Saturday, August 1, 2015

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Turning Point by NR Walker


Point of No Return #1
Summary:
Matthew Elliot is one of LA’s best detectives—a smart, tough, closeted gay man. When he falls for his gym instructor, it’s not his colleagues he should be worried about finding out…it’s the bad guys.

Matthew Elliot is one of LA’s best detectives. He's been labelled the golden boy of the Fab Four: a team of four detectives who've closed down drug-rings all over the city. He’s smart, tough and exceptionally good at his job.

He's also a closeted gay man.

Enter Kira Takeo Franco, the new boxing coach at the gym. Matthew can't deny his immediate attraction to the man his fellow cops know as Frankie. But in allowing himself to fall in love with a man known to his colleagues, Matthew risks outing them both.

Matt and Kira work to keep their relationship and private lives hidden from Matt’s very public life, fearing it would be detrimental to their careers.

But it's not the other cops who Matthew should be worried about finding out his deepest, darkest secret…it's the bad guys.

Breaking Point #2
Summary:
A fight for what’s right becomes a fight for his life.

As guilt plagues him, Matthew Elliott’s world begins to spiral out of control. The harder he holds on, the more it slips through his fingers, and he’s helpless to stop it.

Entering into the underground cage-fighting scene, he starts out fighting for what’s right. The deeper he gets, the more guilt consumes him – the more pain he takes for his penance, and he’s soon fighting for more than justice.

He’s fighting for love.

He’s fighting for his life.

Starting Point #3
Summary:
After going past the point of no return and finally reaching breaking point, the only thing Matthew Elliott can do now is start over.

Matthew Elliott is a recovering man. As an ex-cop and ex-fighter, his new job teaching kids at the local community gym about drug awareness and self-defense, is a little bit of both. His new focus on helping street kids is helping him heal, and with Kira by his side, he’s making strides.

Brother and sister, Rueben and Claudia, are homeless kids and they're very much alone. As they strike a chord with Matt, he does everything in his power to help them.

But when Ruby and Claude need more help than he bargained for, it stops being about work, and starts being about home.

The day he met Kira, Matt’s life changed direction, and it’s only now he realises that everything he’s been through was a lead up to this. It was never about endings. His life, his purpose, was just beginning.


I fell in love with Matt and Kira from the first time they met in the gym.  As good as each story is and the mysteries in the books are, it was watching their relationship and their individual characters evolve throughout the series.  I think it's safe to say that Matt grew the most between the two from book 1 to book 3, but Kira came into is own as well.  The supporting cast helped complete each story in a way that isn't always easy to write, whether they were in almost every chapter or only in a scene or two, they always not only added to the plot but also to Matt and Kira's character development.  This is definitely a must if you are a fan of NR Walker but frankly if you love a well written tale with amazing characters and heart, this is one series you don't want to miss.

RATING: 


Point of No Return #1
The four of us hit the gym like we always did after a stressful day and were met by a round of applause from the other cops who were there working out. The gym itself was a main floor space with various fitness equipment, a service desk and some rooms off the far wall for different classes. It smelled like sweat and dirty socks. I loved it.

On the wall facing the treadmills was a row of TV screens, usually showing repeats of different sports. But not tonight. The TV screens were tuned to the five o’clock news, and all the guys there were watching the four of us standing outside the West Street headquarters.

A reporter introduced the story. "Breaking another link in one of LA’s biggest drug chains, Croatian expat Pavao Tomic was taken down in what can only be described as a successful drug heist by police."

I waved them off, heading straight for the treadmills. I didn’t need to watch it.

I’d been there.

"Detective Elliott, it must be a relief after weeks of hard work to finally have this notorious drug supplier in custody."

"Yes, it is," I heard myself answer diplomatically on-screen. "The streets of LA are safer. The people of LA are better off with Tomic behind bars."

What I couldn’t say on air was that the slimeball deserved everything he got. With no regard for human life, types like Pavao Tomic were best left to rot in jail.

Instead, all suited up out in front of HQ, the television version of me went on to say it wasn’t just me who did all the work, like the press insinuated, but a team effort.

I didn’t outrank the other three men on my team. I didn’t do anything they didn’t do, but that wasn’t how the media portrayed it. To them, I was the leader of the media-dubbed ‘Fab Four’—one of four detectives in the Narcotics Division who had broken crime rings right across the city. My partner, Detective Mitch Seaton, and detective partners Kurt Webber and Tony Milic made up the rest of the team who had seen a record number of criminals behind bars.

"Yeah," Mitch snorted from the treadmill beside me. "The one-man show here did it all on his own."

I rolled my eyes before looking over at the other guys. "Any time either of you three idiots want to speak up when the cameras start rolling, be my guest."

Kurt laughed. "No freakin’ way! I’d rather your ugly mug be all over the news than mine."

"The general public would too," Mitch joked. He reached over and tapped the side of my face. "This pretty-boy makes all us cops look good."

Tony laughed at me, and the three of them started talking crap just like the media did. But they gave up trying to goad me when they realised I wasn’t going to bite. I tuned them out and tuned into the rhythm of my feet hitting the treadmill instead.

They’d settled in to running it out on the treadmills with me when Kurt told us he couldn’t stay long because he had dinner plans with his girlfriend, Rachel. "Workout first, then we hit the bar, just for a few. It’s been a helluva week."

And so it had.

We’d spent months watching Tomic, waiting for the intel to pay off, nabbing him red-handed in a multi-million-dollar drug bust. It had paid off today. No one injured, no casualties, several million dollars’ worth of cocaine, ice and meth off the streets and one more link in the crime chain behind bars.

So we did what we always did. The four of us hit the gym, then we hit the bar. They didn’t drink much, and I drank even less, but we’d blow off steam in the gym then unwind in the bar, talking crap and having a laugh. It was a cops’ gym and a cops’ bar. I’d been a cop for ten of my twenty-eight years. Police work was all I knew.

The guys I worked with were like my family, like brothers. I knew almost everything about them, as they did with me.

Almost everything. There was one part of my life they knew nothing about.

When the other guys commented on me being the blond-haired, blue-eyed playboy of the police force, the one all the ladies wanted, I was reminded of exactly what it was they didn’t know about me.

Because it wasn’t the ladies I wanted at all.

That was what they didn’t know about me. That was what I kept secret. Hidden. Private. Would the guys I worked with treat me differently if they knew I was gay? Maybe…probably…

I wasn’t ashamed. I wasn’t scared. I didn’t flaunt being gay because I didn’t want it to precede me. I wanted to be known for being a good cop, not a gay cop. But above all, I kept my sexuality to myself because it was no one else’s goddamn business.

After twenty minutes on the treadmill, I jumped off, ready for my bag workout. Boxing was my thing. The gym had a sparring room—no ring, just mats and pads. It was mostly just a form of fitness, and a little self-defence. The other guys on my team didn’t bother with it. They’d watch me spar sometimes, and they’d tease and taunt me, but not one of them had the balls to spar with me.

Breaking Point #2
It was a usual Friday night at the bar. Except it wasn’t.

My partners Mitch, Kurt and Tony were there with me. My boyfriend Kira was there too, along with my boss, Berkman, and most of the guys from my division. There were celebratory drinks, a tab on the bar and congratulations all round.

I should have been happy. And part of me was. But part of me wasn’t. The smile on my face and laughs with the boys didn’t quite sit right, but the more I had to drink, the easier it got.

“Here it is!” someone called out. “Turn it up!”

The attention in the bar was drawn to the TV as the barman turned up the volume.

“…in this breaking story, after almost eleven years, Detective Matthew Elliott has announced his resignation from the LAPD…”

There were cheers and applause from around the bar, a few claps on my shoulder. Kira squeezed my thigh under the table. I smiled and lifted my beer in a salute before taking another swig.

I hated press conferences. I had a healthy distaste for the media and the paparazzi and I hated having to put my life on display for the public. Yet there I stood in front of a dozen cameras and even more reporters about to give the biggest announcement of my career.

It was ironic that the biggest would be my last.

I was on screen announcing to the good people, and the not-so good people, of LA that I was no longer a detective. I was no longer a part of the Fab Four. I was no longer a cop.

The questions started and I heard myself reel off the well-rehearsed answers on the TV. I’d given dozens of press conferences over my time with the LAPD narcotics division, and I’d never dreamed I’d be standing there announcing to the world that I was walking away from all I’d ever known.

Yet there I was, doing exactly that.

The questions on screen continued.

“Can you tell us why? Why are you retiring, Detective Elliott?” one reporter asked.

“Does this have anything to do with being outed as a gay cop last year?”

“Where does this leave the Fab Four? Do you have a replacement?”

“Are you planning a career in politics?”

I laughed at that, on screen and at the table in the bar. Mitch, who was sitting across from me, laughed as well. “No plans for running for Governor? Come on,” Mitch joked. “You’d make a good politician.”

I finished the last mouthful of my beer and pointed my empty bottle at him. Instead of telling him to get fucked, I said, “My turn to buy. ’Nother beer?”

“Hell yes, if you’re payin’,” he slurred.

I turned to Kira and leaned in towards him and asked, “Drink, baby?” He shook his head at me. I must be drunk if I’d called him ‘baby’ in front of the boys. Fuck.

“Nah, I’m fine,” he said. “Someone has to make sure you lot get home okay.”

“’M sorry,” I said, trying to apologise. “S’been a big day.”

Kira smiled sadly. “I know it has.”

I nodded, and stood up off my stool. I swayed as I made my way to the bar. I was drunk. It had been an emotional day, after an emotionally charged few weeks since I’d announced that I was leaving.

It hadn’t been easy. It had been one of the hardest decisions I’d ever made, but it was the right decision. My partners at work, Mitch, Kurt and Tony, were surprisingly okay with it. My boss had warned me against it, but ultimately agreed it was the right thing, but Kira…Kira didn’t like the idea at all.

He didn’t understand why I was leaving the department. No matter what reason I gave him, he didn’t believe me. He knew I loved my job, it was a part of who I was, he’d said.

And it had been a bone of contention between us since.

It wasn’t that he wasn’t being supportive. He just didn’t understand. I told him it was a decision I’d toyed with over the last twelve months, since he was abducted and tortured, beaten, held hostage because of me. And that wasn’t a lie. It just wasn’t the whole truth.

The whole truth was something I couldn’t tell him.

Kira knew there was something else to it. Of course he did. We’d been living together for almost twelve months, he knew me. And I’d never lied to him before. I’d never had to. And he knew I wasn’t telling him something.

He’d get quiet whenever I talked about leaving, waiting for me to explain the truth, but I never did. The night I told him I’d handed in my resignation was our first real fight. He yelled, and I yelled back, and he threw a glass into the sink and I slammed some doors.

We hadn’t spoken for two days afterwards.

It had damn near killed me.

A hard thump on my arm and a large hand on my shoulder snapped me out of my memories. My boss, my ex-boss, Berkman stood beside me and threw some twenties on the bar. “Whatever this man wants,” he told the barman.

I ordered some shots of bourbon under the watchful eye of the man who’d been like a father to me. I looked at him and gave him the best confident smile I could fake.

“You sure about this?” he asked quietly.

I nodded. “Yeah…”

The older man’s jaw bulged and he exhaled through his nose. “But?”

I looked back to where Kira was sitting with Mitch and the others. “I’ve never lied to him,” I said, suddenly feeling every drink I’d had.

Berkman nodded. “It won’t be easy.”

“Mmm,” I agreed, swaying where I stood. I didn’t want to talk about it. Not here, anyway. Not that Berkman would have said anything. “Need another drink,” I mumbled, picking up a fresh shot of liquor. I threw back the bourbon and when I put the glass back down, the bar wasn’t as close as I thought. Berkman put his hands on me, I realised, to steady me. Fuck, I was drunk.

“I’ll carry these to the table,” Berkman said, indicating to the drinks on the bar. Then he faced me in the direction of where Kira and Mitch were sitting. “You go that way.”

The bar was loud and busy and as I crossed the floor, I bumped into familiar faces with pats on the back and rounds of good luck and best wishes. Berkman beat me back to the table with my drinks, and when I finally got there, everyone was smiling at me.

I slid my arm around Kira’s shoulder and he manoeuvred me onto my stool and handed me a drink. I held up the single shot, and Mitch, Kurt, Tony and Berkman all raised theirs. Kira held up his soda and they all bumped their glasses against mine.

“To Matt,” Berkman declared. “To the future and wherever it may take you. We wish you well.”

“Cheers!”

Starting Point #3
Tamara Coulter was my psychiatrist. She reminded me a bit of Diane Keaton—middle-aged with grey-brown shoulder length hair, and a kind face. She was very smart and soft spoken, but her words were carefully chosen and usually fired with perfect aim.

She was the best the LAPD had to offer and I’d been seeing her twice a week for six months. We’d covered a lot of ground, from the death of my mother to my going undercover, how I’d lost my hearing in one ear, how I’d almost lost Kira.

We talked about actions and consequences, but most of all, we talked about guilt.

From my first appointment, Tamara had talked about guilt. How it can paralyse or catalyse one into action. How it, more often than not, led to resentment and depression. She’d told me we’d be focusing more on guilt so I’d gone home and researched all I could, that way, at my next meeting, we could discuss it properly.

I have a photographic memory—a mind for details. Years as a detective did that. I’d read all the documents on guilt and other associated emotive behaviors I’d been able to find, which probably annoyed my doctor more than was productive. Too much time and the Internet were not a good combination.

Tamara had been surprised, and amused, but in my attempt to be prepared and dedicated to getting help, I’d also shown her what she’d come to suspect—I was a control freak.

Apparently.

So then we talked about that too.

Actually, there wasn’t much we didn’t talk about.

I had to realise the doctor didn’t have the ability to take away my guilt. Only I could do that.

Tamara had said I needed to acknowledge that as part of my therapy, I had to seek absolution from whom I’d hurt. I’d argued that that seemed a little redundant to me. “So I have to make Kira feel guilty, in order to absolve my guilt?”

“How so?”

“If he doesn’t forgive me, I can’t get better. That’s not fair on him.

What if he’s not ready to forgive me? What if he can’t? You’re saying that he has to, no exceptions, or I carry this burden forever? What kind of horrible responsibility is that?”

“Do you think he should forgive you?”

“I don’t think it’s right to ask if he should or not. That’s not fair. I want him to, yes. But if he should forgive me? That’s something only he can answer.” I’d taken a breath and exhaled loudly.

Tamara had waited, the way she does, knowing I’d keep talking.

“I think he has forgiven me, yes. For the life of me I can’t figure out why, or by what grace of whose god, but yes, he has.”

“Have you forgiven you?” she’d asked.

“I’m working on it. Every single day. It’s not something I’m going to wake up one day and be magically cured of. You know that, Tamara. You know I could spiel off some textbook answer so you can tick all the right boxes, but that’s not how this works.”

Tamara had smiled. “No, it’s not.”

“Then why make me say it?”

“Because it’s better for you to say it, than for me to keep saying it. I know you’ve studied all you can on this, Matt. I know you’re capable of telling people what you want them to hear. You did, after all, exactly that to a team of department psychologists about going undercover.”

“I lied to them.”

“Yes, convincingly. I read their files on you. You knew exactly what they were going to ask, what they were going to look for and how to be credible in your responses.”

“Do you think I’m lying now?” I’d asked. I’d kept my emotions in check. I’d even given her a small smile.

Tamara had looked at me for a moment. “No. No, I don’t. I think you’re working very hard at getting better,” she’d said.

But I was pretty sure she wondered every now and again if I was telling her what she wanted to hear. Sometimes she’d look at me as though she was looking for some telltale sign of my lying to her. Most of my appointments with her involved debate and banter, and I wondered what today’s appointment might entail.

Today was a scheduled appointment, and I’d been looking forward to it. I had something to share. I was smiling. I hadn’t stopped smiling yet.

I knocked lightly on the open door. The woman looked up from the file in front of her and smiled. “Matt, come in.”

I closed the door behind me and sat in my usual seat.

“You’re in a good mood today,” she said brightly as I sat down.

My smile got wider. “I am.” Then I told her, still getting a thrill to say it out loud, “I asked Kira to marry me.”

Her eyes widened, and her grin matched mine. “I take it he said yes.”

“He did.”

“That’s really good news, Matt,” she said.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am,” I said, knowing I sounded like a school kid, and not really caring. “It’s not a magical fix, and I still have a long way to go. I know that. I’m not pretending this is going to fix anything overnight, but it’s a good thing, yes? We’ve not set a date or anything, we’re just taking it one day at a time.”

Tamara was still smiling. “It is a good thing,” she said. “And it’s good you’re both aware that while it’s a positive step, it’s still good to be cautious.” She tilted her head, in the way that she does. “Did you think I wouldn’t agree?”

“I didn’t know what you’d think,” I answered honestly.

“You sounded like you were waiting for my approval, or my disapproval.”

“I tend to babble a bit when I’m nervous or excited,” I told her. “But I didn’t want you to tell me we weren’t ready for this kind of commitment.”

Tamara was still smiling at me. “You didn’t plan it? Was it a spur of the moment thing?”

I nodded. “We were at Mitch and Anna’s wedding.”

“Ah,” she said with a nod.

“And after the speeches, and while Mitch and Anna danced, I just looked at Kira. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He signed, asking if I was okay. I signed back saying I was fine. And then I signed the words ‘Marry me’ across the reception hall,” I told her, knowing my grin was ridiculous. “He didn’t answer me straight away. We danced first, and we joked about his mom, how it’d keep her happy if she at least had some colors to work with when she planned the wedding. Kira said he thought blue and silver would be nice. Just like that, he picked out the colors to our wedding, well, for the invitations anyway. I asked him if that meant his answer was yes, and he said yes.”

Tamara was grinning with me. “Sounds very romantic.”

I sighed, trying not to smile, which was futile. “We kept it quiet though. We didn’t want to take anything away from Mitch and Anna.”

“Did you tell Kira’s parents yet?”

“Tonight,” I told her. “We’ll tell them tonight. They were up at the cabin this last week, so Kira called them and told them to come around for dinner tonight.”

“Do you think they’ll be happy?” she asked. She always asked questions, like every answer was a test. It used to bother me, but I was used to it now.

“I think so.” Then I amended, “Well, I hope so. They’ve been very good with me in the last six months. I think I’ve earned back some trust with them.”

Kira’s parents were often a topic of conversation between Tamara and me. She knew how much I loved them, and how sorry I was that I’d hurt them.

“I’m sure you have,” she said. “The fact that Yumi calls you her Matty, I’m fairly certain she’ll approve.”

I nodded and shrugged one shoulder. “I just feel sometimes, not all the time, but I wonder how long I have to feel like I failed them.”

Tamara looked at me for a long, quiet moment. “That’s an interesting choice of words, Matt,” she said. “You said you wonder how long you have to feel like you failed them. I’m sure they’ve forgiven you, but yet you still feel as though you owe them.”

“I think I will for a long while,” I told her. “And that’s not a bad thing. A little remorse every now and then means I’ll never take it for granted.”

Tamara raised one eyebrow thoughtfully, which told me she didn’t really agree with me. “Do you feel like you need to earn their trust again?” she asked. “Have they ever said that?”

“No, but I’d just feel better if there was something I could do that would tip the scales, you know? Make it better.”

“Like marrying Kira?”


Author Bio:
N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance.
She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn't have it any other way.

She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don't let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.

She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things...but likes it even more when they fall in love.

She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.

She's been writing ever since...


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Point of No Return #1
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Breaking Point #2
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Starting Point #3
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