Monday, December 10, 2012

Brooke McKinley ~ "Shades of Gray"

Shades of Gray

"Good and evil, right and wrong, innocent and guilty. Stay in the right box and it would all work out in the end."

...or would it?

So, is this book perfect? No.
Is it the best story ever? No.
Does it have flaws? Hell, yes!
But... what's most important - I don't give a damn! It made me laugh, cry, want to hug those two, and - definitely - slap some sense into them occasionally. No way could I, after all that, go for less than five shining stars!

Unfortunately, I never seem to manage to write a decent review for the books I loved.
So, here goes nothing...

This is a story about Daniel James Butler - a mid-level drug runner - and FBI Special Agent Miller Sutton.
Actually, at the very beginning, they are just Mr. Butler and Special Agent Sutton. Nothing more. And, they'll have to go through a lot in order to become Danny and Miller you get to know later on.

After being pulled over for running a red light, and arrested for possession of a firearm, Danny meets Miller for the first time. But Miller knows (all about) Danny already. What he wants - what FBI wants - is Danny's boss, Hinestroza. International drug smuggler. And, Danny will help him get what he wants... or die. One way or another. It's all the same, right? Who gives a shit about one low-life drug dealer, if he can help them catch their man?

Oh, Miller...
"All his life, Miller had preferred looking at people while he himself remained unobserved—from across the school yard, from behind a two-way mirror, from an unmarked surveillance car. From a distance."
And there's a good reason, too. It's hard to face life full on when you're not comfortable in your own skin. When something's just... off. All the time. When you can't/don't have it in you to admit you may well know what that "something" is.
When you've been engaged for five years, to a girl that's not what you need, and just keep piling up excuses to delay the wedding.
"It took Miller two weeks and seven jewelry stores to pick out the ring."

Really, I felt sorry for Miller. He was even more than a bit annoying at the beginning. All that black and white talk. Right or wrong. No shades of gray. None.

Danny, on the other hand, made me like him straight away. There's something about that guy that's just... magnetic. Scarred - both inside & out - and tattooed, he's doing his best to live with one single decision that turned his life around, and all its consequences. Especially the consequences.

At first, it seems like Danny is yin to Miller's yang. But you keep seeing that white dot in Danny, and somehow it seems bigger and bigger. As much as Miller steps into those shades of gray he refused to acknowledge earlier.

Once the two of them manage to become friends (of sorts), and it's obvious there's much more than "friendly" going on, the story gets really complicated.
Will they have a chance? How could they? Will they get out of it alive? Where will Danny end up? What'll happen to Miller's fiancee? His job? How will they cope with the real world once the bubble bursts?

“I want to be the man I was before I met you.”
“It's too late for that. It's too late to go back,” Danny said, gentle but firm. “Now you have to decide the man you want to be from here on out.”

"But Danny was learning that finding what made you happy was only the beginning of the journey — figuring out how to keep it often proved to be the unreachable destination."

By the 80% mark, I was thoroughly in love with Danny and Miller, and when Danny decided to do... that... I was sure my heart will just stop.
But, I've got my HEA here, and it couldn't have happened to better guys. Well, not "better" better... oh, you know what I mean.

I'd start rambling (again) at this point, so let me just tell you the most important facts.

What really made this a five star read for me is this:
* The story is incredibly realistic. Not a toothache-sweet moment in sight.
* No stone is left unturned. You get all the hows and whys. You can see and feel their struggle, emotions that are all over the place, where they come from, what made them into the men they are... everything!
* Characterization is simply brilliant.
* Those POV flashbacks at the beginning of each chapter are precious. Such a great way to show all the things that couldn't be told.
* It's one of those books you want to reread right after you finish it.

Not to mention that the title couldn't be more appropriate.

“It's always our mistakes, the things we aren't proud of, that are the first ones to stand up, ready to be counted. That's human nature and it's not going to change, not for me or for you, either.”
Sad, but oh so true!

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