Secrets and Ink
Title : With or Without Him
Author : Lou Harper
Publisher : Samhain Publishing (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary
Length : 128 pages (e-book)
Published : December 10, 2013
Rating : ★★★★
When Karma writes you a ticket, pay up or else…
If life was like the movies, Jem Mitchell’s wouldn’t be such a mess. In LA’s glittering world of dreams, he works an unglamorous job at a gourmet grocery store. His past is so deep and dark, the details are lost even to him. All he knows is he was once cursed by a meter maid, and ever since, his love life has sucked.
When Detective Nick Davies becomes a regular at the store, Jem dares to hope he’s un-hexed at last. He should have known that sex with a remarkably normal guy, devoid of weird fetishes and fatal personality flaws, was too good to be true.
During a post-encounter cuddle, Nick recognizes the tattoo on Jem’s back—and remembers him as a young hustler he arrested nine years past.
As Jem’s memories come crashing back, he flees from Nick, but fate contrives to keep pushing them back together. And when Jem’s old partner in crime is found murdered, the stakes are raised for life, for love, and a dangerous drama with no guarantee of a Hollywood ending.
Warning: Stars a mild-mannered store clerk with a shady past, a hunky cop whose passion in the bedroom is as big as his passion for justice, and celebrity sightings you won’t see on TMZ.
For a “reasonably good-looking and generally pleasant guy”, twenty-six year old Jeremy “Jem” Mitchell’s love life was, well, pretty much non existent. Convinced he was cursed by an employee LA Department of Transportation, Jem has resigned himself to waiting out its effects. So when spots a hunky cop guarding a film set on his way to work, Jem hardly expects for him to walk into Fred’s Trade Post, the local grocery store where Jem works, never mind come back again the following week. And the one after that. And the one after that as well. In fact, in no time Detective Nick Davies is a regular, whenever Jem’s working the register. After several weeks of this, his cop finally asks him out for coffee. After a lovely time, they arrange to meet for lunch. Then dinner. Then they end up in bed. Of course, that’s when it all goes pear shaped.
A mortified Jem runs when Nick recognises the tattoo on his back. The one he saw as he was arresting a seventeen year old Jem for solicitation. The curse has kicked in and that’s the end of that. The pity party he’s indulging in gets interrupted by a call from his little sister, Charly. Although it hasn’t always been the case, Jem is very close to his sister, considering her his best friend. When a house collapsed on him leaving Jem with serious injuries a few years before, his friends all deserted him one by one, but Charly was there for him every step of his recovery.
It seems love isn’t quite done with Jem, though. He finds a red envelope containing photo of his wild, younger, naked self in the door jamb of his front door, he jumps to the conclusion that Nick left it there to embarrass and humiliate him. Jem races over to Nick’s ready for a heated confrontation. Instead he gets a calm Nick informing him that he had nothing to do with it. The next day, Nick seeks Jem out, wanting to clear the air. After a good talk, they agree to be friends.
When a second, even more explicit photo appears Jem’s thoughts turn to his childhood friend and main instigator of their often drug and alcohol fuelled escapades, Riley. Believing that Riley is playing games, Jem goes over to deal with his former love and tell him in no uncertain terms that they are through. That Jem has no interest in that life. After a heated argument, Jem leaves. The following day a detective knocks on the door and informs Jem that Riley has been found strangled. As the mystery unfolds, Nick and Jem grow closer. Maybe the curse is lifting after all.
With a great first chapter that had a completely unexpected twist at the end, I was thoroughly intrigued very early on. The story, and Jem, totally sucked me in. I loved Nick, too. Although, at one point, about a third of the way through, I couldn’t see how this book was going to be long enough! It managed it, though. And did it well. There was a good build up with the mystery. The culmination and the motive was a little over the top, in the vein of Hollywood blockbuster movies, but that actually fitted in with the book, so I didn’t really mind that. The only issue I had was with the editing; there were a lot of instances of missing words.
I have to say, I really enjoyed this short novella. The MC was interesting, quirky, likeable and fun. Nick made a good foil for Jem and I could really see how they’d work together as a couple long term. Great character development and wonderful secondary characters made it very easy to care about them and become invested in their tale. I don’t know why the scene where Jem confronts Riley got to me so much, but I found myself in tears. Both for Jem and for Riley. It was so sad seeing Riley stuck in his past, incapable and unwilling to see what his lifestyle was doing to him. The sex scene may have been fairly short, but it was pretty hot! I really liked those two together. I also liked Jem’s humour. The pace trotted along nicely, with an engaging story and a mystery element that kept things interesting.
Rated 4 stars by Booksmitten