Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Six months into a relationship, things have heated up between political blogger Sam Flynn and FBI Special Agent Nathan Walker. Though Sam is happy with Nathan and proud of his own sobriety, he’s anxious about what their future holds. Things are heating up in Stonebridge, Connecticut, as a series of deadly fires puts the community on edge and eventually threatens Sam’s comatose brother. As Halloween approaches, fears rise that the arsonist will strike again.
When Sam encounters the main suspect, seventeen-year-old orphan Damon Blake, he’s not sure what to do. Obstruction might land him in jail, but he is increasingly skeptical of Damon’s guilt. He takes matters into his own hands and investigates, but doing so means keeping Damon’s whereabouts a secret from Nathan and the police. Meanwhile, Nathan wonders what Sam is hiding and grapples with insecurities of his own. Sam wants to confide in Nathan, and Nathan wants to trust Sam, but they discover that negotiating new love can be as dangerous as solving crime.
The beauty of this novel lies in its simplicity. It was easy to sink into the story and forget about reality. I’ve laughed. I’ve groaned. I’ve cheered for the main characters from beginning to end. Maggie Kavanagh wrote a story with beautiful erotic scenes to boost the novel’s sensuality instead of writing erotic scenes and wrapping a story around them. Best of all, she knew how to use small words to show big details for readers who knew what to look for. The know-how, so to speak, done in a subtle fashion where one would either see it or didn’t.
I picked up this novel without reading the first book in “The Stonebridge Mysteries,” and it stood very well on its own. I suspect the only carry over is the relationship of her two main characters – Nathan and Sam, and even without fully knowing their backstory, I loved watching the progress of these two men’s relationship in the next step. One of many things I enjoyed about them was their independence and willingness to walk a thin line to find facts and truth. They had their own jobs and perspectives, and instead of having one smothering the other or having two people being so similar that they’re identical, Nathan and Sam bring a sort of harmony into a relationship that a lot of people strive for in real life. For me, that goes very far in making a story comforting and inspirational to read.
However, that’s not to say that our characters didn’t have personal challenges they face as a couple in a relationship. Sam’s a recovering alcoholic, and Nathan’s trust in Sam isn’t quite there at a full 100%, but he does try. I felt an overwhelming swell of pride in Sam in the story when he was faced with a very dark personal choice and chose to stand for his convictions, among many other choices he made.
It was also great to see two careers that are frequently misconstrued for the worst portrayed in a positive light. While this isn’t a “James Patterson” level mystery, it holds at a “Hardy Boys” level, and I loved those growing up. There are going to be some groaning for people who have more know-how about certain things in the story, but that’s quite all right. I came to read a story, not an encyclopedia or a textbook.
The supporting cast of characters – Sam’s friends – are also lovable and have their own troubles. I love the author for writing a story where Sam has a great group of friends he can trust and rely on without it coming off as being a passive-aggressive fault of some kind. It’s great having a book that remind us, regardless of what age we may be, that it’s an ideal to have friends such as these and to be friends such as these for those we care about.
For the readers who enjoy a little bit of bondage in their stories, Kavanagh eases in the BDSM element after Nathan managed to coax out of Sam what it is the man had been trying, but couldn’t bring himself to verbally ask for, to get Nathan to explore with Sam. I love how Nathan does it. I find the author’s adaptation of the BDSM rulebook feel quite natural. It isn’t just strictly about the rules and the laws but also the human element of it. I look forward to more of this in Kavanagh’s third book, Blind Spot.
I can’t say whether one will hate or love this book. I can, however, recommend picking it up. There are certain advantages to reading a Book 2 before Book 1, in my opinion, if that’s the element holding a reader back.
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day!
Cover art by Maria Fanning. The cover took a while to grow on me, not that it grew much. It’s not a cover that called out for my attention, probably because it didn’t make me feel like there’s a mystery story behind its cover. I liked that it showed a setting that’s pretty important to the story, and the match is an important element as well, but the image of the man felt a little odd and not mysterious. Since the book series is called “The Stonebridge Mysteries,” I think it would have been better if a small corner was dedicated to some action from within the novel.
Personally, I like a man in a hot suit where applicable, and Nathan sounds quite applicable, indeed!
- Author: Maggie Kavanagh
- Length: paperback, 204 pages
- Language: English
- Series: The Stonebridge Mysteries, #2
- Published: 1st edition September 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
- ISBN-13: 9781634764049
- Digital ISBN: 978-1-63476-405-6
- ISBN: 978-1-63476-404-9