Title: Witness Protection
Author: Derek Adams
Length: 15k words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Blurb: Ex-con Tony Bradshaw drops into a convenience store on his way home after work, looking for a loaf of bread. What he finds instead is trouble. Overnight, he becomes the star witness in the murder trial of a major mob enforcer. Death threats quickly follow, and Tony’s life is completely disrupted.
Tony is hustled off to a secluded cabin in the woods with bodyguard Alec Dubinski, a handsome young detective who at first appears to be a complete homophobe. Relations between them start off poorly and soon hit rock bottom during a drunken stupor. But after Alec apologizes for his unacceptable behavior, the sexual chemistry between the men can no longer be ignored. A night of unbridled passion leads to a declaration of their growing affection for one another.
Their idyll in the woods is brought to a halt, however, when their hideout is brutally attacked by mafia henchmen. What sacrifice is Tony willing to make as he attempts to save the man he has come to love?
Review: It wasn’t until I finished this story that I checked and realized I haven’t actually ever read anything by Derek Adams before. I have plenty of his stories, but I’ve never gotten around to reading one of them. Now, I can’t say that my feelings about this story have any bearing on the quality of writing in those other stories, but I suspect that had I read anything by this author before last week, when I decided to get this from Amber Allure for review, I might have taken a pass. And honestly, I wish I had.
Tony Bradshaw has had a rough life. Problems at home manifested in his juvenile delinquency at an early age. And once he’s in the system, it’s almost impossible for Tony to get out of it. Criminal habits and a harsh reality of his place in society result in a vicious circle, of a world that continually admonishes Tony for his lack of worth while at the same time actively helping him to fail. Bad behavior and stupid choices as a teenager lead to his need to rob, steal and sell his body to survive as an adult. Tony is the first to admit that while he may have had few choices at that time, it doesn’t negate the fact that with the choices he did have he always chose the worst ones. And Tony knows even more how your image can control who you are and the choices you have.
Tony is on a first name basis with many of Seattle’s cops, and the older cops that know him by name and reputation seem to delight in reminding him that while he has his life together now they’re just waiting for him to slip up so they can remind him of who they know him to be. Having such a bad reputation with law enforcement makes it even harder for Tony to bear what is happening to him now. What Tony thought was a small altercation on a dark street corner turns out to be the smoking gun that cops need to bring down one of the key components of an organized crime ring. He’s in real danger and an obvious target before he can testify in the trial. Now that Tony is an honest citizen, he does his duty and tells the cops what he saw. The cops, on the other hand, only grudgingly give him protection. They send him and a cop by the name of Alec to a cabin in the woods until the trial can be brought together. Tony’s reward for his candor is a one way ticket into WITSEC.
What was a somewhat unoriginal plot (which is pretty obvious from the blurb) was made even worse by choppy writing, superficial characters and a plot that never really went anywhere. By that, I mean that several factors came together in an unfortunate way. The writing itself relies heavily on summary instead of in an active scene, and we’re given several info dumps. There are also large gaps in time that end up being gaps in plot because of the lack of transition between parts of the story and in character growth. Most frustrating for me, aside from the lack of growth in the characters, was the stilted dialogue that seemed like something the characters would never say. Also, without showing any of the internal process, one of the characters makes a drastic 180 that really kind of baffled me. Also, I was immediately turned off by the first sex scene which is pretty blatantly dubious consent. Not that I have a problem with dub-con itself, but it does really bother me when the character who has dubious feelings is ultimately like eh, what the hell… it’s no big deal and then the whole issue is ignored. Call a spade a spade and address the issue. And last, I was curious to see how the author would write the end scene. It’s pretty obvious from the blurb what is going to happen. Ultimately, I found the ending completely anticlimactic and the characters actions so apart from their real person that I just really couldn’t understand them at all.
To be quite honest, I probably wouldn’t recommend this story — not even if you’re a fan of Derek Adams. I’m sure some people will like this story, but with so many flaws, I think that’s a small percentage of readers. To me, it felt like PWTVP (Porn With Thinly Veiled Plot).