Duty & Devoltion by Tere Michaels

After their happily ever after in Faith & Fidelity, Matt and Evan move forward to a new chapter of their lives – inside the bedroom and out – with some surprises in store for both. Evan struggles with labels and feelings even as he wants to give in to his baser desires. Matt, now the ideal househusband of Queens, New York, has his own set of struggles – who is he now? What does he need and want?

A visit from Matt’s friend and one-night stand Jim Shea (of Love & Loyalty) throws everything into disarray as Evan’s jealousy and unease push Matt’s buttons – and not always in a good way.

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Duty & Devotion is Tere Michaels’ third book in the Faith, Love and Devotion series and the eagerly awaited sequel to Faith & Fidelity in which she once again delivers another well-written story with plenty of relationship angst and steamy sex. The element that stands out most between Michaels’ stories, including this one, and the countless other books in the gay romance sub-genre is the level of realism and believability that she infuses in her stories while at the same time delivering the staple requirement of a happily-ever-after.

When we first meet New York City detective Evan Cerelli and former homicide detective Matt Haight in Faith & Fidelity, Evan is devastated by the death of his wife. She was his high school sweetheart, the only person Evan ever loved and the first and only person he ever slept with. Matt was always a ladies’ man, all sex with no commitment. Pushed out of the police force after he tried to bring down a bad cop, Matt is bitter, depressed, not sure where his life is headed and is also sinking. The two find friendship in the bottom of a shared bottle. When the friendship turns to lust and then love, it shakes two seemingly straight men to the core and flips their lives inside out as they attempt a relationship and a life together.

In the sequel Duty & Devotion the author examines the evolution of Evan and Matt’s relationship with all its ups and downs. It’s been almost two years since they first became a couple and they are now living together with Evan’s children and trying to build their lives and a family together. While Evan loves and is committed to Matt and is extremely grateful that Matt is his partner in every way, including in the co-parenting of his children, he is struggling to accept that he is gay. He doesn’t want to be labeled as such and remains semi-closeted. Despite his deep sexual desires he has difficulty showing Matt affection in public and remains uncomfortable with certain sexual acts.

By comparison, Matt accepts the fact that he is gay and in a committed relationship with a man. Although he was previously involved in exclusively heterosexual relationships, he now knows that if he weren’t with Evan he would pursue relationships with other men. Matt has also embraced his new role as primary caregiver to Evan’s kids. He loves Evan and the children with every fiber of his being and believes he is willing to give Evan space to work out all of his issues. But Evan’s issues begin to take a toll on their relationship and Matt increasingly finds himself questioning his needs and wants.The tensions in their lives are further aggravated by Evan’s former in-laws who do not accept his relationship with Matt, and are threatening to file for custody of his kids.

Where the story in Faith & Fidelity only touched the surface of issues stemming from two seemingly straight men unexpectedly finding themselves in a same-sex relationship, Duty & Devotion delves much deeper into these issues with sensitivity, intelligence and humour.

In this story, Michaels writes about all aspects of Evan and Matt’s life together with a sense of realism, from the difficulties that Evan and Matt experience in their relationship because of Evan’s struggles and insecurities to accept that he is gay, to Matt’s daily life with the children, his commitment to them and his need to establish his own relationship with each of them. While there is humour throughout the story, in particular when Evan and Matt are having difficulties and try to diffuse the situation with wit and sarcasm, some of the funniest moments in the story are Matt’s interaction with the kids. He is a no nonsense parent and doesn’t put up with any guff, but at the same time is understanding and supportive of the kids whose world was shattered when their mother died and who have for the most part adjusted relatively well to his relationship with Evan.

“…Their last stop was the high school, where Katie had ‘school hasn’t even started yet and there’s already’ field hockey practice. She sat on the steps waiting for them, all glamorous blond curls and plaid skirt and knee socks, talking to some boys. Matt resisted the urge to get out and kill said boys preemptively. He knew exactly what they were thinking.

He honked the SUV’s horn aggressively.

Katie gave the boys a wave, picked up her bag, and ran to the SUV. Matt barely gave her time to buckle up in the front seat before he took off.

‘We’re having pizza tonight, and Matt remembered your shampoo,’ Elizabeth announced from the backseat.

‘Dad’s working late?’ Katie changed the radio station, from Matt’s classic rock to people screaming to a thumping bass beat, nabbing a pair of the extra sunglasses off the dashboard and putting them on.

‘Yes.” Matt frowned. ‘Who were those boys?’

‘Miscreants and troublemakers. I think they’re on parole,’ Katie said blithely, bopping her head to the music.

‘Oh right, I forgot to tell you. Those brochures from the convents in the Swiss Alps finally came…”

Michaels deftly fuses the daily joys and strains of family life with the central story line of Evan and Matt’s relationship. She deals with Evan’s confusion, guilt and fears and Matt’s waning patience and understanding in realistic manner. There are no rose-coloured glasses in this relationship and things come to a head when Evan and Matt get away for a weekend of quality time together. And while the issue of their sexual activity remains unresolved Matt admits to himself that this is not the deal-breaker in their relationship, but wonders to himself whether Evan’s inner turmoil about his sexuality will eventually become the deal-breaker. Their relationship takes another downturn when Matt’s best friend (and former one-night stand) Jim and his partner Griffin visit Matt and Evan and Evan’s jealousy rears its ugly head. Interestingly, it is the unforeseen friendship that Evan forms with Griffin and their discussions that help Evan to overcome his inner turmoil about his sexuality.

Those familiar with this author are aware of her talents and her strengths for writing multi-dimensional characters, intelligent dialogue and believable story lines. In Duty & Devotion she explores the issues of Matt and Evan’s relationship with emotional depth, honesty and sense of realism and this is what I enjoy most about this author’s writing and Evan and Matt’s continuing story. It is no surprise that with only three published novels under her belt she has quickly become a favourite author among many readers within the sub-genre. I highly recommend Duty & Devotion.

For those who have yet to read this series the author provides enough back story in Duty & Devotion for it to be read as a stand-alone novel. However, I suggest reading Faith & Fidelity before embarking on this one in order to more fully appreciate the characters and their evolving story. Readers may also want to pick up Love & Loyalty, Micheals’ second book featuring Matt’s former one-night stand and now friend Jim Shea, which should also be read after Faith & Fidelity.

Duty & Devotion by Tere Michaels is available at Loose Id.

Music: Never Say Goodbye – Jacksoul (Haydain Neale)

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