Drawn In by Barbara Elsborg
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Undercover Cop, PI, Edgy, Angst, Humour, Psychological – Rape Themes/Dubious Consent, Contemporary Setting
Length: 262 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
Undercover police officer Kell has crossed the line. He’s become trapped in an abusive relationship with his violent thug of a boss and sees no way back without wrecking months of work. The hope of ever being involved with someone who respects him seems a distant dream.
Private investigator Gethin is depressed that the bulk of his work involves following unfaithful partners. He knows just what it’s like to be cheated on. Even worse, his relationship with his ex is complicated and Gethin can see no way of breaking free of a guy who so desperately needs him.
A chance encounter brings Kell and Gethin together, entwining their lives with secrets and danger. They both have reasons to keep things casual. But there are consequences to zipless fucks. Not only do they have to survive people trying to kill them, they need to trust each other and keep their wits about them, while ensuring their hearts stay intact.
It’s been a while since I’ve read Barbara Elsborg. I wanted to read Dirty Angel but time and life put themselves between me and that book. When the author offered an ARC of Drawn In it was incredibly fortuitous because I was looking for a crime/suspense romance-y, erotic contemporary novel with grit and some pain; I also wanted flawed but likeable main characters, you know, not being specifically picky at all. It was all colour me happy! when this book not only offered my premise specificity, it went above and beyond my wants. While quite a few readers request fluffy and cuddly, if you read my reviews you get the gist that I’m the anti-fluffy (with exceptions.) That I lean (heavily) toward angst-y, emotional, psychologically intense books. I have read much darker books than Drawn In, but there is a fairly sombre or resigned tone to the overall narrative of this book.
So, enter Gethin and Kel into my reading life, the fictional heroes of my above needs. They were exactly the right guys to take me to the angsty side of the romance tracks. Don’t get me wrong, they have moments of levity, tossing out wit and snarky dialogue that made me laugh but it can, at times, be tinged in hurt. Angel, Gethin’s landlord, monetary saviour, and default bestie, is full of comedic innuendo and timely use of Shakespearean quotes, it gives the book moments of tongue in cheek fun as well. Oooh, then there’s the sex. It steams up the Kindle. There’s angry and desperate sex. Sex that ends with fists, sex behind a lounge with people on the other side. Sex wherever they could hook up. Passionate sex. Sex where one of the two would have to leave afterwards – because of their work, because of their conscience, because of their past, because of their present. Because of who was likely to harm one or both of them. Because of someone Gethin protects. But these guys wanted and needed each other so much. Circumstances dictated that there was risk, chance, worry and great passion in whatever they did. Perfect story material for me and my ilk.
Kell is a cop who has been working undercover in a gay nightclub for five months with little in return for his infiltration. The boss, Warner, is suspected of supplying drugs, of being involved in prostitution and human trafficking and plenty of other shady activities. Kell had another job go south so he wants to prove he can see this through successfully. The 2IC to Warner, Marek, is a prick. He fancies Kell and takes him as his fuck toy. Kell has no way of getting out of the arrangement if he wants to stay undercover and get the necessary intel. Kell tries to allude Marek, but Marek rapes him and from there on Kell mentally goes somewhere else when Marek has non-consensual sex with him. He simply accepts it as part of the job – a gay policeman undercover in a gay nightclub. There are always threats, Marek is a big man and wields his power by being physically rough and psychologically threatening. Marek never misses much either, is tight lipped, and watches what Kell is doing carefully. So Kell is brutalised, frustrated, but desperately wants to prove himself to his superiors no matter what. He also fantasizes about getting some payback with Marek. Add to this shitfest that Kell’s older brother, Oliver, is a total sociopath and things could be better.
Gethin is a PI who barely makes ends meet. His latest job turns weird when a partner being followed returns home unexpectedly, puts a gun to Gethin’s head, and accuses him of cheating with his girlfriend. Some smooth talking and backup by Angel’s receptionist and willing agreement to the things Gethin says by the girlfriend helps Gethin out of a tight spot. Things get weirder when data from the partner’s computer is sort after by the girlfriend who rings Gethin obsessively about it, offering more and more money for the data. Gethin smells a rat when he sees pictures and money and other business details stored. To add to his already interesting life, he gains a new client looking for her missing seventeen year old son, Dieter. The police have looked into it but with the boy being seventeen and seemingly not wanting to be found, they don’t do much. Gethin feels for Dieter’s mother and puts a lot of energy into trying to find the boy.
Angel, who runs a highly successful party plan and event business, talks a reluctant Gethin into helping out at his next party. It’s for a rich family’s son’s thirtieth birthday. It includes a weekend of festivities, all of which Angel makes sure Gethin is part of, including a naked waiter service for a bunch of boozed up and bawdy women. It’s here that Gethin and Kell cross paths, which starts with a bit of an alpha pissing contest and sex against a wall. The sex is raw and unbridled passion. It’s an escape from lives that seem so controlled by others allowing them to leave feeling trapped behind, if just for a while. It’s a covert understanding of how tight-lipped each guy needs to be for their emotional and physical wellbeing. What they initially fool themselves into thinking is their own private Grindr is not able to be so readily oversimplified as time goes by.
I don’t want to say more about the plot of Drawn In because it spoils the unravelling story. I’ll add general thoughts and pics/quotes from here on.
Bits and Pieces:
I loved the MCs. Gethin and Kell are interesting on their own, magnetic and raw together. You get both POV but Gethin has more page time. The secondary characters either inject humour or tension and venom into the pages. It suits me as a reader, I like to feel the emotion bleeding out.
The fact that these two guy’s lives are going to intertwine professionally as well as personally is a given. It’s the fact that there’s a good plot, some fast-paced action and threads that knit nicely together as the book progresses that ratchets it up a gear.
Is it a standard HEA? I think it’s a happy ending, one that pleased me, but Gethin and Kell have to work very hard for a lot of this book to get there – and I love that too.
The relationship is electrically charged. It’s powerful and gritty and erotic, there are secrets, and it’s and not always sensible, but attraction does what attraction will. It’s just how I like my more tense romances.
Is the book going to suit everyone? No book ever does, but no, it won’t suit those who cannot handle that Kell is still fucked by Marek while he’s undercover and while he and Gethin are establishing a (complex) relationship. It won’t suit those who are looking for a fluffier book – I guess it’s horses for courses in that regards. Will some people understand Gethin and Jonnie? Will they understand Jonnie? Why Gethin feels and thinks certain thoughts in relation to him? Maybe not. But I did. Sorry for being cryptic about this aspect. I’ll add one more thought, there is a sad storyline surrounding Gethin and Jonnie. It will bring quite a few readers to tears. Reader beware.
Drawn In was a great book for me that arrived at the right time. However, irrespective of timing, this is the sort of book I normally love – darkly, passionately erotic with an off-kilter romantic bent and story. It is also psychological with a good suspense element. There is plenty of hurt and angst but it’s tempered by humour and the slow development of love. It also offers strong secondary characters – love them or hate them. I do enjoy a cop and/or a PI and here I had both, thank you very much. All Kell and Gethin’s decisions, all their actions, their story, their lives, what others threw at them – and they still had a wonderful connection – glued me to my reading chair. That’s what I require when I read, to not want to put my Kindle down, to have an aching need to know what’s going to happen and to enjoy the mix of emotions that delivers.
Overall, I was entertained. I was engaged. I was enthralled. I was emotional. I can’t ask for anything more than that from any story I read. 5 Stars!