Author: Cate Ashwood &. J.H. Knight
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Summary: John Turner has been living a lie most of his life. Growing up in the rural Georgia town of Magnolia Ridge, he’s only ever let one person truly know him: his best friend, Chloe. To the rest of the world, they’re the perfect couple, but just between them, she’s helping John hide in plain sight.
Matt Kinsley, a cop from San Francisco, moves to town looking for a slower pace and to reconnect with his Southern roots. Starting over in Magnolia Ridge means taking a step into the closet, but Matt finds that with John for company, he doesn’t mind so much.
As the two start to explore a possible relationship, a horrific murder rips the town apart but brings John and Matt together in ways neither could’ve imagined. Matt must decide where his loyalties lie while John resists the urge to run again. Together, they have to discover who the real devil is before another life is destroyed.
Review: I’ve enjoyed these authors separately and was very interested in what they had written together. It was a good read for the most part although it fell short in the end. The settings and characterizations were good, such as seeing and feeling Georgia through Matt’s eyes, getting his take on the rural town and why he accepted staying in the closet with John so easily. The opening scenes worked for me, hooking up anonymously, then meeting again as Matt starts his job, especially when John had Chloe in tow. Matt’s choice to move to Georgia was believable and I enjoyed his conversations with his old partner Santiago. There was plenty of background for John and very understandable reasons for not coming out. Chloe, I didn’t care much for; she was an enabler and using John just as much as he was using her as a beard. It was hard to accept the act they continuously put on.
I wish there had been more romantic build-up, and the issues of dating and coming out were voluntarily resolved between John and Matt. Once the murder occurs, the plot fell apart for me with too many holes evident. I couldn’t quite buy into John’s actions and the aunt from out of nowhere seemed pretty strange. The appearance of the murder weapon was never even addressed and any motive or details to the murder never fully explained. It felt like it should have been a different perpetrator but someone changed their mind and winged it. With the murder, all of John and Matt’s issues are taken away and disappear with little fanfare. Matt’s friend Santiago shows up, indicating a sequel, and I hope if there’s another mystery, more care is used in plotting it. I would read it, as there was a fair amount of this book that I liked and I appreciated having a mystery as part of it, just not its execution. It did get the couple to a happy ending and there was a decent amount of steam included. I can still recommend it, as the details I felt were missed might not even be noticeable to other readers.