Warnings: This review may contain spoilers
What a fantastic read! I knew from the very start that I was going to thoroughly enjoy this story. I was excited to start it but really sad to keep it down when it ended. Having a soft spot for the ‘opposites-attract’ kind of books since they tend to push my buttons in all the right ways, this book already had a plus point there to start with and I also enjoy cop stories so that’s another tick.
Benji Miller is a cop, who loves his job very much. He’s gay but deeply closeted and he’s happy to keep it that way, working hard to keep it hidden from his colleagues – who, like all guys in ‘ macho’ jobs, are quick to throw snide remarks over homosexuality whenever it’d come up.
At the beginning of this book, we find out of a problem going on between the PD and the media. Unfortunately for Benji he becomes the next target to the media rage when a routine traffic stop turns nasty and he has to shoot a man to protect a child. There’s an uproar once again and Benji is put on a mandatory paid leave, whilst the department decides to investigate the shoot-out.
Angry and feeling at odds with his life, Benji has to accept the fact that he’s stuck at home, laying low until the media coverage dies down. One morning he takes a chance on leaving the house to go out for breakfast and ends up in a cafe called Beans that normally wouldn’t have been his pick That’s when his life takes a turn for good!
Neal McCoy, the owner of Beans is Benji’s complete opposite, he’s gay but he’s out and proud, he believes that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of and he’s not afraid to say so.
” …… I’m proud of what I am, Benji. If I could S**t rainbows I would.”
” It isn’t a lifestyle. Pretending to be straight is a lifestyle. Being gay because I was born gay is simply living.”
The two men meet that morning and Benji is immediately attracted to this bright, sunny man who subtly teases and flirts with him and who, when Benji is with him, makes all the bad stuff go away. Inevitably, they fall in love which in turn, messes completely with Benji’s plans to keep his private life separate from his career one and it puts him in danger of being outed to his friends and workmates. He wants to have a life with this man who makes him happy but the pressures are great and Benji has some hard decisions to make!
“He had heaven with Neal but hell because of it. Believing it would get better was impossible when away from Neal, but every Saturday he was reminded it was all worth it .”
The best thing about this story is that Hayley B James makes these characters so real. I loved that she avoided going down the route that most m/m romances take – making these two guys stereotypically gorgeous hunks with flowery descriptions of model style looks or perfect bodies – No! She gives us perfectly normal, everyday guys and that was what made this story so believable. The thing that draws Benji to Neal the first time he sees him, is his contagious smile that immediately makes Benji smile back, something he’s not felt like doing for a long time and it’s that smile that stops him from running whenever he starts to feel skittish! I fell in love with Neal just the way Benji did. He’s a sweet, funny, openly sexy man who’s so patient and caring that it is impossible to find any flaws. You may say that it would make him appear too sugary perfect, but he’s not that at all and still I adored him.
The book is filled with well fleshed out likeable (and some dislikable ) supporting characters who aren’t just there as background fodder but are actually integral part of the story as it develops. Each one has a personality that will draw you to them or have you boo hissing as they have an impact on our MC’s growing relationship. The angst is there but I’m also glad to say that it’s not that overdramatic, soap-style drama that can sometimes grate because its so over the top. It is all well-balanced and well-thought of.
Obviously there are moments of exasperation when Benji’s stubborn outlook is so set in stone that you will want to shake him to senses. But, at the same time you can also understand, even if you don’t always agree with how he handles things with Neal. Because you know why he acts the way he does, and that’s all down to Ms James’ ability to make you see that Benji’s dilemma is not just a made up plot device but is actually something tangible that people in real life are struggling with on a day to day basis!
“I see the worst of the city, my career believes that real men are not gay, and my parents used religion to correct my behaviour throughout my childhood. I’m not used to people like you or Zoey.”
The love scenes (that are not overdone) are sexy, sensual and tender and the chemistry and sexual tension is perfectly pitched. They eventually get their HEA and its exactly how it should be – satisfying, with hope for the future and I was left in a state of contentment. A lovely emotionally driven book that will stay with me for quite a while. A 5 star keeper!
To read the Summary and an excerpt of this book, click here: PAID LEAVE by Hayley B. James
MACKY is one of the official reviewers of The Blog of Sid Love