Regularly Scheduled Life by K. A. Mitchell – review

Rating: 8/10 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ Title: Regularly Scheduled Life
Author: K. A. Mitchell
Genre: Contemporary romance
URL: Samhain Publishing
Price: US $5.50
Other Information/warnings: violence, explicit m/m
Summary [from the publisher]:
It’s a long way back to happily ever after.
Sean and Kyle have enjoyed six perfect years of what their friends called a “disgustingly happy” relationship. But what happens one sunny Tuesday morning in October might be more than even the most loving couple can survive.
When the bell rings that morning in chemistry teacher Sean Farnham’s first-period class, a terrifying sound fills the halls—gunshots. Without considering the consequences, Sean runs to tackle the shooter, sustaining a bullet wound to his leg. Despite his actions, he is unable to save the lives of the principal and two students.
Architect Kyle DeRusso hears about the shooting on the radio, and in the flash of an instant finds his life irrevocably altered. Everything—especially his heart—hangs suspended in a nightmare until he finds out Sean is alive. It doesn’t matter that Sean will be left with a permanent limp. Kyle’s just relieved the worst is over.
Or is it? Putting that day behind them isn’t as simple as it sounds. As Sean struggles to make something positive out of the tragedy, Kyle fights to save their relationship from the dangers of publicity—and Sean’s unwillingness to face how the crisis has changed him.

My review: I don’t know why but I got it into my head that I didn’t like this author’s writing. I looked briefly at Diving in Deep and thought, nah. Then I peeked at this one and was hooked. I went back and read Diving, and enjoyed it, though it wasn’t as good as this one, and this one isn’t as good as her December release, which I’ll be reviewing after it comes out.

Anyway, I’m glad I got over the silly notion, because Mitchell is a good author who writes the kind of stories I like – layered, thoughtful, angsty. And man, the angst in this one comes from all directions – Sean’s troublesome recovery from a terrible injury, the effect on the seemingly perfect relationship, dealing with the involuntary outing in the wake of the shooting, and with a threat to his fidelity from a smarmy yet enticing PR, Brandt (aside: what is it with all these characters called Brandt lately?) Kyle and Sean live in an OKHomo bubble, but they also have to interact with a homophobic world, interactions handled in a way which seemed real to me. She gives us lots of meaty interaction, woven together almost perfectly.

It’s not perfect – the whole Brandt making moves on Sean seemed a little incredible, though what Brandt wanted to do with Sean outside the bedroom was quite credible. The angry parent subplot didn’t work for me at all, and was unnecessary. But the interactions between Sean and Kyle, them and their friends, their family, were very well done, and the way the ‘perfect’ relationship disintegrates is believable and achingly sad. (I do believe I teared up more than once.) There’s no easy way out from the mess, and no perfect, all loose ends tied up, closure, but Mitchell manages to make us believe the recovery when it happens, and it’s earned.

Characterisations, apart from Brandt, are realistic and attractive, though I question whether an ‘Italian-Hispanic’ family would have children called Kyle, Elise and Nate. The source of the conflict that grows between them derives from Sean and Kyle’s different responses to the shooting – Sean’s desperate need to bottle it all in, Kyle’s desperate need to help his lover to exorcise his anger at not being able to protect him. They’re sappy at times, at times when it’s believable they would be, and not when it wouldn’t be. They sound like guys, mostly – educated men in love. Tony, Sean’s friend who becomes Kyle’s rock, is also a wonderful character. The story is populated with deftly drawn bit players.

Brandt, as I mention, is the only odd note, but that’s partly because he’s the toad in the lily pond anyway – big city mores and urges, intruding into Sean and Kyle’s once safe, quiet existence. Mitchell doesn’t make the mistake of painting him as black-hearted. Brandt is merely venal, and at the end, he’s no different than he was at the beginning. He’s exactly how he appears – slick, charming, shallow, and ambitious. So it’s not so much his characterisation is off, as the author has created a believably unlikeable yet superficially appealing character.

I liked the writing, and I love how physical and emotional pain mirrors each other, the way she uses settings to illustrate the growing estrangement. The pacing is good, and the complex plot never drags. The only bit where it wobbles is to do with the angry parent, but it’s a small flaw. The sex is fine, and not overdone. It’s there when it needs to be, to illustrate the relationship, and changes in it.

I enjoyed this a lot, and recommend it highly. At 280+ pages, it’s a solid read, and an entertaining one. If you’re tired of all the 70 page ‘novels’ being churned out, and want to sink your teeth into something long and involving, you’ll enjoy this.

Collison Course is Mitchell’s next Samhain Release, and I don’t mind telling you now, I liked it even more.