Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review: River of Need by Shayla Kersten

Shayla Kersten
River of Need
Ellora’s Cave, 2010

River of Need is the fourth installment in the Tennessee Cops series. All books in this series can be read as standalones, although you wouldn’t want to miss out on the other books, especially since the heroes make reappearances in their co-heroes’ stories.

Two years after their breakup, Detective Kyle Shelton didn’t expect to see his lying, cheating, closeted ex. Especially not behind bars for prostitution. Bailing him out is one of the stupidest things Kyle has done in a while. Although letting his ex back in his bed probably ranks higher on the dumbass scale.
Dustin Eldridge’s lying about his sexual preferences has left him with nothing. Literally. He’s lost his home, his family, his job and, worse, he’s lost Kyle. On the streets, with no one to turn to, he’s resorted to selling his body to survive. Then Kyle—of all people—comes to his rescue. Dustin can’t fix the past but maybe there’s hope for a future.
Unless Kyle really believes Dustin added serial killer to his resume along with hooker.

Note: For maximum reader enjoyment, we suggest also reading Hidden Force (Tony and Ryan) and Hidden Hands (David March) where these secondary characters were heroes.

Genre & Keywords:
M/M, Contemporary, Cops, Suspense, Ex-lovers reunite

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 2.5 out of 3 flames

Why I read it:
I received a review copy from the author

I’ve been a fan of Ms Kersten’s m/m romances ever since I read A Helping Hand, which is one of the books in her Tennessee Cops series, and which is still one of my favorites. I’ve said it before but I think she writes wonderful characters, that I can feel connected with. The way she shows a snippet from their lives, makes you understand them easily, because she effortlessly lets you slip inside her heroes’ heads.

In the novella River of Need - the fourth installment in the Tennessee Cops series - we meet detective Kyle Shelton who reconnects with his ex lover Dustin when Dustin is arrested for prostitution. Kyle bails him out and takes him home because Dustin has nowhere else to go. All the past lies from his closeted ex aren’t forgotten but Kyle can’t help still feeling attracted to him.
The return of the lying, closeted ex lover in itself brings enough conflict into the story, but there’s more. Another element is added when Dustin becomes a suspect for a murder, and with that we’re headed for a romantic ánd suspenseful climax.

This story full of regret and uncertainty is told alternating from Kyle’s and Dustin’s point of view. This way we’re given the opportunity to understand both heroes equally. Yet somehow I found it easier to identify with Kyle than with Dustin, but that has more to do with their personalities than with how their deep inner thoughts were conveyed. I didn’t understand some of Dustin’s ‘choices’ completely and additionally I found it somewhat difficult to believe that he liked to give up control and have rough sex, given his recent situation as a homeless and abused prostitute. Still, he and Kyle are a hot couple, even if I’d preferred more tenderness instead of the rough dominating smexing. The dirty talk that arouses Kyle at one point, probably should not have been about Dustin’s recent experience of abuse either. However, I could understand Kyle’s need for some sort of vengeance and taking delight in Dustin’s suffering after all that he had put him through.

Although I might not have always agreed with their behavior, I still felt very engaged in the protags on an emotional level thanks to the impressive way the author writes about her characters’ feelings. The heroes have to deal with doubts and regrets and the still present feelings for each other while some significant turmoil is going on in their lives. I found myself engrossed in their dilemmas and undeniable attraction.
To be honest, I had to slow myself down because if I hadn’t, I would’ve raced through this novella out of curiosity for the outcome of the mystery and the romance. It’s how the story is paced – fast and steady towards a climax in which it’s highly unpredictable if the main characters will steer clear from getting hurt. And I think it would’ve been a shame if I had rushed through this story, since it’s already too short to my liking (but that’s just greedy me). More importantly, I would’ve missed the little hints that clarify what’s attracting one man to the other and vice versa, apart from the physical magnetism.

River of Need isn’t my new favorite in this series, but it’s certainly a great addition. With a few added extensions on the heroes’ personalities and a bit more showing of their dynamics outside the suspenseful events – for example by continuing their story a little longer after the solving of the murder mystery and the subsequent happy-ending-smexing – it definitely could’ve become a serious rival in the ‘favorite competition’. Now that place is still reserved for A Helping Hand.

Shayla Kersten’s website | weblog | on Goodreads | on Twitter | on Facebook

If you’re curious about what I love so much about Ms Kersten’s work in general you can read my fan letter to her here.

Buy River of Need here
Read an excerpt of River in Need here



  1. Great review Janna!! I can't wait to delve in to A Helping Hand and get a taste of this author! I love the blend of romance and mystery so all I can say is; Is it TBR pile December yet?

  2. It just seemed too short to me. :(

  3. Hmmm, I'm not familiar with this series, but it sounds promising! Thanks, Janna, for bringing it to my attention. :)

  4. I haven't tried out this series yet, but obviously I need to. Thanks for the review, Janna!

  5. Great review!
    A lot of flames there, lol, i still need to take babysteps

  6. Thank you for the great review, Janna! I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

    And yes, this one was a little grittier and darker (my editor's description) than my other stuff. Expanding my style a little, I guess.

    Hope you have a fabulous day! You always make mine awesome!


  7. Lovely review Janna. It sounds quite interesting. Do you think I need to read any of the earlier books?

  8. @Leontine: I can't wait to hear what you think of A Helping Hand! It's almost December so... almost time for your long awaited tbr-pile challenge. :D

    @Chris: I wouldn't have minded if it was a bit longer either. :)

    @Val: I hope you enjoy this series, Val! Haven't you read any of Shayla's other books either? I think you'll like them.

    @Ava: YW, Ava. I hope you'll enjoy the books when you get to them. :)

    @Blodeuedd: Oh yes, baby steps are not a bad idea after reading just one m/m book. *g*

    @Shayla: Thank you! I'm all for the grittier and darker stuff in general, so I look forward to more of it. :)

    @orannia: I would recommend starting with A Helping Hand, but I might be a bit biased since that's my favorite of the series, lol! Actually, I don't think you need to read the other books first, although some of the heroes from Hidden Force and Hidden Hands make their reappearance in River of Need. So, you can pick any of these to put on one of your post-its. ;)

  9. Very nice, Janna :D
    I read the earlier books in the series and they were quite awesome. I feel a re-read coming up!

  10. Thank you Janna! Have added A Helping Hand to my TBR list :)

  11. @Lis: Yay, another fan of the series! A re-read sounds like a good idea. :)

    @orannia: I can't wait to hear what you think of A Helping Hand, orannia! :)


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