Reviewed by Donna
TITLE: A Mended Man
SERIES: The Men of Halfway House #4
AUTHOR: Jaime Reese
PUBLISHER: Romandeavor, Inc
LENGTH: 145,000 Words
RELEASE DATE: April 26, 2016
A story of healing and confronting demons…
Detective Aidan Calloway is rock-solid strong. He’s a man of justice—loyal to his friends, family, and job—even if it requires bending a law…or two. He shields himself behind an abrasive, fearless facade, until a phone call one night chips his armor and throws his perfectly planned, hollow life into a tailspin.
Jessie Vega is the epitome of optimism. His carefully crafted attitude of hope and positivity protects him from a past filled with too much pain. When a ghost from a dark time resurfaces and nearly breaks him, he must tap into his inner strength or risk losing everything he’s worked so hard to build.
But Jessie can’t do it alone. He must fight to break through Aidan’s ironclad defenses to reveal the heart of the man hiding beneath the tough surface and mend his damaged spirit. Only then can they truly heal and become strong enough to battle the demons that haunt them and threaten their chance to finally be together.
Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It’s with this perfectly chosen quote that Jaime Reese begins the much anticipated fourth book of the Men of Halfway House series, A Mended Man.
Jessie and Aidan first appeared in the second book of the series, both men connected through one of the MCs of that story. They then turned up again in the third book, and here we are now at their very own story. I actually think that this book could be read as a standalone, but I also believe that you’ll have a greater insight into Aidan’s character if you check out the previous books. Well, perhaps insight is the wrong word choice, because the whole point of this story is that no one really knows Aidan, but you’ll certainly have a better idea of the closed off nature of the man before you even dive into his story.
From the moment the prologue begins you’re dragged straight into a mire of fear, panic and confusion, as an unidentified character is woken in the middle of the night and viciously attacked in their home. Despite suspecting the identity of that character (and hoping I was wrong) it was an exciting way to start the story. And I think that is one of Jaime Reese’s greatest skills. She’s like an expert puppet master who knows exactly which string to tug in order to create the effect she’s aiming for. It’s not just the characters that this author has dancing to her tune, but the readers too.
A perfect example of what I mean would be the complete lack of anything sexual for much of the first part of this story. There was nothing, nada, absolutely no sexual buzz, hum or even a horny little whimper. Even though both characters know from the start that they are already obsessively in love, any affection or quick kiss is all about emotion rather than sex. And I didn’t miss it, because I guess the author wasn’t ready for me to need it yet. How there was such an unquestionably strong bond between these two men without the urgent need for sex becoming an issue is beyond me, but as I said, Jaime Reese is a master at eliciting the responses I can only assume she is aiming for. Because suddenly, there was sex. It was as though the author simply entered the code, pushed that big red button and the sexual need simply exploded onto the page. It was a complete change of pace in the men’s scene’s together, but once again, the author made it work smoothly and perfectly.
There was a whole lot going on in this story, in fact I think this book might be the most complex of the series so far. In the hands of a less talented author, the plot might have dissolved into a convoluted mess, but here everything is kept on track and each and every facet of the plot was just as attention holding as the actual relationship part. There was plenty of time spent on police work, both solving Jessie’s “problem” and working on other horrific sounding cases. The task force and all of the people on it made for an interesting group of secondary characters and I enjoyed the scenes spent with them. They were also cleverly used to comment on, and highlight, the changes in Aidan as the story progressed. Of course some other well-loved previous characters also make appearances in this story.
I’m totally stalling here because I should probably talk a bit about our two main characters…but I don’t even know how to start. Jessie and Aidan are both complicated, damaged characters who come loaded with detailed backstories and problematic presents. The author has created them like jigsaw pieces, all awkward bumps and angles that lock together seamlessly. The problem is finding a smooth surface for them to rest on. Their lives are anything but smooth, well there’d be no story in that, would there!? Instead Jessie and Aidan must help each other overcome physical, mental and emotional wounds if they ever want to manage to do more than love each other from a friendly distance. Although this story does have a lot going on, it’s still very much character driven, as are the rest of the books in this series. Jaime Reese is truly gifted at tormenting her characters with painful weaknesses, and using these frailties to show their strength.
So, I guess you can tell from this review that I absolutely rate this author. I think I’ve been reviewing too long to “fan-girl” over authors anymore, but I’ve gotta admit I’m still in awe of the talent some authors display. I wouldn’t hesitate to toss Jaime Reese’s name forward as one of the best authors of the m/m genre, and the Men of Halfway House is one of the best series. I’m excited to see that there’s at least one more book to come, and I really hope it doesn’t end there.
Oh, and the cover! How did I forget to mention the cover!? Every cover in this series is perfect…but this one…OMG. That tattoo…