Grime and Punishment has been getting its fair share of really nice reviews, among them:
…Not only is there plenty of emotional substance to sink your heart into, but there’s also the very simple fact that ZAM has come up with another great couple of MCs whose verbal skills rival the non-verbal for a practically perfect validation that they should continue to investigate what’s happening between them…. From the The Novel Approach HERE
…Z.A Maxfield wrote a beautiful story about life, honesty, and love. The writing is clean and pulls at your heart strings in places. I loved the way she handled this couple in the bedroom–so wide open one to one another, filled with such passion. Those scenes were key to zoning in on who these guys are, and that’s how I love my steam best: hot and integral to the plot rather than just there to fire things up. I cannot wait to read more of this author… From My Devastating Reads HERE
So I will recommend this to those that love budding romances, secrets emerging, great supportive family and friends, hot sex and a happy ending. From MM Good Book Reviews HERE
Who you gonna call? No, this isn’t some eighties movie throwback. It’s the latest from ZA Maxfield. And I don’t know anyone else who would write a story about a company that handles these grisly jobs and does it with humor and sympathy. From Mrs. Condit and Friends HERE
ZA Maxfield is one of those unspoken authors that just naturally seems to go onto my Classic Great M/M Romance Authors list, and I think that this book is a good illustration of why she deserves that spot. I read a lot of likable m/m romances, but it takes a little something extra to sink into the story. The more of this genre that I’ve read I’ve realized how that has less to do with how much I like a plot, and more how the author extends the story into wordplay — one of the biggest reasons that I review a book first on it’s execution and only after on the author’s choices. The best books use prose like an extra limb, manipulating the reader’s emotions not by what they say but how they say it. From The Armchair Reader HERE
A BIG thank you to everyone who took a chance on a book about a guy who cleans up dead people!
The next story is Eddie’s, and he’s been pining for his niece Lucy’s first grade teacher, Andrew Daley, so long it was just a mercy to finally let him loose.
When Eddie and Andrew find Eddie’s favorite elementary school teacher — the long retired Mrs. Henderson — wandering around the school grounds in a daze, Eddie’s afraid there’s more to her story than a failing memory. His and Andrew’s mutual concern for the old woman is just the icebreaker Eddie’s been waiting for. Her story is sadder than either man is prepared for.
While Eddie helps take care of Mrs. H., he and Andrew he begin a happy courtship. But nothing ever runs smoothly. Eddie’s secrets and Andrew’s emotionally abusive father make things way harder than they have to be and moving too fast might be as bad as moving too slow…
Boy meets boy. Boy loves boy. Boys have to clean up something horrific together — something that will teach them more than they ever wanted to know about life and love and growing old. What can go wrong?
Eddie sat down at his desk and got out his headphones. When he worked, he used his computer’s speaking capability to read what he needed of the day’s events.
Mrs. Henderson could not have foreseen the computer he used. She probably couldn’t have imagined something like a reading “pen” that used OCR technology to help severely challenged dyslexics like him, but she’d believed things would get better with time and somehow, she’d made him believe as well.
She’d been so, so right. Her faith in him cracked a hole in the ceiling and let him see the sky for the first time and he’d loved her for it. Seeing her today was particularly poignant, because she’d recognized him, after a fashion. She’d remembered him, after all these years.
A quick perusal of a dictionary site revealed the word of the day, caterwaul. Eddie knew what that meant, but just to be sure, he listened to the definition. Every day, he vowed to find a way to use each new word he learned. Caterwaul should be easy. That was a nice word for how Skippy and Kim usually bitched each other out at the end of a work day.
“Stop your caterwauling,” he practiced.
His phone rang, and he glanced at it. Lucy’s face, pink and softly rounded, smiled at him. He shifted his earphones to answer, “Hey Lucy loo-loo, whatcha up to?”
“Uh…” A very masculine voice responded, and Eddie sat straight up in his chair.
“Is Lucy okay?” Eddie demanded, imagining all sorts of awful scenarios. With the business he was in, he didn’t even have to imagine — he’d seen them all. “Is she–”
“No, she’s fine, she’s perfectly safe. This is her teacher, Mr. Daley. She let me use her phone so I could call you.” There was a lot of background noise, children playing, Eddie assumed. “I’m sorry I scared you.”
“It’s fine. I probably shouldn’t jump to conclusions.” Eddie heard the sound of a door closing and less background noise. “What can I do for you?”
“I guess I wondered how Mrs. Henderson is doing. That is her name, right? You were amazing, how you handled her.”
“You were so gentle with her. She really responded to that. There could have been a big scene, and instead…You were awesome.”
“Wow. Thank you. I–”
“Is she going to be all right?”
“Yes. I took her to the hospital. She had a seizure while we were waiting and they admitted her. I don’t know anything else yet.”
“A seizure? That’s not good, is it?”
“I don’t think so, no.” Eddie shifted papers on his desk, straining for something useful to say. “It’s not, probably.”
“Were you really in her class all those years ago?”
“Yes,” Eddie leaned back. “She was my third grade teacher.”
“That’s wild. I don’t think any of my little ducklings remember me after summer vacation.”
“I’m sure they do.” I never stop thinking about you, anyway. “I can’t believe she remembered me.”
“You must have stood out somehow?” Andrew asked. “Were you a bit of a trouble maker?”
“Maybe.” Eddie thought back to those confusing early years of elementary school. How angry he’d been that he never got things right. How hard every single lesson seemed once he got it home and had to do it by himself. “She had a real nice touch. I was crazy about her.”
“I’m going to do what I can to help her.”
“You’re going to think I’m awfully nosy, but Lucy told me you clean up dead people. Are you in the death care industry?”
“No. I…” This is where a lot of guys stepped off the ride. “I’m a partner in a trauma scene cleaning company. We clean crime scenes, suicides, traffic accidents. Anywhere there’s likely to be biological waste or–”
A cough. “Whoa, okay. That’s…I’ve never met anyone who does that. People really do that?”
Andrew didn’t sound disgusted…yet. Eddie minimized things. “I do. I mean my company does. We’re called The Brother’s Grime. You know… for when life’s not a fairy tale?”
Andrew practically purred. “Oh, my God, that’s amazing.”
“I uh…Most people think it’s kind of gross.” Eddie waited to hear if that was the case with Andrew. “The coroner takes the decedent from the scene, the police process it. Someone has to clean up after.
“How could anyone think that’s gross. Imagine if you didn’t. I guess I never thought about what would happen if–”
“Most people don’t think about it until something tragic happens to them.” Silence stretched out between them.
“Well…I’m going to have to go in a minute because recess is nearly over.”
Say something, say something, you’re going to miss your chance. “Oh. Okay.” Estupido!
“Hey. I was thinking. Tonight’s my book club. We’re reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. Have you read it?”
Again with the books. “That was a movie, wasn’t it?”
“You haven’t read it then? I thought maybe you could–”
“I saw the old black and white film — the one with Angela Lansbury.”
A brief pause. “It’s not the same as the book.”
“I don’t suppose so.” Eddie cursed his inability to say with any certainty. And he still wasn’t sure he could ask the man out. “I saw the film when I was a kid.”
“Look, do you — maybe — want to get a cup of coffee some time and tell me about…the books you like?”
“Yes.” The enthusiasm in Andrew’s voice took Eddie completely by surprise. “I have some time this afternoon. Are you busy? I get off here around 4:15”
“Too sudden?” Andrew asked. “Yeah, I guess it’s–”
“No, I can do that. Want to meet somewhere at 4:30?”
“How about Stomping Grounds on Chapman, by the high school, is that good?”
“Yeah.” Eddie smiled into the phone. “That’s great. See you then.”
And finally, I want to thank everyone for wishing me a happy birthday. I had a GREAT day. It was just magical. I took my son to see the Gay Men’s Chorus Of Los Angeles, who were joined by Stephen Schwartz and Liz Callaway for music from Schwartz’s musicals (including Godspell, Pippin, The Prince Of Egypt, Pocahontas, and Wicked.) The chorus was wonderful and there was a reception for Mr. Schwartz afterward, so my son and I got to meet him and tell him how much his music has meant to us over the years. The GMCLA also performed Testimony, a number inspired by the It Get’s Better Project. Here’s the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus singing it. The song is taken from, and inspired by, actual It Get’s Better messages. Get your tissues.