gay men have never been part of my reality, and while it’s great to read about a world in which these guys face almost no intolerance for who they are, it felt more like a fairy tale than real life.