Thomas Hill has found himself being blackmailed by two people. The first is his ex-boyfriend, Junior, who convinced Tom to illegally sell a chemical they use at the funeral home where they work. Tom keeps trying to stand up to Junior and refuse more sales, but Junior is threatening to expose Tom’s part in it all, which could cost him his job at best and license at worst. Then there is HFG (Hot Flower Guy) who Tom has been crushing on when he comes to deliver flowers to the funeral home. When Cypress Holmes sees Tom making a deal for the chemicals, Tom is desperate for Cypress to keep quiet… and offers up sexual favors as payment.
What starts out as a deal to keep Cypress quiet turns into a real connection between the men. Cypress finds a way to help Tom deal with all the stress of his job, as well as the emotional pain that can be part of working in the funeral industry. He introduces Tom to kink, and Cypress has a way of helping Tom let go that he sorely needs. Cypress also encourages Tom in his self esteem, as well as to learn to stand up for his own needs and not let everyone take advantage of him so much. But even as things are falling into place with Cypress, problems at work continue to grow. Someone is breaking into houses of their customers, Junior appears to be stirring up trouble far more serious than the chemical sales, and Tom’s life is even threatened. It is a lot to handle, but with Cypress at his side, Tom may have all the support he needs.
The Last One to Let You Down caught my eye immediately, as a romance set in a funeral home is a rare thing indeed. So before I go too far, let me start there. Tom is an embalmer and this story goes into detail on his job preparing the bodies for viewings, funerals, etc. Based on the author’s bio, Hiers works in the funeral industry herself, and there is an authenticity to this aspect of the story that really shines through. If you are sensitive to issues surrounding death or squeamish about bodily fluids, etc, this may not be the book for you, as there is a lot of detail here. Personally, I found the scenes of Tom preparing the bodies and the inner workings of the funeral home business to be really interesting. In addition to preparing the bodies, we also see how they handle calls, work with families, etc. So the setting here really plays a major role and the detail contributes nicely to the story. At times, I did feel things went a little too far into the minutia in terms of logistics about what body was moved where when, or multiple scenes that seemed to cover similar tasks. But overall, I think the detail Hiers provides enhances the story, as well as helps to develop Tom’s character.
This story is all from Tom’s POV and part of his journey is learning to love himself, to take time for himself, and to believe he deserves his own happiness. He is overwhelmed with work, both physically and emotionally, but he isn’t in a place to really do anything about it. So I enjoyed the way that Cypress helps build up Tom’s confidence and pushes him to stand up for himself and claim what he needs and deserves. Cypress is a Dom and he introduces Tom to the world of kink. This isn’t a 24/7 BDSM relationship, but the guys do explore kink in most of their sexual encounters, including some more hard core things like sounding. Cypress is a mix of demanding, but also tender and sweet with Tom, and I enjoyed seeing how Tom’s confidence grows along with their relationship.
It did take me a little while to really settle into this story and to feel a connection between these guys for some reason. I am not sure if it is that the book needed a lot of set up, or the way their relationship starts with the blackmail, or just that it took me a while to really get a sense of the men. But I felt sort of at a distance from them early on, though that feeling went away as I settled more into the story. I also felt a little uncertain about the blackmail storyline. Not that the set up bothered me, but that I never felt clear how seriously the men were taking it. When Cypress first sees Tom selling the chemicals, Tom offers a blowjob as an attempt to keep Cypress quiet. I assumed that the fact that Tom was hot for Cypress all along meant he had no problem making this offer, and I sort of figured after that point that the guys were pretending that Cypress was still blackmailing Tom as a kind of game between them. But at points much further in the story, they would bring it up again as if the blackmail was a real thing and Tom was really with Cypress because he was worried Cypress would get him in trouble. I just felt unsure what was really going on and it left me having a little trouble getting a handle on the dynamic between them.
In addition to the relationship end, the story adds a suspense element as houses of the funeral home’s clients begin to get robbed. Tom thinks Junior might be behind it, but he is afraid to tell anyone for fear that his part in the chemical sale might come out. Then things escalate and Tom’s life is in danger and so things move more toward the suspense side as the story develops. This felt a little out of place given all that was happening in the story, and not quite as intense as it might have been given that the book doesn’t really quite settle as firmly into the suspense side of things as it could have. But it did add some interesting plot developments toward the later part of the book.
This is a long story, and I think maybe just had a few too many things happening for it to totally come together for me. But I think that the aspects of the funeral industry are really interesting and add a lot to the overall story. I also ended up really liking Tom and Cypress together and appreciated the way that Cypress helps build up Tom’s confidence and inner strength throughout the story.