Today, I’m hosting author Kaje Harper’s latest audio release Life Lessons, a m/m romantic suspense. Be sure to read my review of the novel edition.
Book Title: Life Lessons
Author: Kaje Harper
Publisher: Self-published rerelease
Narrator: JF Harding
Release Date: December 02 2021
Genre: Mystery/Contemporary M/M Romance
Trope/s: murder-mystery, in the closet, modest age-gap, single parenting
Themes: hurt-comfort, closet-getting-tight, MC in danger
Heat Rating: 3-4 flames
Length: 8 hours and 47 minutes
Mac’s three goals: keep Tony safe, catch the killer, don’t come out.
Blurb: Tony Hart’s a dedicated teacher, though he’s not much older than his high-school students. Between his profession, a few good friends, and plenty of books, he’s content with his quiet life. Then the murdered body of another teacher falls into the elevator at his feet, and Tony’s life becomes all too exciting.
Jared MacLean is a homicide detective, widowed father to a young daughter, and deeply in the closet. But from the moment he meets Tony’s blue eyes in that high school hallway, Mac can’t help wanting this man in his life. Mac’s not out ― can’t afford to be out ― but Tony makes him want the impossible.
Mac isn’t the only one with their eyes on Tony, though. As the murderer tries to cover their tracks, Mac has to work fast or lose Tony, permanently.
Note: It is the first book in the Life Lessons series. It does not end on a cliffhanger but a HFN. This is a rerelease of the 2011 original with light editing.
Buy Links – Audible, KU and Paperback
Tony said after a pause. “You’re not the only person trapped in the closet. All those guys in the military, stuck with don’task, don’t tell; other guys with macho jobs or religious families. Lots of guys are doing it.”
“But you don’t want to,” Mac acknowledged.
“It wouldn’t be my first choice, no. I’ve put a lot of effort and pain into being out so I wouldn’t have to hide. But I do want you, and I know that comes on your terms.”
“They’re not my terms,” Mac protested.
“Whatever. It comes with being secret and hiding whatever we have together. The question is whether that’s better than not having anything together.”
Mac wanted to shout that of course it was, but he bit his tongue.
Tony looked at him hard. “The other question you have to ask yourself is whether you want to take the risk. No matter how careful we are, you may get caught. A wrong look, a note in your pocket, someone tracking down your cell in an emergency; there are lots of ways this could come out in the open. It’s not a problem for me. But is that a risk that you want to take?”
Mac opened his mouth to say yes, and hesitated. How have I come this far this fast? He’d been willing to cut away anything in his life that risked his daughter Anna or the job. And sex had never been that important. But this wasn’t about sex; it was about Tony. And Tony had somehow become too important to cut away. It might hurt less to give up breathing.
“There’s never been anyone I could go to, to just be myself. I’ve never had a lover, or even a fuck-buddy. I thought I could live without that, but now… I don’t want to. Even with Mai, I wasn’t… I couldn’t relax completely. With you, I’m just me.”
“Yeah.” Tony smiled at him. “That’s part of being gay, you know. It’s not just who you want in bed. It’s who your emotional relationships are with the other twenty-three hours of the day, whose arms you want around you when life hands you shit.”
Tony is an out and proud high school teacher, while Jared “Mac” Maclean is a deep in the closet homicide detective. When a teacher is murdered at Tony’s school, the two meet. And there is instant chemistry.
What follows next is a great blending of suspense and romance. Fate keeps pushing these two together, or maybe it’s not fate since the deeply closeted Mac keeps finding excuses to visit Tony, and Tony keeps finding reasons or new evidence to call on Mac.
I really liked the blending of suspense, a closeted man coming to terms with his sexuality, and the building of the relationship because it didn’t get too heavy. Everything unfolded naturally for these two as they tried to find out who had it out for Tony after the murdered teacher pretty much fell into his arms as he was getting into the elevator.
Both characters are extremely likeable. The pacing is neither slow or fast. It’s right on the spot. It has the right amount of description, dialogue, and narration to keep a reader reading.
As for the suspense part, it keeps unraveling as the two begin their relationship with a hesitant Mac slowly letting down his walls. Clues keep popping up here and there, and by the time it came to the big reveal, I had a good hunch who it was. Did I hope it’d be someone else? Yeah. I kind of wanted the novel to take me down a darker avenue of something big going on at the school, but it didn’t.
Still, this is a wonderful read. I liked how the relationship wasn’t overpowered by the suspense, because that does happen sometimes in romantic suspense. But it never happened here. The author made sure the readers never forgot about Mac and Tony’s budding relationship, and for this I was grateful, because I love a good romance, so I tend to shy away from romantic suspense in fear that the suspense part overpowers the love affair between the two main characters.
This is a read I recommend. The author is new to me and a strong writer. I can easily see myself reading and reviewing other books from her to come. Do yourself a favour and purchase yourself a copy.
I get asked about my name a lot. It’s not something exotic, though. “Kaje” is pronounced just like “cage” – it’s an old nickname, and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I’ve been writing far longer than I care to admit (*whispers – forty-five years*), although mostly for my own entertainment. I write M/M romance, often with added mystery, fantasy, historical, SciFi, paranormal… I also have Young Adult short stories (some released under the pen name Kira Harp.)
After decades of writing just for fun, my husband convinced me I really should submit something, somewhere. My first professionally published book, Life Lessons, came out in May 2011. I now have a good-sized backlist in ebooks and print, both free and professionally published, including Amazon bestseller The Rebuilding Year and Rainbow Award Best Mystery-Thriller Tracefinder: Contact. A complete list with links can be found on my website “Books” page at https://kajeharper.com/books/.