Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review: Paid Leave by Hayley B. James

Paid LeavePaid Leave by Hayley B. James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Correction and Note: This should be a 4.5 stars but I still don't know how to do it.

The unusual approach of Paid Leave kept me reading and I never regretted picking it up. This is a must read for all lovers of the MM genre and closeted individuals out there for this book holds insights that are almost always never written about.

Paid Leave by Hayley B. James is about Albuquerque police officer Benji Miller who has  made the conscious choice to hide his sexuality and devote his life to his career. He guards his secret carefully, believing he is protecting his job and happiness. Then, during a routine traffic stop gone awry, he shoots a suspect to protect a young girl, and his life spins out of control. A department-mandated paid leave rips away the only distraction he had, and he has to deal with the unsympathetic media who criticize the police department’s every move.

One day, needing to get out of the house, Benji walks into a café, where he meets Neal McCoy—a gay man living without shame, unafraid to speak his mind or stand up against prejudice. Benji quickly falls for Neal but struggles to combine his new love interest and his career. With the media threatening the careful illusion he’s built around himself, Benji can’t stand the pressure.

Benji has to decide: sacrifice his happiness in the name of his career and an easy life, or find the courage to give up the lonely existence he knows and take a step into the unknown.

I always hesitate to read about closeted anything MM stories. These types of plots usually leave me frustrated, ready to pull out my hair, and simply want to throw away my Kindle for the frustration of it.

Okay, let us be clear first, I had this in my Kindle for a few days along with other new titles so I had no idea what I was going to read. So no, I was not prepared to read about closeted cops as unfortunately, I had no blurb to rely on. It did not help that it was late and I was sleepy. Needless to say, I did not sleep early as planned, instead I kept on reading well into 1 a.m. This is how interesting this story is.

Hayley B. James' approach to writing this story was unusual. At first I was kind of frustrated why Benji would go into a relationship with a man who was obviously not good for him. Truth is, this confused me a bit and I was frustrated that Benji was frustrated. And then a few chapters later, he walks into Beans, a café owned by out and proud Neal, and here the story takes a beautiful turn.

As the relationship develops between Neal and Benji, the reader is taken on a scenic tour as witness of their growing love for each other. Not to mention a few tips on how to make that perfect cup of coffee.

Although scenic tours of developing relationships usually bore me to tears and flipping to fast forward, I found myself savoring each and every word as the events unfolded.

Yes, there were the usual angsts, the usual miscommunication, blah blah blah, but it was not boring. It was not frustrating. It was, instead, a mind opener. There are so many issues about the pros and cons of being a closeted cop the author touches on.

The reader takes a backseat ride as witness to the turn of events that ultimately leads to Benji's and Neal's happily ever after. It was refreshing, to be placed in that position. Reading this was like watching a full length movie unfolding before my eyes.

Mind you, I began this book at around 10 p.m. and usually my eyes are closed deep in sleep by 10:30 p.m. time, at the very least, they would be crossing. But Paid Leave caught and trapped me in the best way possible.

For all those who usually do not go for closeted main character plots, take a chance on Paid Leave by Hayley B. James. This is a story that shouldn't be missed out on and I highly recommend it.

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