Reckless Behavior (Bad Behavior #3) L.A.Witt & Cari Z
Rating: 5 Stars
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Gay Crime Romance
Tags: Detectives, Crime, Mystery, Age Gap, Health Issues, Kidnapping, Family, Contemporary Setting, Series #3
Length: 264 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com, Riptide Publishing (Jan 1st, 2018)
After too many years of putting his job first, Detective Andreas Ruffner is getting his priorities straight. He’s ready to spend some quality time with his adult kids, not to mention come clean about some things he should’ve told them a long time ago. And introduce them to his partner and boyfriend, Darren Corliss.
But in a heartbeat, a family dinner turns into Andreas’s worst nightmare. When the dust settles, one of his kids is hurt, and the other three have been abducted.
Andreas is going to find his kids, and nothing, not even a broken ankle, is going to stop him. Thank God for his sharp, level-headed partner . . . who has a crisis of his own pulling him away when Andreas needs him the most. As both men try to support—and lean on—each other, they get no closer to finding the kids. And the longer the children are missing, the less likely it is they’ll ever be found.
Book #3 in the Bad Behavior series sees Andreas Ruffner recovering from surgery on his broken ankle and hobbling around in a cast and on crutches, something he does throughout the entire book. He and his work and life partner, Darren Corliss, are nervous about meeting up with Andreas’ other children – Ben and Casey – from his marriage to Marcy. Then there’s four year old Emily from his time with ex girlfriend, Lisa. His oldest daughter, Erin, who works with Internal Affairs, knows about her father’s bisexuality, his relationship with Darren, and his HIV+ status. Erin found out about her father through malicious gossip at the station and has convinced her father he needs to share things instead of family finding out the wrong way. That means talking to her brothers as well.
A casual get together at a local restaurant with Lisa, Andreas’ children, and Darren has been organised so Darren can meet the boys and Andreas can also have a talk with them as Emily suggested. Andreas loves his kids but work has previously consumed him and he hasn’t always been the most emotionally available dad. He’s also a man of few words, particularly when those words are more feelings based. Ben takes the news well enough but Casey feels like his father hasn’t trusted him with some significant details. It’s also a lot to accept all at once. Everyone assures Andreas that Casey will come around with some time to think, but just after Andreas’ reveal all hell breaks loose and a kidnapping goes down. Erin and Emily are snatched at the back of the restaurant and in a coordinated smash and grab, Ben and Casey are targeted in their car out the front. Darren manages to fire some shots allowing Ben to get away, but the others are all whisked off, leaving upset and shocked parents as well as Darren.
Meanwhile, Darren is still trying to deal with the complexities and hurt of his older brother’s Early Onset Dementia. Asher is now in a dedicated dementia facility and his moments of lucidity and connection are declining fairly rapidly. Some days he can hold some small talk but it’s getting rarer. He occasionally asks for Darren who will drop things and visit his brother, but the kidnapping of Andreas’ family suddenly has him stretched thin. I have to admit that while the kidnapping upset me, it was Asher’s worsening condition that broke my heart. Darren also has EOD hanging over his own head. He’s understandably terrified of having the genetic testing done – although being with Andreas makes him more inclined to know one way or another. He never wants to put Andreas through what he and his parents have gone through, are still going through. So Darren is dealing with losing a brother he loves dearly – Asher so young and being a shadow of himself – and he’s scared he’s looking at his own future every time he sees him. Andreas doesn’t know what to say but he knows he’s in love with Darren and it scares him as well.
He wants to die,” Darren murmured.
He exhaled hard. “When he’s with it—as much as he can be anymore—he tells me he wishes this thing would just finish him off.”
I didn’t respond. What could I say?
Fuck. I’d only known him a few short months, but I’d been in love with him for most of that, and had been forced to think way too much about when and how he might die. Closing my eyes, I held him tighter.
There are two very emotional arcs going on in Reckless Behavior. One is ongoing – Asher’s dementia. The kidnapping is a new plot development in this book. Both have ties with the other books though. Andreas and Darren helped put away corrupt police and local officials, and with a few exceptions, their fellow officers hate them. Their colleagues have made sure they go out of their way to be spiteful and belligerent towards Ruffner and Corliss even though the cops were dirty. However, now that Ruffner’s kids have been kidnapped the same colleagues who have been beyond difficult want to help out – you don’t hurt cop’s families. But can they be trusted? It’s not easy to forget their previous bad behaviour.
As for the kidnapping, there is nothing concrete about the whys of it. Is it someone Ruffner has put away? Are they newly released, or could it be the ex cellmate doing the work of someone still in jail? Is it an official’s or cop’s family who wants revenge? Could it be something to do with loan shark Pitbull who they put the heavy on for Lisa in book #2? There are a lot of people who could be behind this kidnapping but with no clues – the job was well planned down to covering faces, wearing gloves and knowing exactly where Ruffner and his family were – and no ransom demand it’s utterly perplexing.
“This just came.” I handed him the letter and photo. “They’re not asking for anything. Just . . . taunting us.” I swallowed. “Taunting me.”
The captain skimmed the brief letter, then eyed me grimly. “You know if they do make demands, the city doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Reckless Behavior adds to what is already an outstanding series. There is action, nice procedural work, suspense, and, in this instalment, the progression and emotion surrounding the kidnapping case. There is more about family. I already think Darren’s family are something special. Their love for each other is strong, genuine, practical and unconditional. This time it was nice to get to know Andreas’ ex wife, Marcy, as well as snippets of Ben and Casey. It’s so nice to read about family who aren’t perfect but aren’t annoying, meddling, sniping or jealous. All three of Andreas’s older children support their considerably younger step-sister, Emily, and his ex wife and his ex girlfriend aren’t at all bitter or petty.
“I’m glad he has you, Darren.” There was nothing but honesty in her face. “I can’t tell you how big a relief it is to know he’s got someone who loves him and is looking out for him. And who can legally tase him when he gets unbearable,” she added.
The authors juggled the several arcs perfectly – the kidnapping, Asher’s decline, families coming together during a crisis, the reaction of the other cops in the precinct, the deepening of the relationship between Ruffner and Corliss. Just the reaction to children being kidnapped and held by someone. How helpless you would feel, how you would never want to sleep until you got them back. How you think the worst and live on sleep and food fumes until the case is solved. It is all totally believable.
What I loved and I appreciated in this book was the reality of two men deeply affected by life who simply do not have the time or emotional energy to have sex. Thank you to the LA Witt and Cari Z for being realistic. The MCs do, however, find the time to have a more meaningful and deeper connection because they are there for one another in desperate times and turmoil. That is true love. When the chips are down you see who people are and how they really feel. Someone being there for you when you need them most is often underrated as far as being romantic and loving. Having someone understand if you snap suddenly or are tense. Making sure you eat or sleep as much as possible. In this case making different personal choices; such as making Andreas’ children the first priority. Darren wants Andreas to be his number one but he understands why his partner’s children are so important. These are the little things that are big things in the overall picture of love. I want romance, that’s why I mostly read in the romance genre, but I want what I read to feel like it all makes sense. For it to feel like an organic process, and so it is with the Bad Behavior series. I could feel the love bouncing off the page – from family, and definitely between the MCs.
“I need to know you’ll protect them first. Please.”
“Yes.” It was one word, one blistering ingot of a word, but it took some of the strain out of Andreas’s face.
For Darren to finally be able to share his feelings with Andreas because he realises he loves him, and it feels right and necessary and helps him feel better, is a big step too. He feels safe with Andreas now and with his own emotions – whatever the future may hold for him. For them.
I wasn’t telling him because I was worried about tomorrow, but because I had to say it. I had to let something out. My damn body wasn’t strong enough to keep all these emotions locked up, and love was the only one I had worth sharing.
I think this is one of the best series in the “MM” genre at the moment. I really like Andreas and Darren – they’re genuine men, dedicated to their work and each other, their love is believable and romantic, and they are both undeniably loyal to those who matter the most in their life. The procedural aspects are terrific, the action always on point with strong writing and a need to zoom through the pages to see what’s going to happen next. Because some integral aspects of some plots intertwine within each book of the series, I recommend you start at the beginning with Risky Behavior.
How good the books are isn’t particularly surprising because both of these authors are excellent individual writers. Together they work their talent to create a beautifully drawn, seamless tapestry of the joy of new love combined with life’s difficulties and frustrations. Each book evokes strong emotion but is also hopeful. My favourite books are those where the characters involved have to work for what they get, and sometimes, if we’re all really lucky, as in this series, the planets align wonderfully to make the reading experience even better. 5 Stars!
ARC received in return for an honest review