A Casual Weekend Thing

A Casual Weekend Thing

A.J. Thomas

Bad family relations and ugly relatives abound in romance fiction, usually holding either the hero or heroine back from reaching a happily ever after. But few have loaded a character with such a horrific backstory as Thomas does in her debut. Christopher, raised in a foster home, is the brother of a convicted pedophile, whose gruesome suicide becomes the catalyst for the story.

When San Diego detective Christopher Hayes travels to the remote town of Elkin, Montana, he meets former Miami police officer Doug Heavy Runner at a Missoula gay bar on the way not knowing they will be working together after their one night stand.

When Christopher gets to tiny Elkin, where his older brother’s body is, he learns that Doug is the officer who cut down Peter’s body after his apparent suicide. But when Peter’s house burns down and Christopher recognizes anomalies about Peter’s death, he and Doug start investigating while their weekend fling heats up into something bigger and longer lasting.

Thomas piles on the baggage for both Christopher and Doug. Not only is Christopher the victim of child abuse but his brother is a convicted sex offender, preying on young boys, all of which makes Christopher reluctant to look into Peter’s life in Montana. Peter has carved “Happy Birthday” on his arms, a message to Christopher since he apparently hung himself on Christopher’s birthday.

Doug has baggage too since he straddles two worlds, not being accepted in white society because of his Native American background and not being accepted in his tribe because he is a peace officer. He’s also the owner of ranchland, something other tribal members don’t have which makes him doubly suspicious in both worlds.

Because of past trauma, Christopher has become an ultra marathon runner in an attempt to outrun his nightmares, and Doug has embraced a vegetarian lifestyle despite being raised on his family’s cattle ranch. Each man must unshackle himself from the past in order to come together fully in the present.

Thomas makes both men believable and sympathetic. Neither is a whiner and both stoically shoulder through the upheavals in their lives with grit and determination. Christopher, on medical leave from San Diego where he was shot in the line of duty, is understandably reluctant to get involved in his convict brother’s life and death. Doug, for his part, is trying to settle into the Elkin sheriff’s department and his quiet life on the ranch after his time in Miami.

Although the mystery surrounding Peter’s death is easy to figure out, Thomas has a nice touch, making Christopher and Doug’s growing relationship compelling and interesting to read. They slide together via ordinary conversations during an extraordinary period in both their lives.

As a first book, this one is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours and has some very valid points to make about coping with awful circumstances. Readers of gay romance would do well to put her on their map.