Title : Paid Leave
Author : Hayley B. James
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary
Length : 230 pages (e-book)
Published : May 3, 2013
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.
I’ve become very picky about how the closet is handled in books. It has to be in addition to a fantastic plot, not the plot itself. I found myself disappointed by Paid Leave. In the past I’ve really enjoyed books by Hayley James which compounded my disappointment. Benji Miller is a closeted Albuquerque police officer in a time the department is routinely being excoriated by the press for excessive force. He finds himself in a toxic relationship with a reporter. Neither man gives the relationship a chance to be anything other than toxic. They’re both closeted and are in it for the sex. Then Benji shoots and kills a suspect. While on leave from the shooting Benji walks into a coffee shop owned and operated by Neal McCoy. Benji goes back to the coffee shop for lunch. Then he makes plans to see Neal again later. It doesn’t take long for Benji and Neal to find themselves in a quiet, closeted relationship.
Benji slowly takes some steps to come out of the closet as he realizes he wants to build a life with Neal. It doesn’t take long for Benji’s friends to figure out something is not as it seems. Rumors start flying around Benji at work. He thinks he’s handling it well. Neal is tired of dealing with an uncommunicative boyfriend despite the fact he’s in love. They have words and break up. Neal’s shop is vandalized and he is hurt. Benji rushes over and fully outs himself when faced with a real threat to the man he loves. All that’s left is the wrapping up of the loose plot strings.
Feel free to stop me if you’ve read this book before. Strong silent type man A, falls in love with out and proud man B. Sassy friend of man B does not approve of strong silent type man A dragging man B back into the closet. Relationship stress tears apart man A and man B. An emergency brings them back together and out into the open. All is well. It’s one giant string of clichés. There were additional aspects to the plot of this book so to be fair it was more than just a cliché. The toxic relationship between Benji and the reporter Charles Wilcox was quite interesting. They were both great guys, just not great together. Both men helped the other realize what all they didn’t have in life and what they really wanted, however; the main plot of this book was whether or not Benji would come out of the closet for Neal. It wasn’t enough for me.
In addition to enjoying the relationship between Benji and Charles, I did feel the overall writing of this book was quite good. In what could have been a neverending and exhausting sea of angst there were occasional jokes and moments of simple happy joy. Both Benji and Neal had dogs with distinct personalities that contributed to well written scenes. Character motivations and actions felt genuine and honest. I wish the writing alone could have carried this book for me, if you’re a lover of coming out of the closet stories this book is a superbly written version. As for me, I feel a bit generous giving it three stars.
Rated 3 stars by Faye