Review of Life Lessons by Kaje Harper

Life lessons book cover

Life Lessons Series

I’ve been meaning to read the the Life Lessons series by Kaje Harper for awhile now but have not as of yet gotten around to it so I was overjoyed when I noticed that my Goodreads book club was reading the first book in the series, Life Lessons in March. Now this author is not new to me. I’ve read two other books of hers: Sole Support and Into Deep Waters, both of which I really enjoyed. I had no idea what the book was about but it didn’t take long to figure out that it was a mystery/detective novel because it…

Starts Out With a Body

Right from the get-go, this adrenaline-filled story hits the ground running. The novel opens one evening at Roosevelt High School as young teacher Tony Hart prepares to leave for the night. As soon as the elevator door opens, one of his colleagues, Brian Weston, stumbles into him and drops to the floor. It’s then that Tony notices the knife sticking in Westin’s chest. Tony checks for a pulse. He’s dead.

Panicked, Tony leaves the body in the elevator and calls the police from his classroom. He then anxiously awaits their arrival.

Enter Mac

Homicide detective Jared MacLean – who goes by Mac – arrives on the scene. He and Tony appear to be complete opposites. While Tony is young, a tad twink-ish, opinionated, out & proud and somewhat sarcastic, Mac is masculine, pushing 40, gruff, by-the-book, and straight (or so it seems initially).

We learn as the novel progresses that Mac has had a difficult background – he is a widower and the legal father of a daughter who is not his. The daugher is being raised by his religious crackpot of a cousin, who won’t allow Mac in her house because she believes that Mac and his former wife (now deceased) had the child out of wedlock. We also learn that he is gay but is so deeply in the closet that he doesn’t ever acknowledge Hart’s flirting – or his growing own attraction to the young teacher.

I also found the police procedural scenes to be well-done, thorough and believable. Many authors tend to do a “data dump” when describing crime and police procedures. This was not the case here – the author expertly unfurled information only as we needed it.

The Plot Thickens

The relationship between the two men unfolds a little at a time with Hart being angry with himself for lusting after a straight cop and Mac being unable to let Hart know that his advances are not unwelcome, as he stay firm in his conviction that he will remain in the closet.

The author reveals the inner-workings of the characters slowly, allowing us to get to really know the them. No love at first sight here. In fact, it begins to appear that Mac is never going to let Hart know that he is also gay and attracted to Hart.

There was one especially revealing event in the story – the day Mac and Hart ran into each other at the zoo, each accompanied by a kid. I found their day at the zoo to be one of the more tender moments of the book, as the two men, on neutral turf and off the clock, conversed freely and honestly, providing each other with a synopsis of their life story – and yes, Mac’s sexuality was still unknown to Hart at this time.

No Relief For Hart

The plot of our murder mystery thickens as well and Tony Hart is right in the thick of things, with several threats against his life, as well as another murder and an attempted murder.

Toward the end of the book, we realize that Tony is not the wimpy twink we may have pegged him for. We learn that he is no pushover and can definitely hold his own in a crisis.

And the Part We’ve Been Waiting For…

The stress, as well as the body count, is rising. The threats against Hart’s life are becoming more serious and a murderer is still on the loose. Along with the tension of a high-profile murder case, each man is trying to deal with the attraction he feels for the other. Finally, it all explodes and Hart and Mac ended up in each other’s arm…and in bed. [Fanning myself].

The sex was hot…yet, not overdone. I’ve read so many novels in which once the characters have sex for the first time, we find them jumping in bed with each other every two pages – with the plot of the book gets lost in the process. Not so here. The sex scenes are well-done, relevant to the story and do not overpower or take away from the plot.

The End

Do our heroes survive unscathed? Don’t worry – I won’t tell you how it ends. But I will say that you are in for one hell of a roller-coaster ride! The denouement is tense, exciting, surprising and adrenaline-filled. And believe me, by the end you will really care about what happens to these characters.

The Verdict

Once again, this author did not disappoint. This well-written story was compelling and gripping enough to keep me turning the pages, wondering what was going to happen next. The storyline was fast-moving but not so fast-paced that you lost what was going on. This book was part crime/detective novel, part slow romance – although I will say that theirs is not a fluffy gushing-over-each-other type of romance. This novel is touching, compelling, absorbing and scary in all the right places with extremely well-developed characters. I can’t wait to read the next one in the series. Recommended!

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