Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Newly promoted police captain Evan Cerelli takes command of his own precinct as Matt Haight’s security business begins to expand at a rapid rate. Both of their careers require more and more of their time—away from home and each other. When his most famous clients, Daisy and Bennett Ames, suffer a traumatic breakup, Matt is drawn into a dangerous and dramatic situation. With attentions diverted, Evan and Matt’s tight-knit home life begins to unravel.
As Griffin Drake’s movie nears final edit, his thoughts turn toward building a home with his new fiancé, Jim Shea—and maybe even starting a family. Before he can think of a new family, Jim is caught up in his past. The possibility of putting Tripp Ingersoll in jail once and for all beckons, and Jim wants the closure that has long eluded him. As a new lead spurs him on, Jim begins to lose sight of the future by chasing an old ghost.
Both couples struggle to remember that “happily ever after” requires hard work, trust, and tender, open hearts.
Truth and Tenderness by Tere Michaels brings the terrific Faith, Love & Devotion series to a heartwarming and totally satisfying close. After discovering the amazing characters Michaels introduced in Faith & Fidelity (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #1), I soon became “obsessed” with these complicated men and their often tortuous path to love and HEA. What a tough path its been for all involved, and that includes the reader. It’s been a A Ticket Ride all the way to the end and I loved every word of it.
First there was New York City Vice Detective Evan Cerelli, a widower with a passel of kids. He’s the character I most often wanted to slap upside the head….over and over again. Evan has been one continual PITA in this series but I grew to love him mostly because Matt did. And his kids did…as well as his sister. Evan has lots of redeeming features that kept the readers involved in him, no matter that we often felt like giving him a boot to the rear. He quaffled, and quibbled and ran from a character we loved immediately. That was former Homicide Detective Matt Haight, a veritable Rubik’s Cube of emotions and doubt. Both men had shied away from the fact that they were attracted to men and to each other. Between Evan’s massive load of guilt over his treatment of the dead wife he loved (although not in the way she wanted), his kids and his wife’s parents, Evan’s journey to another relationship, let alone one with a man, was strewn with emotional land mines. Ones he stepped on time and again. Matt too came with enough baggage dragging behind him to outfit a trip to deepest Africa. He had problems with trying to solve his issues with alcohol, he got fired from the police department, a job he was made to do and loved. Plus he was a total womanizer in order to hide what he felt towards men. And it took books for these men to come together with any sort of equanimity or solidity. There was doubt and fights even through this last story. Man, love is hard for these two. But also, in Tere Michaels hands, rewarding, believable, and fierce. Through every hard won battle and advancements made, it seemed as though this pair then took as many steps backward. And the reader was dragged back and forth along with emotional journey, becoming even more committed to their happiness along the way.
And not only did these men need to find out how to make their relationship work with their strong personalities, they had Evan’s kids to contend with and fold into their relationship as well. That would be the twins, Danny and Elizabeth as well as the older girls, Katie and Miranda. How I loved that Katie! In fact, these kids acted and sounded…well, like kids..ones still trying to recover from the loss of their mother. Again this was handled so authentically by the author that you wept and laughed and loved all the interaction among this family as it enlarged to include Matt. Some kids loved Matt, others not so much seeing him as a replacement for their beloved mother. Sound familiar? Yep, it does. And because it does, the stories worked even better due to the recognizable rivalry and reality they reflected back at us.
But the couple that really, completely stole my heart? That would be Detective James “Jim” Shea, a Seattle cop, and Hollywood screenwriter Griffin Drake who met over a horrific homicide case, an investigation that runs the length of the series and is resolved finally here. Love & Loyalty (Faith, Love, & Devotion #2) was the book I went back to multiple times because this pairing was so hot, so gripping that I couldn’t get enough of them. They were an odd pair, on the surface, but underneath, Michaels showed us two men who fit together so well, that imagining them ever parting was heartbreaking. Jim Shea has so many layers to him, one of which was a somewhat cold exterior he shed only with a few close friends. Watching Griffin climb inside that barrier was such a joy of this story. Equally so was watching the impact Jim made on Griffin’s life.
Tere Michaels created something remarkable with this series. She brought these men, their lives, and struggle to make a difference and find love real and memorable. I was so invested in these stories I often lost track of the fact that they were characters on a page (or screen). I got angry over their actions (see Evan), I got frustrated when their relationship got stymied by their jobs (see all of them) and by their doubts and inability to communicate that caused them to stumble and fall repeatedly. But then I was also there to cheer when they got it together enough to pick themselves back up and try to make it all work one more time. How this series and the author put me and these marvelous characters through the wringer more times than I can count. I love/hated every minute of their relationship waltzes. How sorry I am that its finally over.
In Truth and Tenderness, all the pairings are looking fairly stable (at least for this group) when Jim decides he just can’t let go of the case that brought them all together. There is Daisy and Bennett, Shane and Helena, Miranda and boyfriend Kent, Evan and Matt, Jim and Griffin. While that may sound like a crowd, it’s not. It’s all one giant extended family. But the explosions are about to start, and they happen everywhere, small and humongous just as Evan is getting his captaincy. It’s the evil that is Tripp Ingersoil, the killer who got away with the murder of Carmen a teenage hooker, that is occupying Jim’s thoughts and time when they should be turned towards his new life with Griffin. This is the case that brought them together when Griffin made a screenplay out of the story. It also made Jim a close friend/surrogate son of Ed Kelly, Carmen’s dad, another reason he can’t let go of this case. Well, that and the killer walked.
If someone asked me to point out one reason why this series resonated with me so, I’m not sure I could do it. Yes, the dialog is snappy, believable and relevant in every aspect, from the “police speak” to the manner in which you talk intimately to someone you love. Their words and conversations come at you with all the force of the grittiness that life and living entails. It’s not always pretty, flowers and hearts. Sometimes its ugly, and painful and raw. It’s stubbornness and silence, slamming doors and phone calls not returned. Michaels gets that too about love and life and lays it all out here before us. It’s not just that the characterizations are multidimensional and real, its that these men and the people that support them breathe, emote, and scream with an energy and vividness that captures you in every scene and situation. Jim, Griffin, Evan, Matt and the rest work because we believe in them as well as their dynamics.
Same goes for the various plot threads and overall theme. Michaels carries them all logically and authentically to the satisfying climax, including several white knuckle action scenes and situations. Really, you know, we wouldn’t have been happy with less. These are police officers, detectives and killers so whatever happens need to reflect those professions, actions and accountability. And it does. Thank you, Tere Michaels, for that procedural attentiveness to detail as well.
Did I hate to see this end? You betcha. But was I happy with how it ended? Almost. Of course, it’s Evan and Matt who leave with that little bit of snarkiness you have come to expect from them. I left them all 99.9 percent happy and that works for me. It will for you too. But if you are new to these men and their Rube Goldberg path to love and HEA, please run dont’ walk back to the first story and see how it (and they) all begin. I have listed the stories below, use it as a list to check them all off. And let me know which story was your favorite as you now know mine.
I highly recommend Truth & Tenderness and the entire Faith, Love, & Devotion series by Tere Michaels. This book and this series will be on my Best of 2015 list. Read them and find out why they should be on yours.
Cover art by Aaron Anderson. I don’t think I would be happy with any cover here because of all the elements I would want to see. I thought it was ok but wanted so much more. Probably not fair to the artist.
ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: May 1st 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
seriesFaith, Love, & Devotion #6
charactersMatt Haight, Evan Cerelli, Jim Shea, Griffin Drake
Faith, Love & Devotion Series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters, relationships and plot threads:
- Faith & Fidelity (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #1)
- Love & Loyalty (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #2)
- Duty & Devotion (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #3)
- Cherish (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #4)
- Cherish & Blessed (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #4 & #5)
- Truth & Tenderness (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #6)