Isa K.'s Reviews > Shades of Gray

Shades of Gray by Brooke McKinley
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's review
Jan 10, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: reading-challenge, romance
Read from January 10 to 12, 2012

So during the first 20%~30% of this book I was ready to give it 6 stars ... yes I know that's not possible, but neither are half stars and that doesn't stop anyone.

And then Danny and Miller hooked up.

Now, don't get me wrong. It was very hot and I was pulling for Danny and Miller the whole time. It's just by the end of the many pages of sex I was beginning to feel like this book could be broken up into clearly defined parts:

-The Awesome Stretch
-Danny and Miller Have Sex In Every Conceivable Position and Setting
-Random Angst
-The I'm Going to Act Like Moron to Save the Moron I Love
-The No HEA Until All the Loose Ends We Devoted Less than Five Pages to Otherwise Have Been Tied Up

Which was slightly disappointing because what got me to the ~AWESOME 6 STARS!!~ point had been the promise of something different and unique. I came into this story expecting Danny would spend half the book being raped and tortured by the gangster baddies while Miller struggled to free Danny from Stockholm Syndrome with the transformative power of his love ... because that always seems to be the way these things go.

But I was thrilled to be dead wrong about that: Danny is smart and funny and confident. There's a bit of rape and torture here, but it's tastefully and realistically done. I didn't think Miller was the best foil for Danny (and I still really don't) but he was a likable character and I found their relationship sweet and appealing. Beyond that, the way flashbacks were expertly intertwined with the plot was a breath of fresh air after nearly a constant stream of books where the narrator summarizes all notable past events for me. I especially liked how the flashbacks never told us the full story, allowing the dialogue between Danny and Miller to fill in the gaps.

So here's where Shades of Gray lost a star (or two if you count 6 stars as a valid rating):

-The plot of this book basically stopped so that Danny and Miller could have sex on the couch ... in bed .... in cheap motels ... in front of Miller's fiancee, basically everywhere. Yeah I get it, they're holed up together without much to do, but prior to the hook up they were holed up together without much to do and there was interesting stuff going on. Like why do we never find out what Amanda's role was? or how Danny brought her in? Or WHY Danny brought her in after the way the last person he brought in went? Why does Miller's fiancee seem not to mind nor even notice that he's disappeared for days at a time? Why does Madrigal just seem to sit around twiddling his thumbs waiting for Danny and Miller to stop fucking and make a mistake? Danny has all these contacts up and down the East coast and not one of them gets their skull bashed in an attempt to track him down?

-Contrary to popular belief ... I don't mind angst that much, but I like my angst to be connected to present events. Not things in the past, not things that might happen in the future, because unfortunately that kind of angst is very hard to do without leaving the reader feeling like she's sitting in couple's therapy with the MCs. Well, you spend a lot of time in couple's therapy with Danny and Miller. Mostly over the usual stuff. Stuff you've read before in twenty other books: Danny isn't good enough for Miller, Miller isn't comfortable with his sexuality, Danny blames himself for things that were in no way his fault, etc, etc, etc~

-Here's what I don't get: It's extremely rare for a romance novel not to have a happy ending, so why do so many great books have an extra ten to twenty pages where characters must get all their affairs in order and all issues must be resolved before we get the happy ending? I know Danny and Miller are going to end up together, you know it, people who have never read this book know it ... so why did I have to read through "oh here's Danny reflecting about his life ... here's Danny reading legal briefs ... here's Danny turning down women for dates.... Here's Miller breaking up with his fiancee ... here's him punching a bag ... here's his boss pretending like the entire Federal court system doesn't know Miller had an affair with an informant"? It went on FOREVER. The last 20% of the book == no plot.

Authors will claim this is character development, that the characters need to grow and move past their issues in order to be happy. Isn't that what the PLOT is for? I'm calling bullshit on this right now. Characters should not develop post resolution of action. If you run out of plot before your characters are all healed, tough shit. Nobody actually needs to purge themselves of all drama, tie up all loose ends in order to be worthy of their one true love. This isn't how real people behave and frankly reading about Danny doing office work and getting the same inspiration speech repeated to him three or four times was boring.

This probably sounds like I didn't like Shades of Gray, and that's not true. I did. I really did. It's a great book and I would recommend it to anyone. But the author's strong start made the slow drift into the familiar cliches of romance all the harder to let pass unremarked :/
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Reading Progress

2.0% "nitpick: There's only one Federal SuperMax and that's Florence. It holds terrorists, gang king pins and the occasional serial killer, people on multiple life sentences Not drug smuggling middle men doing five years. Other than that I'm digging this so far ^_^"
11.0% "Damn. I really like Danny :D Can I steal him?"
21.0% "Currently imagining an alterative universe where Danny Butler hooks up with Ty Grady. Come on it would be HOT ... you know it would be~ XD"
30.0% "Wow Miller be more obvious will you? "I'm not gay, I'm not attracted to men ... but tell me all your dirty prison sex stories please""
60.0% "Uh-oh we have gotten to the point in the romance where one boy is playing therapist to the other D:"
70.0% "I think this is the first cop book I've read in a long time where the hero actually attempts to follow procedure during the big save-the-day moment. Amazing"
74.0% "Somehow I think this situation is less Hinestroza demonstrating his cleverness and more everyone else demonstrating their utter stupidity :/"
77.0% "Can't help but find Miller waiting outside the hospital every single day because he can't go in and see Danny ridiculously cute <3"
80.0% "I was wondering why Danny hadn't topped Miller yet :)"
87.0% "Once again I find myself asking why this book hasn't ended already >.>"

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