Hearsay - Taylor V. Donovan
3.5 Stars

Rumors…gossip…office chatter…HEARSAY. This is the title, and the basis of Taylor V. Donovan’s newest offering. Hearsay, the first of Donovan’s Bylaws Series – which will ultimately be a trilogy – tackles the tough job of introducing all the players, and setting up the story for the rest of the books.

The story revolves around the hustle and bustle of the caseload of Acosta, Bradford, & Chadwick, LLC, and the lives of its employees. We first meet our MCs, senior partner Roman Bradford and senior associate Derrick Swain, in the prologue, while in the beginning stages of possible courtship; and then catch up to them a year later, after things have obviously hit a good-sized bump in the road for the pair.

Things were a bit rocky in the first half of the book – not just for our couple, but with the story itself. There were definitely some things that weren’t working for me early on. The gossip angle – while I know it was put in play to showcase how rumors start and grow, and how it relates to hearsay in a courtroom setting – was just too over the top for me in the beginning. Also, the foundation for Roman and Derrick’s feelings for each other didn’t seem well enough established at first. We were meant to care about these guys, and understand their pining and mooning…but it didn’t happen for me until much later in the book. Finally, I have to say I had a hard time with the idea that Roman would allow what really amounted to a statement made in passing by Derrick in conversation to so deeply affect the next year of both of their lives. I know that guys are not always great at talking and getting their feelings out…but Roman is a mature, intelligent, 44 year-old man. How did it take him a year to simply talk to Derrick and ask a question? One of my favorite scenes in the book actually had to do with this ‘stubbornness’ on Roman’s part. His partners, Alan Chadwick and Sergio Acosta, both give him a ration of shit for not just talking to Derrick, and we really get to see how much they care about each other, and get to know them a little bit.

While things may have been a bit slow to grab me in the first half, the second half definitely turned things around and started gaining momentum. Roman and Derrick had MUCH better chemistry in the latter half of the book, and I really started rooting for them after they finally talk and decide to act on their feelings. Also, the case regarding child molestation charges brought against Derrick and his friend Tyler starts to gain some weight in the story, and we get to see the beginnings of what will hopefully be an intense part of the story for the next book. There is also a fantastic new character introduced toward the end, and we finally get to put to rest most of the items circulating in that pesky rumor mill!

I’ve noticed that the author has taken some heat since the release, both for the character traits of her MCs in this book, and for what some are calling a ‘cliffie’ or ‘abrupt ending’. I disagree on both counts. I think that she did a fine job of wrapping up the story arc of this first part of the trilogy. And, I have no problem with these characters not being the ‘alpha male’ types that are in her extremely popular By Degrees series. Derrick is a starry-eyed, Disney loving dreamer, and unapologetically so. I like that she stepped out and decided to bring us something different here, and I’m looking forward to the next part of Derrick and Roman’s journey.

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