by Jane Seville, contemporary (2009)
Dreamspinner Press, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-935192-80-0
Meet Jack Francisco. In Zero At The Bone, his life goes down the drain when he happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. While leaving his surgical practice for home one evening, he witnessed the murder of the ex-wife of a drug tycoon. She happened to be the key witness in her ex-husband's upcoming trial. Now poor Jack is under protective custody of the FBI, but if you have read and watched enough crime stories, you'd know how competent the men in suits can be.
Then we have D. He kills people for money, but he's a gentleman at heart, you know. He is also unfortunately not careful enough to keep evidence of his, er, career from the hands of some folks who want him to kill "Jack Macintosh". Incidentally, which do you think is a better name, Jack Francisco or Jack Macintosh? Of course, D can't do it, or else we won't have this story, and now D and Jack are on the run from the mob as well as the cops.
Simply put, Zero At The Bone is an entertaining, fast-paced, and fun story. Sure, the two guys fall in love, but their attraction is handled pretty realistically. There is no immediate sex vibe here and no sex scenes taking place in the most implausible moments and at the most unbelievable locations - just two guys falling in love while on the run in a way that I actually find credible.
D's speech pattern keeps distracting me as his dialect seems to be a mix of Cockney English and some US hick patois, but he's an adorable protective fellow who doesn't get too worked up over the fact that he kills people for a living. Of course, the author plays it safe by making D kill folks who "deserve it", which disappoints me a little, but D doesn't whine, mope, or act like an emo dope. He's a bad boy who follows his code of honor and he adores his man even as he moves a few mountains to keep him safe. What's not to adore?
I was initially worried that Jack would turn out to be a damsel-in-distress, but he turns out instead to be a pretty decent male lead character. He's not as colorful or memorable as D, but then again, I can't hold that against him as poor Jack is who he is and he's stuck in a role as the person D has to protect. He's fine for what - who - he is.
For a long time, Zero At The Bone is a fabulous fun read because the author is more intent on keeping her story going in a believable yet high octane manner without trying too hard to follow gay romance conventions. The characters come off as believable folks instead of Straight Acting Dude #433 and His More Effeminate Sensitive Boyfriend #666. The story moves at an enjoyable brisk pace and the action complements the romance very well. Okay, the names of the characters could be a little less cheesy, but still, I have a great time with this one. This one is no zero, that's for sure!
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