Series Review: Deputy Joe by James Buchanan

Hard Fall by James BuchananTitle: Hard Fall
Series: Deputy Joe, Book 1
Author: James Buchanan
Genre: Romantic Suspense, M/M Romance
Sensuality Rating: Erotic
Source: review copy provided by publisher
Published: February 13, 2009 by MLR Press

Deputy Joe Peterson is Mormon and in the closet. Then ex-con Kabe Varghese lands in town on parole. When a tourist falls off the mountain, Joe finds he needs the help of this cliff climbing adrenaline junky to solve the case. Will Kabe tear him apart or does Joe need to fall hard before he can start living?

Spin Out by James Buchanan

Title: Spin Out
Series: Deputy Joe, Book 2
Author: James Buchanan
Genre: Romantic Suspense, M/M Romance
Sensuality Rating: Erotic
Source: review copy provided by publisher
Published: July 16, 2011 by MLR Press

Deputy Joe Peterson understood the risks when he got involved with ex-con Kabe Varghese. He didn’t, however, see fit to warn Kabe. Now, in the middle of searching for the killer of a local boy, he has to contend with his career and his relationship spinning out of control. Solving the case may be easier than repairing broken trust.

Laying Ghosts by James BuchananTitle: Laying Ghosts
Series: Deputy Joe, Book 3
Author: James Buchanan
Genre: Romantic Suspense, M/M Romance
Sensuality Rating: Erotic
Source: review copy provided by publisher
Published: January 31, 2013 by MLR Press

Some families are haunted by tragedy. Some people are haunted by their pasts. Some men are haunted by who they are. Joe Peterson is haunted by all three.

His parents' return from their mission, combined with a family reunion, forces Joe's kin to deal with his new life: out of the Mormon Church, out of the closet, and living with his lover Kabe.

When a decades-old murder of a child lands on Joe's desk, digging into it dredges up long buried truths and festering secrets about folks Joe thought he knew -- including Kabe. Joe and Kabe must lay the ghosts of the past and bring closure to a family scarred by loss to move forward in their life together.

Reviewed By: J9

Why I Read: This series is on a lot of best of MM lists so wanted to try it.

The Characters: The best thing about this series is the characters. Joe is one of the most complicated characters I’ve read. He’s full of contradictions as a gay Mormon who is trying to reconcile his partnership with Kabe with his faith. I think this is the best example I’ve ever read about a person of faith wrestling with their sexuality. Joe truly believes in Mormonism: he wears the sacred undergarments, refuses caffeine, won’t swear and truly believes sex outside marriage is morally wrong. In addition, Joe is tied to his backcountry birthplace. He says to Kabe that his family has lived in the rugged Utah rock canyons for generations and he’s tethered to the country living in ways outsiders like Kabe can’t understand. This series is about Joe finding inner peace between his Mormon faith and his love of Kabe with their BDSM romance. Joe’s voice was one that may irritate some readers with his country slang but worked well in juxtaposition with Kabe’s mouthy, urban voice, in my opinion.

Kabe is a little less developed than Joe since the series is told first person by Joe. Kabe’s volatile personality and lack of reverence for Joe’s faith often puts them at odds. Kabe desires to understand Joe’s conflict but can’t stand to see Joe hurting. Kabe wants to share his fuck-the-world mentality with Joe but he loves that Joe won’t allow it. These are two very opposite characters and a relationship between them made a compelling romance for me.

The Romance: Joe has a surprisingly easy time beginning a sexual relationship with Kabe and carries that through in the men’s emotional intimacy. Both leads have a difficult time being vulnerable to each other but it makes it more intense when they do. The three books showcase a deepening romance which starts strictly sexual and grows over time into a familiar and comforting relationship for these two men, though still just as sexually fiery. This series needed all three books to tell a fully developed romance for complicated Joe. I’m glad the author took that long.

I have to say though that I wasn’t comfortable with the sex in this relationship. Joe and Kabe engage in hardcore BDSM, in my vanilla opinion. There is the usual flogging and spanking but also asphyxiation. I am TOTALLY uncomfortable with this level of BDSM but know that some readers will love it. And to be fair, the BDSM elements grows as the relationship does so it’s not just thrown in for the kink factor but because the leads need and desire it in their relationship.

The Plots: This series is a romantic suspense, though I’d say the third book is the most character driven. In book one Joe is investigating the death of a German tourist and Kabe is the climbing guide who helps. This isn’t a suspense or mystery that surprised me or would have kept my attention if the leads weren’t so unique as it was a foregone conclusion how the plot would end. The second book has more a danger-suspense plot and had a few twists I liked, especially as it involved Kabe a bit. The third book’s plot was my favorite since it focused the book on Joe’s coming out to his family and a secret death in their family twenty years before. This book paces a little slower as Joe has difficult conversations with his family, like the one where his mom tells him to take his grandfather’s wedding ring and get rid of it since he won’t be using it now.

IMO: Joe is a complicated and unique narrator for an MM romance. If I hadn’t felt so uncomfortable with the BDSM sex I would have enjoyed this series more but will admit that’s my own issue and no fault of the series.


J9’s Rating:
3 1/2 Frogs

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About J9: Vegan. Avid runner. Android addict. Never without a book in hand. Currently devouring MM romance but reads historial romance and paranormal romance as well. Follow J9 on Twitter.


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