Eddie: Grime Doesn’t Pay

Eddie: Grime Doesn’t Pay

Z.A. Maxfield

Can a teacher and lifelong reader really love a severely dyslexic man? The second of the Grime and Punishment series about the men who clean up scenes of the crime and other potentially toxic sites successfully grapples with this question of essential personalities and established lifestyles.

Eddie “Cha-Cha” Vasquez, the organizer and manger at Brothers Grime, meets B. Andrew Daley when Eddie takes his niece to school and meets Mr. Daley, her handsome teacher. Both men are instantly taken with each other.

But Andrew, the elementary school teacher, has been watching his beloved father slip further and further into the pit of hoarding. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to get into Andrew’s childhood home these days and the neighbors have asked the city to do something about the problem.

Ashamed of his father’s place, Andrew reluctantly agrees to Eddie’s help when Andrew learns that Eddie’s company routinely does this sort of massive cleanup. Since Eddie’s been on a few dates with Andrew and they’ve nearly reached relationship status, Eddie prepares for the cleanup.

But when the severely dyslexic Eddie sees the mounds of books that Andrew’s retired bookstore owner father has stacked all over the house, Eddie decides that no matter how much chemistry they have, they’ll never be able to sustain a long-lasting relationship. On one of their first dates Andrew took Eddie to a foreign film with subtitles, and Eddie saw the handwriting on the wall as it were.

Maxfield has beautifully drawn her characters here. Eddie is no lumbering fool, but a man who has come to grips with his inability to read and has found accommodations that let him interact with words on paper, such as a pen that reads lines of text to him and other modern gadgets.

Like Andrew’s feelings about his father, Eddie is ashamed of his disability when he sees what bibliophiles Andrew and his father are. Instead of confessing, he tries to cover up during their dates, making Andrew wonder about him.

Both men have to come to terms with the stumbling blocks in their own lives before they can come together as a couple. Andrew has to let go of the idea that he will turn into his father, something he fears since hearing that hoarding runs in families. Eddie has to confess his dyslexia to Andrew and be confident that Andrew won’t find it a deal-breaker.

Unlike the ephemeral problems in some romances, these are legitimate concerns that could keep a couple apart. Fortunately, they both are multidimensional characters who don’t spend an inordinate amount of time dwelling on their differences, but revel in the unique things they bring to the relationship. For example, Eddie is an avid and talented dancer, which thrills Andrew. And despite his inability to read, Eddie as the company’s scheduler and organizer fully participates in running the business.

As she has in the past, Maxfield beautifully presents readers with real men facing real problems and coming out on top.