“Trust, huh? Deacon didn’t know what that word meant to Trevor. On one hand, it was a word he no longer believed in and, on the other hand, trust meant more to him than he could verbally express.” – S.A. McAuley
Title: Damaged Package
Author: S.A. McAuley
Pages/Word Count: 215 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Forced into early retirement from his career as a SWAT officer for the city of Detroit, James Deacon knew that when he failed it would be a fall of epic proportions. He’s been living life by the tips of his fingers for over twenty years, and his new gig organizing a group of misfit military types into a functioning team—including his reluctant ex-fiancée—won’t return him to stable ground anytime soon.
Trevor Barrow has been on the move for the last seven years—hitting the road when relationships became too real or too much work. He’s home now, working in the hazardous world of bike messengers in the Motor City, and the only one of his eight siblings who knows he’s returned is his sister Cat. It’s not as if reconnecting with them matters anyway, because it’s likely he’ll be gone again soon.
Both men are lugging some heavy baggage, but when they chance upon each other in a dive bar it’s hard to deny their flaws are more like symbiotic quirks. Trevor’s backpedaling instincts and Deacon’s dance-dance party past may just be intersecting at a time when things are about to get explosive in Detroit.
Review: Damaged Package is yet another in a long list of S.A. McAuley’s books that had me falling hard and fast for the characters, something that seems to be the norm in her books. Whether or not it’s vastly different men—Merq and Armise in the Borders War series or Poe and Isaac in Someday It Will Be—there’s an undeniable chemistry they share that makes them not necessarily perfect but absolutely perfect for each other. Trevor Barrow and James Deacon are now tucked safely into that list of characters I love, right along with all the others. These two men won me over with not only what they said but how they said it, as so much of the attraction comes across in their verbal play. They spar with words, flirt, though you’d think with all the talking they do there wouldn’t be so many secrets for Deacon to keep. But lies of omission are still lies, and that’s at the heart of the issue with him and Trav (short for Traveler, the nickname earned because he’s not stayed in one place for very long since he turned sixteen and left Detroit behind).
Mixed into this budding relationship—the one Trav is building up defenses against just as quickly as Deacon tears them down—is a bit of a corporate thriller that throws Deacon and Trav together when Deacon takes on a new job working with the wealthiest man in Detroit and brings Trav onboard to act as a bicycle messenger, something Trav has invested a living in, albeit an intended short-term one since Trav tends to do a runner when things in his life get too real. There was as much suspense in the relationship between these two men as there was in the building evidence that something stunk at Hubert Enterprises, and all this suspense adds up to betrayal and a surprise twist at the end that tugged a little bit at my heartstrings and proved that love can be shown in even the most convoluted of ways.
Playing on the title is the fact that indeed both Trav and Deacon are maybe more than just a little bit flawed. Deacon’s been riding a slow burnout that finally sent his career up in flames when he pulled shenanigans at the scene of a crime, which spelled the end of his career on the Detroit Police Department’s SWAT team. Trav…well, poor Trav’s got family issues, which is why he’d left Detroit seven years earlier, and is why he’s got no incentive to stick around now he’s back. Watching these two men, who are damaged, slightly frayed at the seams but still strong at their broken places, take a tumble into love with each other was purely sublime.
Deacon may be fifteen years older than Trav, but don’t think for a minute this is anything like a typical May/December romance. Trav is something like a world weary old soul and Deacon is just playful enough to erase the difference in their ages, and I love the way Trav put Deacon through his paces at every opportunity. But let’s just lay all the cards out on the table here, shall we? Deacon is one sexy mofo who wears all his thirty-eight years well, and I don’t mind saying I would’ve wanted to wear all those thirty-eight years like a second skin myself, so go Trav!
The secondary characters do an excellent job of supporting Deacon and Trav’s storyline, with Detroit possibly being the most interesting of all of them. The last time I read a book set in Detroit, it was S.A. McAuley’s and she’d populated it with zombies, so while the Detroit in this story doesn’t crawl with the living dead, it still has the feeling of a city that’s trying to resurrect itself from the death throes of a brutal recession, and I liked the way the feelings toward the city played conversely in both Deacon’s and Trav’s lives.
As far as recommendations go, I have to say whether you’ve read every one of this author’s books, or have never read a single word she’s written but have been thinking about picking one up and don’t know where to start. Start here. Damaged Package…err…well, it delivers.
You can buy Damaged Package here: