Rating: 4.5 stars
It has taken several years, 5 to be exact, for New York City Vice Detective Evan Cerelli, his four children, and former Homicide Detective Matt Haight to come together as a couple and as a family. And for the most part they have made it without the emotional fireworks and mental turmoil that marked the first year of their relationship.
Now Even is going to be promoted to Captain of his precinct, the first out gay captain on the force, Matt is a successful security advisor when he is not a wonderful house husband to the two kids, twins Danny and Elizabeth, still at home. Katie and Miranda are off at college, and their friends seem happy. Life is good.
But Thanksgiving is coming and bringing with it the family explosions they thought they had left in the past. When Evan accidentally learns his oldest daughter, Miranda, is thinking of getting married to her boyfriend of less than 3 months, he flies off in a rage and is met with equal anger from Miranda who still has problems accepting her father’s relationship with Matt. A temporary truce between them sees Evan inviting Miranda’s new boyfriend and his parents to Evan and Matt’s house for Thanksgiving. Also coming for Thanksgiving is Helena, Evan’s partner on the force and her boyfriend, Shane, and second oldest daughter, Katie, who “wouldn’t miss the fireworks for anything.”
And before the turkey is even on the table, emotional explosions are going off and everyone is included. Matt and Evan first have to survive Thanksgiving with their family and friends, and each minute more is making that unlikely.
This is the fourth book in the Faith, Love & Devotion series by Tere Michaels and it is a series close to my heart. We first met Matt and Evan in the first book Faith & Fidelity, at the angst ridden beginnings of their relationship. Then Evan was mourning the loss of his beloved wife and first and only person he has ever slept with. In addition to his grief, he was trying to do his job as a police officer and fill in the void for his four kids left behind when his wife died. Evan is full of pain, grief and overburdened by stress and doubts about his ability to be a good father and step up to the plate. Matt is a complete mess when the reader and Evan first encounter him. Forced to resign from the police force he loves over behavior issues, he has become a bitter, disillusioned drunk, getting by as a security cop and on anonymous sex with women. But a conversation in a bar and the exchange of personal confidences leads to an unlikely friendship that eventually turns into a shattering love affair that forces each man to rethink his sexuality and their acceptance of the fact that they love each other. It is a tough road for Evan and Matt, especially Evan, who has the reactions of his children, former inlaws and police force to think about.
One of the things I cherish about this series is that Tere Michaels lets us in on the emotional fallout and oscillating feelings, including bouts of denial, that come with identity earthquakes. By that I mean the paradigm shifts that occur within a person when the most basic self knowledge is proven wrong. And being gay or bisexual is a major shift for them both. The author lets their relationship play out, not over one book but four stories, including this one. The Evan/Matt relationship here is the strongest it has ever been (and that’s saying something) but even here it has its shaky moments, most of which come from the stress brought on by Miranda. Let me tell you, there are many times that I am as frustrated with Miranda as everyone else in her family. I don’t like her behavior and think that Evan needs to get a grip when dealing with her. But does that sound like I think of them as characters? No it does not. And that’s the beauty of these stories and these amazing characters, they might make you gnash your teeth and pull some hair, but they are never anything less than believable.
Michaels also takes into account how much alike fathers and their daughters can be as Evan and Miranda’s behavior is often a reflection of each other. Matt too has aged and grown into his role as caregiver/second father to at least 3 of the kids, and his growth is as realistic and wry as can be. Tere Michaels has a wonderful grip on relationship dynamics, not only between romantic partners but familial relationships too. Siblings squabbles, family arguments, and the small joys of an established bond are all found here in this latest addition to the series.
I also loved that it takes place over Thanksgiving and includes the family of Miranda’s boyfriend, which adds that unknown element so often present at Thanksgiving when multiple family groups, including strangers, are brought together and forced to engage each other on the most intimate of American celebrations, the Thanksgiving dinner. Expectations are perhaps unreasonably high for what we think this holiday with its traditions of being grateful and giving thanks will bring. And that stress alone has blown up more turkeys than any fryer on the market. I will tell you that all ends well, at least temporarily for this wonderful family I have become so fond of. If you are familiar with this story, you will love Cherish as I did. If this series is new to you, don’t start here. Go back to the beginning to where it all started. It makes the place they are at now all the more precious and rewarding.
And Tere Michaels? I need more of another favorite couple here, that would be Jim and Griffon from Love & Loyalty (Faith, Love & Devotion #2). Pretty please? That would be a great Christmas gift for us all.
Here are the books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the history and couples involved:
Faith & Fidelity (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #1)
Love & Loyalty (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #2)
Duty & Devotion (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #3)
Cherish (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #4)
Cover art by Croco Designs. The covers for this series are just average. They really don’t relate to the stories within nor do they make any real attempt to have models that look like the characters. Grade C
Books available at Loose id, Amazon, and All Romance.