Dreamspinner Press, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-61581-897-6
Paranormal Romance, 2011 (Reissue)
Downtime is a reissue, I believe, as this story was previously released under the name James Allen. I’m not sure how much of this version has been rewritten. I can tell you though that this story is nothing like the author’s previous release Whistling in the Dark, since this one has time travel and paranormal elements.
Told from the first person point of view of FBI agent Morgan Nash, this one sees him doing his thing in London – hmm, I thought FBI agents have no jurisdiction outside the USA? – until he is this close to getting shot. At the last moment, he finds himself pulled into year 1888 thanks to Ezra Glacenbie and his friends. These twits thought they were summoning a demon, and instead, they get Nash. Ezra conveniently loses the spell book so that he couldn’t send Nash back to the present even if he wants to. As Nash becomes better acquainted with his new friends and even find romance with Ezra, he finds himself on the hunt for the biggest fish in 1888 London: Jack the Ripper.
At first I don’t think I will ever warm up to Nash and Ezra. They seem like stereotypical gay romance characters at first. Nash is the brash and arrogant straight-acting type who gives little thought about anyone but himself. Ezra is the sensitive one who can see and hear ghosts. But Ms Allen is aware of her characters’ strengths and weaknesses pretty keenly, and eventually she manages to have Nash mellow a little to the point that he becomes more like some human being instead of a stereotype. There is little that can be done for Ezra in the first person point of view format, however, so the poor dear doesn’t get much chance to rise above being the counterpoint to Nash’s personality.
That’s not to say that I don’t like the characters though. Ms Allen gives Nash a brittle but effective wry sense of humor that makes his most self-absorbed antics tolerable. There are also ample depths to the secondary characters that make them memorable in their own right. They make Nash realize how it feels to belong in a family for the first time, and the big strong man unbends in such a beautiful manner as a result. There is some rather unrealistic too-easy acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle of both Ezra and Nash among the good guys in this story, but I guess some creative liberties are to be expected, since this story has plenty of other things to keep the characters busy.
However, the Jack the Ripper subplot is the weakest link in this story. The whole thing is resolved in a manner that is due more to luck and coincidence than anything else. Ezra’s role in the scheme of things is to play the dude in distress. There is also the bizarre dichotomy of Nash not wanting to change anything in the past and him then going ahead to solve something as high profile as the case of the Jack the Ripper. The procedural elements and the logistics behind the mystery subplot are just not good when I compare the subplot to the romantic aspects of the story.
Downtime is, therefore, a story that has far stronger romantic and relationship elements while the mystery and suspense elements flounder considerably. Read this, therefore, for a well-written gay romance and not for a pleasing mystery