So there's one more book after this. I realized that there's a formula here:
Book 1: Couple meets and they get together.
Book 2: Couple explores relationship and they figure out how much they care.
Book 3: Closet becomes too much for one and they break up.
Book 4: Closet becomes too much for the other and he comes out.
Book 5: They get back together and have their HEA.
I found this one very frustrating. I loved the writing, the mystery (which took awhile to solve) and the characters were all interesting and very well done. I believed them all. I particularly love Adrien's family. But as always, Jake was an ass. It started off okay, he was nicer, almost sweet, and then, argh, he just ruined everything. But he wasn't the only one. Let's start with Ian: Things I hate about Ian
I felt sorry for Ian for about five minutes and then I couldn't stand him again. We find out that for the first nine months of his relationship with Adrien, he refused to be exclusive because monogamy is "unrealistic." Then he condemns Adrien for not wanting to commit. What the hell is wrong with Adrien that he puts up with this crap? He has such low self-esteem, lower than what fits with his past.
Adrien says Ian's "sweet, kind, caring," etc., but he wants Adrien to marry him, or rather, elope, but they aren't even living together yet. After two years, no less. He also is really boring. On top of that, when Adrien doesn't want to have sex with him only a week out of the hospital where he spent a week for pneumonia, Ian pressures him, even suggesting he see a doctor. They've been together two years, they're not randy kids who have just lost their virginity and need to have sex or die. Adrien's still in pain and exhausted, and Ian has the gall to pressure him for sex? What an ass.
The worst is that after all the above, (medium relationship spoiler) when Peter the college student comes back, the one who was part of the group that killed people and tried to kill Adrien in the last book, he doesn't understand why Adrien is angry that Ian's been pen pals with the guy the whole time. On top of that, Ian sleeps with the young man and doesn't see it as a problem because it was "just comfort and affection" sex. Evil and gross at the same time. There's like a 30 year age difference. Now, Adrien effed up, too, but not to that extent, and Ian had already been a jerk to him. Next: Things that piss me off about Ian
Jake is not just an ass to Adrien—he hurt so many people, and he even compromised his own values. I really began to hate him. In the last book when he was a jerk, I wanted Adrien to give up on him. Yet when he went got married, I was very upset; I want him to change. That pales by comparison to how I feel after reading this. Words cannot describe the level that I
felt betrayed. The Jake we see just before the finale is someone unrecognizable, and I couldn't stand him.
Some of the stuff going on with Jake actually contradicts events and descriptions that appear in earlier books. I think Josh came up with a plot and molded the established series to fit it, not worrying about bending the facts in the process. For example (medium spoiler that you learn in the first half, maybe even first third), it turns out Paul was "seeing" Jake for a while before Jake and Adrien got together. That's ridiculous. At the time that Jake and Adrien first got together, Jake said he only went to clubs for S&M and he refused to accept he was gay. Adrien was the first man he ever kissed and it was very hard for him. He couldn't even contemplate a relationship with Adrien so how could he have been seeing someone before Adrien? It just doesn't mesh with how he acted in that first book. On top of that, he continued seeing Paul after he starting seeing Adrien. That's where I felt betrayed. How could he lie to Adrien like that?
It's cruel and makes no sense if he cares so much for Adrien like he claims. But wait, he doesn't really say that. When he's supposed to be reassuring Adrien, all Jake tells the man is that he's beautiful. That's it. When he wants to show he cares, they have sex. When he talks about missing him, it sounds like it's just about the sex. I have absolutely no idea what Adrien sees in him. I'm upset that Josh didn't make Jake more likeable. I only want them together because Adrien wants it, and he deserves a happy ending. We'll see if he gets one in the next book. At least in this book, Adrien is a lot more feisty, although he also comes across as bitter and angry, which I don't like. He's supposed to be Mr. Nice. He's still way too trusting, though.
The other thing that's ridiculous is (related to the spoiler above) there's no way Jake could pull all this off for so long. He was in a relationship with a woman, saw Adrien on Monday and Wednesday nights, sometimes more often, and was seeing a third guy regularly, too? How? How did he not get caught? And that's a lot of trolling around for a guy who's not able to accept that he's gay. It's a hell of a lot for a guy who's closeted to keep under wraps for five years. He would have been caught.
At one point Adrien talks about something Jake did and he says to himself that it shouldn't matter, the relationship has been over for two years. But the reality is that when you find out about a betrayal or something equally painful, it doesn't matter if you still have feelings for that person. You once did, and for most people it's still going to hurt. Not as much, but somewhat.
My ex-gf (from 20 years ago) is one of my closest friends. When she recently got divorced, my mom asked me if we might get back together. I choked on my drink and exploded, "GOD NO!" It's that horrific a thought. And yet, during my ex's divorce, she said some cruel things about what she felt during our relationship and it really hurt. That relationship was very important to me, and it was hard to hear her say things that made me feel like our relationship was a farce. It didn't hurt like it would have when we were together, but it still hurt.
Looking away from the romantic leads for a moment, the plot, pacing, sentence structure, word usage, comic relief, and so forth were all golden like always. The book was really funny at points. I love Adrien's wit. I don't have a lot of examples but here are a couple:
Particulars I liked:
"'You've got a little bit of an attitude, Mr. English, if you don't mind my saying so."
"I don't mind."
"…Most murders are solved within 48 hours. Of course, that's because most murders are committed by morons."
Adrien makes it clear that he likes being gay. He doesn't think of his sexual orientation as being "inverted," unlike Jake.
When faced with a situation that would result in a painful misunderstanding in a standard romance, with the protagonist making the wrong assumption and walking away devastated, Adrien asks himself "why" and doesn't assume anything.
Silly names: "Markopoulos Investigations." Say it out loud. Marco. Polo. Helps you find someone, right?
Things I didn't like:
One thing that confused and kind of annoyed me is that Adrien uses tons of Britishisms, and I don't get why. His mother is from England, not him. I don't recall anything about him living there, either. It feels pretentious.
A large part of the plot was more than similar to the events surroundingNatalie Wood's death.
Adrien hosts a writing group and one couple is writing a ridiculous novel called Murder He Mimed. The protagonist is modeled after Adrien, and in the last book (The Hell You Say), the character was 33. In this book, the character is 32. Since Adrien is now 34, it makes little sense for the authors to change him to younger. In another place, he confuses digitoxin with digoxin. It was either a mistake in that one place, or a huge plot hole. (It will make sense when you read the book.) A woman who uses gobs of makeup every day, pumps the mascara wand in the tube. That's a rookie mistake. I almost never wear makeup and even I know that. Yes, these are the kind of nitpicky details fans all of the world (like Trekkies) find and no one else cares about. There are probably more Trekkies than Lanyonites, so I consider it my duty to keep track. ;) Yes I'm a nerd, what of it?
The mom obtains information about Adrien's health from his doctor. Although Adrien believes this is unethical, the reality is that it is so illegal under HIPAA, if the doctor were caught, he would lose his license to practice medicine. I really don't see it happening under these circumstances especially: telling the mom so she can make Adrien do something he doesn't want to do. This is a case where Adrien might me miffed enough to complain so I don't see a doctor risking it.
The youngest stepsister is fourteen and her behavior, interests, and dialog are more fitting to a nine or ten-year-old.
The bookstore is booming and he's expanding and yet it's a specialty bookshop, solely for mysteries. Brick and mortar bookstores are failing all over the country. The idea that one with a small niche market would be expanding is ridiculous.
Josh is a great storyteller. I just didn't like where the overall story has been going and it made me angry. But it won't stop me from reading the next one, not by a long shot.
4.5 stars rounded down to 4 because of all the assholes (not the good kind) and it just wasn't up to the level of the previous book that had tons of bad assholes but still deserved 5+ stars.