After Midnight

Recovering from Life - Debra McKenna *4 stars on the proviso there WILL be another book!!!*


This book has all the ingredients of a novel that encaptures everything I love about the m/m genre, it is and raw and gritty, action packed, with characters that are complex and intriguing, the world is brought to life and the writing exceptional… and for 80% of this book I was totally engrossed in the fucked up lives of our two MC’s, who are far from likeable and live on the edge of danger. Having said that, there is also a fair amount of humour sprinkled throughout mainly from the banter between Adam and our lovable rogue Gordon, where his mouth often engages before brain. We get a HEA of sorts, however there is no love or romance and for the most part these two men play at a mutual dislike of each other… yet there is an underlying sexual tension between them that had my kindle in melt down mode! DAMN… these two are combustible and that’s without even getting to the sex!

In this dystopian novel from Santino Hassel set in Lexington in 2021, the ravages of war are still in evidence despite the 10 years of peace, he sets the tone perfectly, giving us a dark and often brutal tale with a mood of desolation amongst a society where there is a huge divide between the rich and poor. His evocative prose and I have to say excellent writing builds a world where the atmosphere is distinctly grey and in my minds eye I saw it all clearly… the dark shadows, swirling fog, squalor, filth, drugs, violence, prostitution all compounding the devastation in the areas neglected by a corrupt and dysfunctional political system… and that world, had been the centre of Gordon's universe since the age of 9, with his only support system being his best friend Carla.

Gordon is a drug dealer, with no self respect or morals, a smart mouth and a bravado enhanced by his addiction to Pandora the very drug he sells. He is on a short and slippery slope to self destruction… and I just wanted to shake him!!! tell him to wake up and smell the coffee, ‘cause his life is shit! Everyone, including his best friend think he’s a fuck up, a minion to be used and abused. Even Gordon has the same low opinion of himself and his quick wit and casual attitude towards life are all a facade, in reality he has nothing and no one, except for Carla… he leads a very lonely and isolated life, and all his fears and insecurities are all masked by Pandora… showing the world a cocky little shite that really doesn’t give a fuck!

“I’m just some stupid civilian without a brain in his head. It ain’t like anyone would miss me if I died. It’s not like anyone gives a shit about stupid Gordon and his assorted problems.”

The only person to see through the act is Adam… a deadly assassin, a man with no conscience, another minion in the grand scheme of things carrying out orders as commanded, devoid of all emotion.  Yet he see’s the real Gordon with all his weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and somehow Gordon had created a small crack in the armour of this vicious killer and turned his stoically guarded persona upside down. Both these men are damaged, lost and lonely souls… trapped, they live at the whim of others… merely existing with no thoughts to a future never mind happiness, and their extremely volatile relationship seems to be their only glimmer of hope!

There was so much about this book that I loved, it is MY kind of book and for most of it I was incredibly excited! But the beginning and end were what let it down for me. Starting this book I felt as though I had been dropped in the middle of a book and I had no idea what was going on, but I persevered, 10% in, I finally got the gist and went back and started from the beginning again and read in a whole new light… now that may just have been me, because after that, you would have been threatened with death had you tried to take me kindle from me.

Now, Santino Hassell made me fall in love with these characters, I was invested in their outcome, I wanted emotion from them, to see them explore a relationship, I wanted more from Adam… how he had evolved into an assassin and to see past the killer and understand the man, so at the 95% mark I started to get a bit anxious as there were still so many unanswered questions and only 5% left, now if this had been a novella and had been tidied up nice and neat at the end I could understand it… but for the main bulk of the book we were treated to a detailed and in depth look at the world and lives of these characters… we could see where they were going and almost touch it, and to have so much substance and intensity for most of the book, only to get a rushed summary of Adam’s secrets, their HEA and the fallout of Adam’s transgression and Gordon’s capture all off page… well I was gutted!!! I felt cheated and extremely frustrated! ..and Okay… I could over look the beginning as possibly me not being with it! …but to have a book with so much promise and potential, fall flat on the last hurdle… does not win any races with me! …and I can’t even begin to tell you how cross I was because of it!

So… I was on the understanding this was a stand alone, however I had to ask the question, as to me it makes a difference as to how I rate this book… and apparently there is, Santino Hassell is outlining book two… so WOOHOO! I can live with that and look forward to what I feel I have been cheated out of in this book.

With the promise of more to come, I wholeheartedly recommend this book and on that proviso I give it four stars… without, well, we wont even go there as I may need to go all Callum Samu on Mr Hassell till he writes it!