Review: The Hardest Thing: A Dan Stagg Mystery by James Lear + a Giveaway

Once a major in the U.S. Army, Dan Stagg fell afoul of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In his late 30s, tall, and muscular, Dan is prone to violence, always upholding what he views as justice. He’s offered a great deal of money to protect the young male secretary of a powerful real estate broker. The vain, shallow—but most of all hot—young man’s idea of protection includes sex. Dan quickly realizes something strange is going on: he’s being used as a shield for a much more sinister operation and must chose between easy money and sex or the ideals that he embodied in the Army. Why should he do the right thing—particularly when the army betrayed him?

Dan Stagg is working as a doorman/bouncer at a club when he runs into a bit of trouble and he gets fired. He is then approached by a man who wants him to be a bodyguard for a “secretary” that needs to get gone for a while. Dan is given $10,000 and the promise of $20,000 more when the job is completed. For a man who has nothing and has no prospects this looks like the job from heaven.

Dan meets Stirling MacMahon – the secretary – who is so obviously not a secretary. He’s adorable and Dan can’t keep his hands off the young man. They travel, screwing their way north, but soon run into trouble and Dan, being the smart guy he is, soon figures out that he’s been played. The people who hired him didn’t want him to succeed and when a hit comes down on his and Stirling (who says his real name is Jody) and then Jody is taken he has to use all of his smarts – and his ass – to fix it all.

The Hardest Thing – which is gay erotic fiction – is a pretty great book. I hadn’t read anything by Lear before so I wasn’t sure what to expect but the blurb was intriguing enough to make me want to read it.

I found Dan Stagg to be a pretty complex guy when I sat down and thought of him after finishing this book. On the one hand he was sensitive when it came to relationships. I believed he truly wanted love and a home with the man of his dreams, he fantasized about it enough, but he just hadn’t found that special one yet. Despite all of the arrows pointing AWAY from Jody, because let’s face it he wasn’t really relationship material, Dan finds himself thinking of a future with the man. I gotta give him props for seeing underneath Jody’s surface and seeing a man worth having under all the bleach and self-tanners because frankly I didn’t think Jody was a good match for him AT ALL. Of course then there was Dan’s sex drive which was the size of….the universe. lol He was not afraid to hit anything wearing pants that was willing and ready – despite his feelings about Jody. He was a horny bastard and despite being with Jody umpteen times a day he was still up for some rednecks at a roadside gas station. His promiscuity was his way of dealing with the let downs that life had thrown him (again, as well as being incredibly horny) and it made me ache for something more for him. IDK, there was something about him that I found to be very charismatic and because of this I was completely involved in the story. The way this character was written just captured my attention and his sensitivity mixed with his abrasiveness created a duality that I liked reading about.

The story having to do with Jody, why he was traveling, his boss, his bosses minions and what all the background was interesting. There wasn’t truly a mystery here – at least IMHO – but it was well written enough to keep my attention. I’ll be reading more about Dan Stagg in the future. You all know I’m normally a die-hard romance reader. While this wasn’t a romance there were enough relationship intimations to keep this romance girl happy.

Rating: 4.25/4.5 out of 5

James Lear 

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ad0ffae6-78f6-11e1-8cde-000bcdcb5194 said...

I just read my first James Lear the other weekend--THE PALACE OF VARIETIES is well-written but reads a little like a dark, m/m version of FANNY HILL. So, something more plot-based of his sounds good, and this fits the bill! Please count me in...


Elf2060 said...

Thanks for the review. I actually thought the author had a nice voice but was a little disappointed in the story itself, probably because I tend to be fond of romances and these guys were just a bit too promiscuous for me. I'd definitely be willing to read other works by the author but had to really suspend disbelief with this story.

Julia said...

I think I never read a book by James Lear, but this one sounds like a book I could really love – thanks for the review!

Ashley E said...

I've been eyeing this book for awhile now, unsure if I should give it a try or not. Thanks to your review I think I'm going to have to give it a chance. Dan just sounds like such an intriguing character.

Hilcia said...

Oh wait! Is this the same James Lear who wrote The Back Passage and The Secret Tunnel? I enjoyed those books tremendously, although they are more erotic mysteries than romance.

Thanks for the review and the giveaway. I'm definitely interested in this one. :)