Sunday, June 16, 2013

Paid Leave

Title: Paid Leave
Author: Haley B. James
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
ISBN/BIN: 978-1-62380-479-4
Genre: {M/M}, Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 Nymphs
Literary Nymph Reviewer: Critter Nymph

Benji is a member of the Albuquerque Police Department.  When he took the job, he did so knowing that he would have to stay deep in the closet.  When Benji is involved in a shooting, he is forced on leave and starts going stir crazy.  What he does not expect is to find someone like Neal, who is so comfortable in his own skin that Benji can’t help but be drawn to the other man.

Paid Leave by author Haley B. James is an interesting story centered on a young in-the-closet police officer.  I could not help thinking of the TNT show Southland while I was reading this story, and, in some ways Benji reminded me of John Cooper, one of the show’s cops.  While Benji is not as jaded as his television counterpart, his struggle to stay in the closet had a familiar ring to it.  Benji’s fears of being outed are understandable, given the way some in the police force continue to feel about homosexuality.  Given his fears, I could not believe that he started a relationship, regardless of the fact that it is only based on lust, with a reporter.  Every time Charles showed up at Benji’s place, I wanted to smack him and was so glad when Benji finally came to his senses.

Neal, on the other hand, is the perfect man for Benji.  He’s the owner of a small coffee shop and comfortable with who he is.  When the men are together, the chemistry between them really shines.  The author does a great job showing how these two feel about each other.  I loved the way in which Neal slowly brings Benji out into the world.  The fact that Benji is still in the closet puts a strain on the men’s relationship, but Benji is also feeling stress from his job.

Between the bad press the Police Dept. is currently facing, his involvement in an on-the-job shooting and his co-workers finding out he is gay, Benji has a lot on his plate.  The way in which the author chooses to settle each of these conflicts and the way in which they affect both Neal and Benji, come across realistically. 

Paid Leave is a well written story that slowly brings the readers into Benji’s life and allows them to see how meeting the right person helps him become a stronger person.  The personal and professional conflicts the men face help strengthen their relationship.  This is a story that will find its way to many keeper piles.  Fans of the M/M genre should really give it a try. 

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