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I'm a hopeful cynic.

Shades of Gray

Shades of Gray - Brooke McKinley This wasn’t a bad book overall. Actually, I found the general style good, with a balanced and fitting use of adjectives, similes, metaphors, etc. The pace was tight, the POVs clear and the plot decent.There were two major issues though. One, the major WTF moments that had me rolling my eyes instead of concentrating in the story and, two, the feeling that the two heroes were too effeminate and acting out of character.About the eye rolling moments. I understand that sometimes you have to ignore certain things in order to enjoy a story. I also understand that some elements may not be readily apparent or seem incoherent, or unintelligible or unclear (notwithstanding the saying that the difference between reality and fiction is that the latter has to make sense.)In the case of Shades of Gray, those parts were simply too many to ignore. I was less than 10% into the book and I was already wondering why FBI agent Miller Sutton worked solo when all his colleagues work in pairs, how could law enforcers (supposedly the good guys) have left an offender almost bleed to death from a nasty cut across the ribs –a cut so deep, Danny could see bone– because they needed to secure his cooperation first, and how could a criminal of 10+ years in drug trafficking and his fair share of prison time be fooled by such a weak (or should I say downright laughable) plan to frame him.Then there was the removal of stitches with a Swiss army knife (!) that didn’t even need to be disinfected because the wound was healed (I mean, seriously?), or a patient coming to from major surgery (he had a bone fracture, a dislocated joint, a facial laceration that needed intervention from a plastic surgeon, a concussion from blunt head trauma, a ruptured kidney, a serious gun wound and ten fingernails missing) while still being transferred to the ICU from the operating theatre. The patient not only regained consciousness but was also lucid enough to speak clearly and converse with two different people. That anesthesiologist was something! And, by the way, what were those people doing right outside the OR?I won’t comment on how Hinestroza appeared in that abandoned house after arranging for Madrigal to pick Danny up. He sat there without anyone other than Madrigal to protect him, without even a miserable gun in his hand just in case. For a major drug dealer and a mobster, he was pretty dumb.About the main characters. I had to force myself to feel the chemistry between them; it just wasn’t there for me. Miller had his issues with himself and his job and his life before he met Danny and Danny helped him find his real self. I get that. I also get how Miller helped Danny realize he wanted to try and become a better person. I even get how they forged a connection that made them want to protect each other at all costs. But where were the white-hot chemistry and the all-consuming passion between them? They were attracted to each other. All right. They had sex. Fair enough. But I didn’t feel there was any special element to it. People are attracted to each other and have sex all the time. How they moved from sexual attraction to desperate love remains a mystery to me.Also, their reactions and thoughts and feelings were more suitable to girls in their late teens than grown up men. Less than 30% into the book (the characters hadn’t even had sex yet), the felon wanted to “kiss the pain away” from the FBI agent’s bruised knuckles and, a little later, the FBI agent “brushes the soft strands of hair” off the felon’s forehead while he sleeps. Those kinds of thoughts and actions were too girly for my liking.The sex scenes felt somewhat short and kind of basic. I acknowledge that the author tried to make them more interesting by adding different elements in each one of them (different positions or settings) but the absence of any kind of preparation before penetration –they didn’t even use lube in one of them– seemed odd and took away from the whole male/male sex experience and added to the effeminate impression the characters gave me.About the secondary characters. The women in the story felt boring if not downright pathetic. Rachel, the nondescript brunette who keeps waiting for Miller to set a wedding date after five years of engagement, felt like a pitiful woman who can’t see past her own insecurities and Amanda, Danny’s loud ex-wife, felt like an empty-headed bimbo. Griff? I felt he was used by everyone in the book. By Miller, to learn more about Danny and channel his jealousy, by Danny to get the things he needed (see gun) or keep him company while he was in the hospital or help him move. Yes, Danny felt bad because he couldn’t reciprocate Griff’s feelings for him but that didn’t make Griff seem less pathetic to me. I already commented on Madrigal and Hinestroza. The only one not acting out of character was Ortiz and he wasn’t even there.Their “happy for now” was all right, it felt appropriate for their situation. To be honest, the way things were going, I half expected them to promise eternal love to each other and exchange rings. But the ending was more pragmatic and maybe added another star to this rating.One last thing. I honestly believe Brooke McKinley has a lot of potential as a romance writer but maybe next time she should try the f/m genre. I have a feeling she’ll be much better at it.