Author: Michael Murphy
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 3 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Agent Jonah Pratt heads the Secret Service team guarding the President’s husband. When a routine day turns into a dangerous assassination attempt, the stranger who dives into the melee and takes down the assassin complicates the situation, sparking Jonah’s anger.
Just back from multiple tours of duty in Iraq, Benji hides the fact that he brought the war home with him and that it continues to haunt him. His actions in stopping the would-be assassin are more instinct than strategy. And his first conversation with a furious Jonah doesn’t end well.
Losing a member of his team turns Jonah’s world upside down. And if Benji seems to know exactly what Jonah is experiencing, it’s because he went through the same thing in combat. Jonah’s work consumes him, leaving little room in his life for anything else, and Benji focuses on his studies, working to keep his nightmares at bay. But when they get together, Jonah and Benji recognize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for love and happiness—one worth fighting for.
Review: Jonah is head of a Secret Service detail protecting Dr. David Hammond, the husband of the President. Jonah’s life is his work, and his days are pretty much the same, one after the other – until the moment an attempt is made on Dr. Hammond’s life. This story started with a bang as, on the first few pages, there is a scene depicting an attempted assassination. My attention was definitely focused as the shooter was taken down by a student named Benji, and Benji was then taken down – in a matter of speaking – by Jonah.
Jonah was hard for me to read throughout this story. He was pretty high-strung and defensive based on his first encounter with Benji, which was less than respectful. For someone who was supposed to be a composed, together SS agent, I had a bit of trouble with his disrespect of Benji. Yeah, he was shaken by the shooting and one of his agents being down, but still. Sure, Benji was a little bit cocky, but Jonah’s harsh treatment of him seemed way out of line to me.
Benji is a combat vet, now out of the military and studying at Georgetown. He reacted instinctively to stop the shooter when he saw the man running away after making an attempt on Dr. Hammond’s life. Benji’s training kicked in but he didn’t get much for his efforts, other than Jonah’s ire. I had some issues believing this whole scenario. Benji was questioned on the scene and allowed to go home. After just stopping someone who had tried to kill the President’s husband and shot a SS agent? Okay. Moving on…. Jonah reconsiders his treatment of Benji and tracks him down to apologize. The two men realize they are a bit of kindred souls and start up a friendship, knowing there is a strong undercurrent of attraction as well. Their time getting to know one another involves coming to a mutual understanding of stressful jobs/situations, healing old hurts, and the effects such jobs and baggage can have on relationships. Neither of them had previously been involved in legitimate relationships, so they had that learning curve to deal with too. Both men had seen their share of carnage; Benji had lost soldiers under his command in Iraq and carried that guilt, combined with PTSD. On top of all this, Jonah was not out at work. Once they actually connected, both men were respectful of each other, were good together and actually rather sweet, as well as totally in sync in bed. The fact that they took some time to actually get to know one another before starting to have sex showed a nice maturity level. I liked them both at this point.
Concern about Jonah’s dangerous job, and possibly losing him, do crop up in Benji’s mind. He was open about this to Jonah and they discussed it. Inwardly, Jonah starts second guessing the whole relationship. He doesn’t want to be unfair to Benji or to hurt him. This is what makes what happens next so inexplicable to me.
The men had settled into a nice routine, they had known one another several months when a situation occurred, after which Jonah completely shut Benji out. I did not appreciate how Jonah dismissed Benji, nor did I find it plausible. They had been getting along so well, talking about anything and everything for hours, not just ending up in bed. So to stop talking and shut him out, I never got over that. Benji was frantic for Jonah, and now that the chips were down, he was obviously not turning away because of the danger. He also went through some rough treatment from Jonah’s peers, who had never heard him mention Benji. I was pretty steamed at this point. Eventually Jonah got his head out of his rear and began trying to repair things with Benji. I was very glad Benji did not give Jonah an easy pass. Just as reconciliation was happening, the book …ended.
I have not read a previous book by this author, in which I assume the reader was given Dr. Hammond’s full story and character traits. In this book he struck me as a distant figure until over 2/3 in, when he suddenly took on the roles of Jonah’s conscience, mentor and relationship mender. Once I saw Hammond in action I liked him, but it would have been nice to have seen glimpses of his humanity much sooner, as an actual key individual in Jonah’s daily life.
As I’ve relayed, I had some plausibility issues with this story. There were also some verbiage uses and some timeline skips which are the type of items that tend to grate on me. The dramatic scenes in the story are gripping. Jonah and Benji do have some wonderful conversations and moments of connection. I appreciated how once Jonah shut Benji out, Benji, being very hurt, was not quick to forgive. The book has a few tense scenes of action and suspense, yet overall this is a character driven story about two men finding one another, learning to see themselves through the other’s eyes, slipping up – then ultimately finding their way back.