tasting ‘shades of gray’*

*or “Holy shit, I’m meant to do reviews for the m/m romance reading challenge?!” I hope Anesthezea will let me get away with only doing one per month (which, conveniently, will also meet my bloggy aims for 2010).

The Blurb:

Miller Sutton, a by-the-book FBI agent, is starting to see some troubling shades of gray in his black-and-white world. He comes face-to-face with his doubts in the person of Danny Butler, a mid-level drug runner Miller hopes to use to catch a much larger fish: Roberto Hinestroza, a drug lord Miller has pursued for years.

Danny has no interest in being a witness against his boss, both out of a sense of twisted loyalty and because he knows double-crossing Hinestroza is a sure death sentence. But he reluctantly agrees to cooperate, and as he suspects, it doesn’t take long for Hinestroza to figure out the betrayal.

Miller is surprised to discover Danny’s not the career-criminal lowlife he expected; at the same time, Danny finds himself helplessly attracted to Miller’s innate goodness. They barely begin to explore the sparking attraction between them when Hinestroza’s hitman tracks them down, and then they’re on the run, both for their lives and for any kind of love.

Why I bought it:

I was hooked by Kassa’s review.

Dislike/like (ending on a high note):

Dislike~ It has flashbacks AND they were in italics! Those of you who’ve been hanging around here for a while know how I feel about them. *sigh* In all serious, though, my fascination with the development of the characters and their relationship meant my gut reaction to the use of the flashback fell by the way side. Quite frankly, I was too engrossed to give a toss. Proof that a good author can make it work.

Like~ Some of the best characterisation that I have been privileged to read. If you are a character-ho like me, I would suggest you read Shades of Gray for this aspect alone. Every inch of the plot – yes, including the flashbacks – has been tightly crafted so as to allow the reader increasing insight into the protags, in particular their motivations. Stereotypes are broken down to reveal flawed and complex men and it is all perfectly paced. Extremely impressive stuff.

Dislike~ The story does touch upon the issue of infidelity, which, again, is something that causes me to stumble because of my personal bias against the act. Having said that, the way the author dealt with it did make it more convincing for me because it was associated with Miller’s denial then growing acceptance of his sexuality.

Like~ As the story progresses so to does the exploration of the concept of the lives of the cast of characters being made up of shades of gray. This made for an intensely compelling read that challenges the so-called ‘truths’ of right and wrong, black and white.

So, what I think: A very gritty and consuming work featuring flawed and complex, but still engaging, protags and superb characterisation. I thoroughly recommend it.


‘Tasting’ is my version of a mini-review where I talk a (very) little about what I liked and disliked about a book as well as who I think the story will appeal to. Oh, and I’ve added a bit about why I picked up the book in the first place – sometimes this can be interesting to know.

About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
This entry was posted in action/thriller, brooke mckinley, contemporary, kassa, m/m, m/m romance challenge 2010, tasting. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to tasting ‘shades of gray’*

  1. Val says:

    Great analysis, Kris! I was very impressed by this book,too, for all the reasons you mentioned. We have a lot in common because I really hate flashbacks, too, especially italicized ones! (But this novel was so good I don't think I even noticed them!)

  2. Chris says:

    I have this on my reader, so I just read the part here where you said you'd recommend it. 🙂

  3. Tam says:

    Arrggh. Why don't I start this book. I just read the ML Rhodes that is damn near 400 pages. Okay, this will be my next read.

    Oh and I don't mind italics flashbacks. (Just to be contrary.)

  4. Sounds like something I would read. Nice cover also!

  5. It's funny how those Challenge rules sneak up on you isn't it? I must say you are so much more thorough than I am. But I'm just a amachur.

    You did a nice review. I liked this book a lot. I liked it so much I wrote to the author to tell her so and ask when her next is coming. Unfortunately, no time soon, as she has kids and real life and all that.

  6. Chris says:

    Wren – Darn that real life…

  7. Lily says:

    I've got this in my TBR and it sounds really good. I 'll need to move it on up. Thanks for the informative review! 🙂

  8. Jenre says:

    Great review, Kris.

    Like Lily, I have this in my TBR pile and plan to dig it out soon.

  9. Kris says:

    Val, thanks. 🙂 I really ummed and arred about firstly purchasing and secondly reading this book. I had it on my ereader for ages before I finally opened it up and when I did… wow. I was blown away by it. An amazing first novel.

    Maybe we can start an anti-flashback club. I'm pretty sure that I could get my brother to serve as Treasurer. You should hear the discussions we've had about Battlestar Galactica and Lost. LOL.

    Chris: Read it! Read it naow.

    Tam: I want to know why we all put off reading this. It's weird so many of us have done the same thing. Are we just not in the mood for it? Is it too long? Was there something about the blurb that turned us off? What?! What is it?!

  10. Tam says:

    It's the length for me. I'm on page 108 right now.

  11. Chris says:

    I think I keep looking at the file size when I scan through my reader and that scares me off. 🙂

    After I finish Keeping Promise Rock!

  12. Kris says:

    Katiebabs chook: It was bloody good and, I think, a must for those who like great characterisation. This author has a gift for it that's for damned sure.

    Oh, and I agree; the cover not bad at all. 🙂

    Wren: “I liked it so much I wrote to the author to tell her so and ask when her next is coming. Unfortunately, no time soon, as she has kids and real life and all that.”

    Bummer. 😦 Maybe a kidnapping could be arranged…

    “I must say you are so much more thorough than I am. But I'm just a amachur.”

    *snort* Yeah cos I'm so professional and all that. *rolls eyes*

    Lily: Move it on up, hun. You won't regret it.

    Jen, thanks. 🙂 I'll be interest to hear what you think once you've read it.

  13. Kris says:

    Tam & Chris: So it's a length thing for you both??

    Length is something that doesn't usually put me off – I just read Sticks & Stones and Betrayed, which are both about 300 pages, in one night. It was something else that put me off. I wonder what…

  14. orannia says:

    Thank you Kris! It's on my TBR list as:

    If you are a character-ho like me…

    Guilty as charged 🙂

    Hold on…we have to review for the m/m challenge? I'm still trying to write the review of a book I read 6 months ago? *faints*

  15. I have this in my pile as well… it just got bumped up a few places…

    Love your thoughts no this, I dont mind flashback as it can be the difference between a meh story and a great story for me.. but italic really freaks me out.. dont like it at all…

    Thanks for the heads up..


  16. I'm so happy, I have this on my ereader too 🙂 Have to read it soon!
    I just finished a book with the italic flashbacks and they annoyed me as hell! But it's not always the case though, only here the flashbacks were also from secondary characters… argh, that makes them very bad!

  17. Tam says:

    Maybe it's not the length it's the … girth? LOL Although there can be such a thing as too long.

    Okay, after blathering on about how I don't mind italics flashbacks, I'm not loving them and finding some of them unnecessary and I don't care about them. Hmmm. I'm up to page 158, I'm kind of stalling out. Not good.

  18. Kris says:

    Orannia: Greetings fellow character-ho! 🙂 I really think you'll like this one, Orannia. If there was such a sub-genre as dark contemporary (along the lines of dark fantasy) this would fir perfectly. And since we both like dark fantasy…

    EH, welcome! In some ways the dynamic between the characters reminded of that between the protags in 'And Call Me In The Morning' in terms of the depth and maturity. I really hope you like it when you get to it.

  19. Kris says:

    Janna: What?! The secondary characters had flashbacks too?? How odd.

    Read and enjoy this one, Janna. Tis very good. 🙂

    Tam: LOL. We've swapped places. I did think that not all of the flashbacks needed to be included; however, there was almost a rhythm to the way they were placed within the body of the text, which also worked for me in a 'there's going be a flashback in the next page' kind of a way. Maybe I just don't like surprises. 😉

  20. Chris says:

    Janna: What?! The secondary characters had flashbacks too?? How odd.

    Ok, seeing as I just finished reading an m/m story that had dizzying POV switches (including to that of the cat), my brain just took that to the cat having flashbacks and those being included in the story… O_o

  21. Jambrea says:

    I LOVE this book. Really, really love it. I wrote her too and was sad that this is the only one she has out and, like Wren found out, it will be awhile for the next one. 😦

    Oh..and Keeping Promise Rock…OMG…another great read!

  22. Kassa says:

    Can I say I'm soo glad you liked this one? Your review is fabulous. You always manage to get to the heart of the book in both its good and bad points without having to ramble on like some of us.

    and ooo I hear such fabulous things about Keeping Promise Rock. I need to read it as soon as my review pile winnows down a bit.

  23. Kris says:

    Chris: Now I'm thinking about what a cat flashback would entail…

    Jambrea: We will *:(mope* together about waiting for her next book.

    I've heard good things about Keeping Promise Rock. I must check that out. I have to say DSP is coming out with a few gems of late. I thought Promises was very good as well.

    Kassa: We're one for one in the recs. *g*

    Thank you for what you said about my tastings. That means a very great deal to me coming from you; someone for whom I have such respect for as a reviewer.

    Now if only Wave would let me do this format for her. I'd be able to get through the pile of books I have to review for her very quickly. 🙂

  24. jitterbug says:

    Kris, count me in in the “I-have-this-book-but-keep-putting-it-off” club! I bought it because of Kassa's review (very convincing, I must say) – so why haven't I read it? I think it's the same reason I read A note in the Margin ages after having purchased it – when I see it in my TBR file I'm stopped by the fear I'm not in the mood for a book which is beautifully written but somewhat challenging and emotionally pregnant. Books that are not some “shade of gray” are more easier to read. Having said this, I'll try to read it asap!

    BTW, I love this cover. Oh, and I hate when Real Life intrudes to keep away a talented writer from what's really important, i.e. more books for us readers, of course!

  25. Kris says:

    Sara: “Oh, and I hate when Real Life intrudes to keep away a talented writer from what's really important, i.e. more books for us readers, of course!”

    Word. 🙂

    I think that's why I put it off to, Sara. The fact that I wasn't sure I was in the mood for something that I knew would be challenging, in particular a book involving a criminal and a cop and all the issues that go along with that dynamic.

    I can only say that when you might be umming and arring about reading this… just go for it. You won't regret it and will be pulled in by the author's writing skill and the characters she has created.

  26. Anonymous says:

    And y'all do know that I'm running a contest for an ebook copy of Keeping Promise Rock on my blog right now, don't you? 🙂

  27. Chris says:

    Fascinating. I'm totally and completely showing as signed in, yet it posted as Anonymous. I wonder what this will do? The previous comment was from me (aka Chris) – here's the contest link.

  28. Kris says:

    Done! Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

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