Standard Lex Warning: I often spew spoilers in my enthusiasm.
I’ve decided that my cure for pain isn’t painkillers but books. However, I totally empathized with Elliot Mills, the hero of Fair Game. Elliot is a former FBI agent who had his knee blown away in a shoot out some eighteen months or so before the opening of this novel. I may not have been shot, but the damage to my knees was more like having been shot out of a cannon at 60 mph into the dashboard of my car. On a good day, I limp. On a bad day, I stay in bed and cry. For the past couple of nights which were bad, very bad nights, I read Josh Lanyon’s newest offering.
As a dyed in the wool fan of Josh Lanyon books, I look upon his new releases the way a child does Christmas morning or a birthday. Pressie for me? Oh, yum! And I had been waiting for this book ever since seeing a snippet of it on a Yahoo group. Waiting for Josh is like waiting for dessert and the first bite sends you into an orgasm of delight…and you’re so incredibly happy that your wait is now over.
Fair Game’s hero is a wounded hero. Elliot’s bad knee is like a character in and of itself because of how it impacts so very much in the book. The knee led to his break up with his lover Tucker Lance, another FBI agent, after he was shot. And the knee is the catalyst that puts him right back into Tucker’s arms when the two meet up again over the disappearance of a gay student at the university where Elliot now teaches. The knee is the best inanimate character ever and I could feel every twinge and pull and pop and throb and bone melting stab of agony that Elliot had. Not so much because I have plenty of that pain myself, but because Josh sure does know how to describe it right down to how you have sex when your knee feels like a zeppelin.
I don’t want to go into the missing student-murder mystery part of the book. For one, suspense isn’t my preferred genre and I only read a very select few authors who write it. For another, with my propensity for spoilers, I’ll ruin the book for you. What I do want to talk about are Josh Lanyon’s characters.
Elliot Mills is razor sharp to me. Far more cerebral than the characters of Dangerous Ground and far more macho and physical than the characters of The Dickens With Love. Elliot the professor is still finding his way around academia while trying to put his old life as an FBI agent behind him. The fact that he becomes so intensely drawn into the missing student investigation is a testament to how much he misses his former life and how good at it he was.
When Elliot comes face to face with his former life via his ex-lover Special Agent Tucker Lance, everything he loved most about that life is brought sharply into focus, yanked there from his pain-fuzzed memories. The pain of his knee is nothing compared to the pain he determinedly hides over the loss of that former life. Elliot lies to himself about that pain and loss through much of the book and it’s not spelled out in so many words for the reader either. You have to be as much of a detective as Elliot is to figure it out. But it’s there in what he refuses to think about and how he focuses on the mystery rather than his emotions and Tucker’s.
The most surprising part of this book for me is Tucker Lance. Elliot is a true hero. You love him almost immediately. Josh draws him with a fine nibbed pen and you can’t help but be in love with such beautiful lines. Tucker is about as far from that as you can imagine. He’s gruff and rude and the reader isn’t sympathetic to him at first because of course, you’re already in love with Elliot and if you love Elliot then you have to hate Tucker because he hurt Elliot. Right?
I’ve never been a fan of the red-headed, freckled faced man. Makes me think of Tom Sawyer or something. But Josh and his way with words has me lusting for the redheaded Tucker. The man grows on you throughout the book. Probably because slowly but surely, Tucker’s emotions come to light. And man, does this guy FEEL. You get more of his emotions than you do Elliot’s.
With a profound sense of shock, you discover that Tucker tried to apologize for his behavior after Elliot’s knee was shot. He sent letters, emails, and called only to be turned away. (The reader goes awwww because it totally smacks of begging.) You find out that fear fueled his rough unsympathetic actions at the time of Elliot’s injury. It’s Tucker who offers Elliot whatever he wants when they land in bed together again. He gives to Elliot sexually and emotionally and it’s our hero who holds back in the emotion department.
Tucker reveals how much he cares when he saves Elliot from sniper fire. He confesses straight up that he wants them to live together. His eyes are bright with tears and emotion and his face is pale when he finds Elliot passed out and injured after catching the bad guy. He treats Elliot far more gently than our hero treats him. And best of all, Tucker says the L word first. Big, bad superhero FBI agent who can be the worst kind of asshole is a sucker for the man he loves.
There is something about an author who can draw tears from you without both heroes getting downright mushy. These men retain their Alpha masculinity and yet you feel their emotions very keenly even when they aren’t admitting them or are hiding them. The sex scenes are not detailed like the kind I write, yet they are blazingly hot. The sexual tension is exceptional. The emotions will wring you out.
Josh Lanyon does not waste a single word. Every word he writes has a purpose and serves to make you love these characters. I didn’t think he could top The Dickens With Love as far as I was concerned. Sedge’s simple acceptance of love in that book seemed to be the zenith for me. But oh, no. Never underestimate Josh’s talent with the written word. Elliot and Tucker are my new favorite heroes.
“If you even try to die, I’ll kill you myself.”
Tucker’s words hit home for a romance fan like myself. I cried. Really. And that in a nutshell gives Fair Game five Valentines. Buy it. Read it. Immerse yourself in the most amazing prose and let Josh Lanyon take you away far better than any ole box of Calgon.
Now, if he would just revisit these two like he did Will and Taylor of Dangerous Ground, I would be in 7th Heaven.
A crippling knee injury forced Elliot Mills to trade in his FBI badge for dusty chalkboards and bored college students. Now a history professor at Puget Sound university, the former agent has put his old life behind him—but it seems his old life isn’t finished with him.
A young man has gone missing from campus—and as a favor to a family friend, Elliot agrees to do a little sniffing around. His investigations bring him face-to-face with his former lover, Tucker Lance, the special agent handling the case.
Things ended badly with Tucker, and neither man is ready to back down on the fight that drove them apart. But they have to figure out a way to move beyond their past and work together as more men go missing and Elliot becomes the target in a killer’s obsessive game…