Title: Paid Leave
Author: Hayley B. James
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press May 2013
Blurb: Albuquerque police officer Benji Miller made the choice to hide his sexuality and devote his life to his career. He guards his secret carefully, believing he is protecting his job and happiness. Then, during a routine traffic stop gone awry, he shoots a suspect to protect a young girl, and his life spins out of control. A department-mandated paid leave rips away the only distraction he had, and he has to deal with the unsympathetic media who criticize the police department’s every move.
One day, needing to get out of the house, Benji walks into a café, where he meets Neal McCoy—a gay man living without shame, unafraid to speak his mind or stand up against prejudice. Benji quickly falls for Neal but struggles to combine his new love interest and his career. With the media threatening the careful illusion he’s built around himself, Benji can’t stand the pressure.
Benji has to decide: sacrifice his happiness in the name of his career and an easy life, or find the courage to give up the lonely existence he knows and take a step into the unknown.
Review: This book surprised me. I usually get frustrated at closeted characters, but Benji was different. He accepted his life as one of a lonely cop. I grieved for him and the sadness that he believed to be his fate. He found his only outlet in meaningless hookups, but each one caused him to retreat further into himself. Believing that they were all he would ever be allowed to have, he took what little pleasure he could get from those secret, sad moments and stored it away to get him through the aching loneliness. Instead of getting frustrated with him, I found myself wanting to sit with him, have a cup of coffee, talk with him, hold him, rail against everyone who brought this man such pain.
Enter Neal and everything changes. Neal is vibrant and alive. His openness, with not just who he is, but with everything from the mistake of his coffee shop to seeing into the pain Benji wears around him is refreshing. He knows more than he lets on and his compassion is wonderful. He fights being “that guy” caught up in a man who can’t acknowledge their relationship. But Neal also knows that Benji is worth fighting for and I loved the tug of war the two of them had.
I enjoyed the depth of this book. The author gave realistic and inspiring emotions to these men. The side characters brought out the humanity in the story and created a connection between the main characters, that made the story feel real. Even Benji’s partner and Neal’s family caused me to be drawn in, frustrated, excited, angry, and joyous.
It was a well written and beautiful story. If you think you won’t enjoy this book because of it’s trope, or that closet case stories feel like a dime a dozen, I encourage you to think again and give this book a try.
Reviewed by Beans
Posted on May 7, 2013, in Beans and tagged B List, Beans, Career, Closeted, Coffee House, Coming Out, Contemporary, Cops, Crazy Family, DSP, Friends to Lovers, love triumphs over all, M/M, romance. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.