The Brothers Grime: Jack: Grime and Punishment – Z.A. Maxfield
One man’s tough job is a path to love.
The Brothers Grime is Jack Masterson’s way of helping people in crisis after disability ends his career as a firefighter. Jack’s people get to a scene long after the physical trauma ends. They don’t solve crime or rescue the victims. They help people move on. The new job is all Jack wants or needs, until he gets the call about old flame Nick Foasberg’s suicide.
Ryan Halloran’s cousin Nick has been on a downhill slide for a long time. Despite that, Ryan does everything he knows to help. Ryan only understands part of what happened between Nick and Jack in high school, but after Nick’s suicide, Ryan agrees both he and Jack need closure. They work together to clean the scene and despite the situation, heat flares between them.
Jack is keeping a painful secret and fighting his attraction to Nick’s lookalike cousin, Ryan. Ryan calls himself a magnet for lost causes and worries Jack might be the next in a long line of losers.
Despite his misgivings, despite the past and the mistakes they’ve both made, Jack gives Ryan something to look forward to, and Ryan gives Jack a reason to stop looking back, in Grime and Punishment.
This is a rerelease of the 2013 novel with bonus stories in the Grime-verse!!!
Pun-y titles always make me think light and humorous so I was surprised that this was rather bleak and angsty. Well, at least the first 30% of the story. I nearly dropped the book but I’m glad I hanged on. I mistakenly thought this was going to be mystery but it’s actually contemporary romance.
The Brothers Grime has a very interesting set-up that’s quite unique. This is the name of the company that specializes in cleaning up crime scenes. It is co-owned by three friends, Jack, his cousin Gabe, and their friend Eddie. Jack was a former firefighter who came up with the idea after he had a serious accident that left him with a disability and needed a cane to walk.
Jack: Grime and Punishment opens the series with a suicide. Jack receives a call from their detective friend and his occasional fuck buddy, Dave, that a friend from high school shot himself in his bathroom.
Nick was Jack’s first love, his bestfriend and lover. He was very closeted. He and his friends nearly beat Jack to a pulp when he publicly tried to ask Nick to the prom. Jack’s cousin and friends never forgave Nick for that. The incident left marks on everyone. Jack carried the wounds ever since. He goes about life avoiding relationships. He also had to deal with the chronic pain from his injury as a firefighter. Understandably, he’s an angry man.
This part was came off a bit heavy for me. After all he had suffered and through the past 15 years, Jack kept Nick’s secret closely guarded despite urgings from his friends, who also knew the truth, to tell the whole story. You have to admire Jack’s loyalty here. He badly needed closure and cleaning up the scene of death was it.
Ryan is the other person who needed closure. Nick was living with him. Ryan is a magnet for lost causes who took in his drug-addicted cousin.
Ryan put Jack in a dilemma. He looked so much like his dead cousin. This brought in the conflict of whether Jack was attracted to Ryan because he reminded him of his lost love. Many times Jack drew comparisons between the two. At one point, he wondered if he can think about Ryan without thinking about Nick. This also colored Ryan’s perception of Jack.
Another thing here was that both MCs slept with other people off page. If you are like me, a stickler for exclusivity between MCs the moment they noticed each other, I’m happy to say this part wasn’t that off-putting. I did wonder for a while if there was going to be a love triangle with Dave. Thankfully it was emphasized that there were no feelings there therefore no cheating for all parties involved. The thing with Dave was automatically put to a stop.
The book took a lighter, happier tone after the funeral when Jack and Ryan had their official first date. Ryan had the brilliant idea to test his dates with the first date playlist. This was the moment Jack’s sense of humor came to the fore and his character became infinitely more likable.
Same with Ryan. I first thought him as abrasive but that was because he was dealing with a lot of things. It was him who smoothly turned a difficult day at Nick’s funeral with Jack into a fun getting-to-know-you session on their way home and capped it with a nice dinner date. He had a playful, flirtatious streak. My favorite part was how he breathed life into Jack’s morose world, reminding him how to have fun again.
And with the similarities, I liked that Jack was honest that he had a type when it comes to looks and Ryan and Nick both shared that look. But he also made it clear he liked Ryan for who he is. “Ryan was so like Nick. Yet…they were as individual as snowflakes.” He had to work hard to convince Ryan though.
Given that both MCs were trying to move on from a tragic incident, the romance was not cute and fluffy. There was also misunderstanding and a separation period. But it had plenty of enjoyable parts and the flirting/banter between Jack and Ryan brought the book up a notch.
This series had a great supporting cast of characters I’m eager to read more about. Gage was the client whisperer who certainly lived up to his reputation. He and Jack were pretty close. Dave wasn’t my favorite person here but he was certainly intriguing. He’s going to be paired with Gage in the third book. He’s so deep in the closet I’m curious to see how Gage convinces him to come out of it. Skippy, a Brothers Grime employee who takes morbid glee in his job would make for a very interesting MC but he’s straight and married so he’s off the list. Eddie was mostly off page but his book is next.
Jack: Grime and Punishment is a good book to pick up if you have a yen for contemporary romance with a gritty, unusual set-up, engaging characters, and serious themes balanced out by adorable kitty antics and a lot of sweetness and humor. I really liked how the crime scene clean up was worked into the plot. After all, it was what I signed up for and it didn’t disappoint. There were some gory details illustrating the kind of work involved but not too much to make you lose lunch.
The Brothers Grime is a nasty business but it also brought together two men who would have otherwise missed the fateful connection that brought joy and healing to their hurt, angry souls. Jack’s company logo maybe “Life is not a fairytale“, it certainly doesn’t say he can’t have his happy ever after.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
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