Temporary Partner (Valor & Doyle #1) by Nicky James

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Can two rivals work together to solve a case?

When an infant is taken from his carriage in broad daylight, missing persons detective, Quaid Valor, must race against the clock to find the child and bring him safely home to his family. Unfortunately, Quaid’s partner isn’t available, and his team is spread thin. Begrudgingly, Quaid must accept the help from his rival, homicide detective Aslan Doyle, if he wants to get the job done.

Aslan is Quaid’s opposite in every way. He’s bold, outspoken, arrogant, and the office playboy. And much to Quaid’s chagrin, Aslan seems to have set his sights on Quaid as his next conquest.

Quaid doesn’t have time to deal with Aslan’s flirty behavior when he’s trying to solve a case and juggle his cheating ex’s incessant interruptions.

It doesn’t matter how attractive Aslan is or the undeniable chemistry they seem to have. Getting involved with Aslan would be a huge mistake.

But as tension with the case builds, Quaid keeps forgetting he’s supposed to hate this new partner. Maybe Aslan is exactly the kind of distraction he needs.

Temporarily at least.

Right?

Rating: A-

Temporary Partner, the first book in a new series of romantic mysteries from Nicky James, features two rival detectives who team up to solve a missing persons case.  It’s a thoroughly entertaining read and I raced through it in a couple of sittings; it’s fast-paced, tightly-plotted and the sexual tension between the two leads is off-the-charts.

In the short prequel, Department Rivals (available through the author’s newsletter), we were introduced to detectives Quaid Valor of the Missing Persons Unit and Aslan Doyle (yes, his mother was a Narnia fan!) from Homicide.  There’s a long-standing and not at all friendly rivalry between Homicide and the MPU at the Toronto Police Service, and in that story, the higher-ups arrange a team-building exercise in which a detective from one division partners with a detective from the other in order to solve a case-like puzzle.  Of course, the department playboy – Doyle – is partnered with the standoffish, anally-retentive Valor, and while neither is impressed with the other, they’re rather annoyed to find they work surprisingly well together.  It’s not absolutely necessary to read that first, but it’s a quick read and a fun introduction to the characters.

Temporary Partner opens a few months later when Quaid is called in after a five-month-old baby goes missing, snatched from the back-yard of his very well-to-do family home.  Time is of the essence in these cases and Quaid needs to get the ball rolling quickly, but his regular partner is currently on leave dealing with a family situation and all the other detectives in the MPU are on assignment so Quaid’s boss requests help from other departments – which is how come Aslan Doyle ends up working the case. Quaid isn’t best pleased – but it’s Doyle or no-one if he wants to find little Matthieu and return him to his parents safe and sound.

Nicky James has created a real edge-of-your-seat mystery here, with difficult family dynamics and an ever expanding web of secrets and lies that provides lots of twists, turns and red herrings as the investigation quickly moves into high-gear and Valor and Doyle move from merely tolerating each other to a reluctant respect and burgeoning trust. They’re complex, flawed individuals, who couldn’t be more different in both looks and temperament. Aslan, all darkly brooding sexiness, isn’t above bending the rules when it suits him and is a player of the first order with a revolving door of bed partners of both sexes, and yet beneath the swagger there’s a truly kind and intuitive man he rarely lets others see. By contrast, behind Quaid’s All-American good looks is a stickler; tightly wound and by-the-book, he’s dedicated to his job and is extremely good at it – but he never feels as though he’s quite good enough. Unlike Doyle, Quaid is looking for long-term commitment, but he’s stuck in an emotionally abusive cycle with a serial cheater he knows he should kick to the kerb – but somehow can’t.    The way their relationship develops both personally and professionally is extremely well-done, both men coming to appreciate (and perhaps even admire) the other’s skills as they strike sparks off each other while trying to ignore the intensity of their growing attraction.  Aslan makes no secret of the fact that he’d love to get into Quaid’s pants – if for no other reason than to provide a bit of a distraction from Quaid’s asshole ex – but Quaid has absolutely no interest in being just another notch on his bedpost.

The one issue I had with the story is with the unprofessional behaviour Aslan exhibits, especially in the first half, in his ‘pursuit’ of Quaid; on a number of occasions, while he and Quaid are interviewing suspects, he makes comments and/or suggestive remarks which are completely inappropriate in terms of the situation (flirting when you’re about to ask questions of a distraught mother is not a good look)  and workplace ethics.  He does back off when Quaid points out that his behaviour could be considered sexual harassment –  but his disregard of professional/personal boundaries early in the story is somewhat jarring.

That’s my only complaint though.  Otherwise, Temporary Partner is a real page-turner, a fantastic blend of clever mystery and budding romance that gets this new series off to a cracking start.

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