“He longs for something he can't touch, what will make him whole...He knows [he's] out there somewhere, for he hears [his] song within; ...Turning, walking quietly, leaving footprints in the sand; he walks in dreams into the night, a solitary man.” ~ Allison Chambers Coxsey (Solitary Man)
After his last failed mission as an undercover FBI agent, Xavier (Xav) Constantine, of 'A Solitary Man' by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy, has had it with the agency. Xav quits and takes a job as a deputy sheriff in Dare's Landing, NC. The night before Xav starts there, he has a steamy encounter with Chance, a man he meets in a bar. Although their time together is extraordinary, neither expects to see the other again; but fate has a different idea. When Xav meets the town's assistant district attorney, C. Evan Fairchild, a.k.a. Chance, he turns out to be the man with whom Xav has just had the best sex in his life. It's awkward, but both know they need to put their feelings aside quickly in order to effectively work together to solve the horrific crimes involving drug and child trafficking that, almost unbelievably, are being perpetrated in their normally peaceful town.
Xav is surprised to see Chance, but it doesn't rattle him. In fact, Xav is mildly amused about the situation and actually pleased to see Chance again. With all his years in the FBI, he is used to having to think on his feet. Chance, on the other hand, almost loses it. He is angry and fearful, worrying that Xav will out him and ruin everything he's tried so hard to build. Xavier tries to reassure Chance's secret is safe, but Chance isn't so sure. Xav is a wonderful guy, handsome and highly intelligent; he has an undergraduate degree in mathematics from MIT and a master's degree in criminology from U Penn but with Xav's long braid and motorcycle, he is definitely not what anyone would expect. Xav knows how to get things done, even if it means taking some questionable shortcuts on the way. Xav has a commanding presence and doesn't back down as long as it involves saving kids, even if it means putting himself in harm's way. Soon Xav has gained the respect and support of his fellow deputies and his boss.
Chance is not so lucky; he works for an obnoxious, politically-motivated, completely unapproachable man who totally disregards and contradicts him at every turn. Convincing Chance is taking Xav a little longer, but Xav is determined to find the good heart he's convinced is under all of Chance's bluster and sarcasm. When Xav witnesses one of Chance's nightmares, he's convinced Chance is hiding something he needs not to be. Xav's strength and patience enable Chance to trust him and Chance finally opens up and tells Xav about his past. Chance can be charming too and knows how to “convince” people to help him when he needs to. Since Chance belongs there, people are more apt to tell him things they might not reveal to Xav if he were working by himself. As the men learn about each other, they get closer to the monstrous truth—someone in their town has set up not only a drug trafficking ring but the 'missing' children of the town are also being abducted and forced into child slavery.
Shira and Aisling have created a story which, in my opinion, rivals, if not surpasses, any action movie I've ever seen. It's got it all: suspense, mystery, adventure, romance, and awesome characters. Even though it doesn't take center stage, there's a great balance between crime solving, which takes priority, and the growing affection between Xav and Chance. Xav has it all—a great sense of humor, looks, smarts, charm, compassion, and he can be a badass when he has to be. Chance, even with his abrasiveness and dour disposition, is also an amazing man. Through sheer determination and the help of a fantastic psychiatrist, Chance has never let his turbulent past stop him from doing what he wanted to do most— make a difference in the justice system.
I commend Shira and Aisling for tackling the atrocious subject of child trafficking. Especially as a mother, I don't even want to think about it, as I am sure many others don't either, but we can't ignore it. We need to be aware of the danger. Even though the battle to stop this abuse seems monumental, it's still important to keep trying. If you enjoy books about the war against drug trafficking, action, adventure, political intrigue, and strong, handsome men in love, you may like this story. Thanks, Shira and Aisling, for one of the best books I've read in a long time.