"Shift's End," by A. R. Barley
Contemporary Gay (M/M) Romance
With a couple failed marriages under his belt, Captain Jack Tracey knows how tough it is to balance a personal life with his job. But nothing in his long career has prepared him for the moment Diesel Evers walks into his firehouse. Sure, Jack’s contended with cocky young recruits before, but this seriously hot hotshot rookie is poised to crash and burn. With early retirement in sight, Jack can’t afford to get involved with a subordinate.
Having transferred to Jack’s house after a disastrous relationship, Diesel isn’t looking for another commitment. But that doesn’t mean he can’t have a little fun with his sexy silver fox of a new boss. Sometimes you have to bend the rules a bit…or shatter them completely.
With an unidentified saboteur endangering his squad, Jack doesn’t want to draw any more heat, but Diesel is too damn tempting to deny. Indulging their desires feels worth the risk—until trouble on the job lands Jack in the hospital, forcing them both to decide what’s worth fighting for.
I’m a big fan of May-December romance, especially when it’s done well, which meant I was positively chomping at the bit to get my readerly hands on this week’s book. I’m happy to say, Shift’s End by A. R. Barley didn’t disappoint. Not only did it provide a delicious set of main characters I could easily fall for, but they were also firemen. Both of ‘em.
I mean, come on. Talk about a panty fire. 🤣 Thank goodness there were two professionals around to help put it out… or, I dunno, make it worse. But who’s counting? I’m certainly not. Nor am I complaining.
This book was on the milder, lower heat end—with only one really detailed sex scene—but the romance between the two men was so sweet and so hard earned that I can certainly forgive Ms. Barley for glossing over some of the scenes I (as an admitted erotica lover) would’ve loved to see in more detail. Still, for what was there, it was decidedly yummy and you’ll hear no grievances on my end.
I adored the relationship our silver fox and captain of the New York Fire Department, Jack Tracey, had with his first ex-wife, Mona, and sixteen-year-old son, Eric. It was so wholesome and pretty much the ideal situation if a couple with a child can’t make their marriage work. It was refreshing to see a book not treat ex’s as across-the-board dumpster fires not worth the legs they stand on. Because, come on, the truth of the matter is… yes, relationships don’t always work out, but it isn’t always because the other person was a complete monster. I applaud Ms. Barley for taking a jaunt down a less-than-frequently traveled road with the true friendship still in play between Mona and Jack.
Poor Diesel Evers, on the other hand, didn’t get so lucky. But that’s okay, there’s a place for crap head ex’s, too. And, boy, Chase is sure a crap head and then some. Twenty-six-year-old Diesel, who is Jack’s junior by twenty years, fled his old life in Atlantic City to get away from his ex and all the craptastic crap he brought into Diesel’s life. (I’ll let y’all gather those bits of info for yourselves as you read. No spoilers here.)
His transfer brought him into Captain Jack’s house and from the moment those two laid eyes on one another, a low-grade sizzle started. I adore how Ms. Barley allowed the men’s relationship to unfold over a very reasonable stretch of time, rather than trying to cram them falling in love within a few short days. (I’m not saying all quick-to-fall stories are tragically horrible… only the insta-love ones where there quite simply isn’t enough to push the leads into those kind of feelings in such a short period.) But in this case, insta-love wasn’t an issue at all.
And watching the two flirt was pretty much adorbs and a half. Just sayin’.
My only "beef," so to speak, was with the side plot meant to add tension and give a reason for Jack and Diesel to be forced together. Quite honestly, it fell flat for me. A good deal of it felt contrived, and the final payout kind of fizzled and ended on a squeaker. Thankfully, the core of the novel—the relationship between the men—was well handled and overshadowed the weaker "suspense" plot.
Overall, I’d recommend this book to any male/male romance lover—especially those who aren’t into super high heat, but who enjoy a sweet buildup with a moment or two of the hot and heavy. 😘
Until next time,