Author: J.H. Knight
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 220 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Tommy O’Shea is raising his seven younger brothers and sisters without any help from his drug abusing father and stepmother. Since he was fifteen years old, he’s managed to keep the children fed and out of foster care. It takes up every ounce of his energy and the last thing he needs is romance complicating his life further.
Rookie cop Bobby McAlister doesn’t belong in Tommy’s harsh world, but Tommy can’t push him out. As their unlikely friendship turns into a tentative relationship, they weather the daily storm of Tommy’s life with a lot of laughs and more than a few arguments.
Tommy isn’t used to trusting outsiders, and he’s never asked for help in his life. But when a tragedy strikes the O’Shea family and threatens everything he’s fought for, he’ll have to learn to do both to recover from the brutal hit.
Review: The Last Thing He Needs is the first book I’ve read by J. H. Knight, and I definitely plan on reading more of this talented author’s work.
The story follows Tommy O’Shea and Bobby McAlister. Tommy was forced to take on too much responsibility at way too young an age. His parents were drunks and addicts, unfit to care for the brood of seven siblings. In fact, his birth-mother died and his biological father remarried before the final two children were added to the crew. Yet, even at fifteen, Tommy put family first, doing whatever had to be done to keep them together, fed, and safe. Sure, he had to resort to less than admirable means to accomplish those goals, but his heart was always in the right place.
Bobby McAlister became a cop because he saw it as his chance to make a difference. Following in his father’s footsteps, it had never been a question, even though he came from a supportive and loving home where he could have chosen whatever path he wished. When his father passed away, he moved back home with his mother, converting their garage into an apartment, and helped her to maintain the house.
This story contained all the elements I love: strong characterization, a tight plot line, tension and angst interspersed with sexual or lighter moments. The prose was natural and easy to follow, pages flying by without my even realizing how quickly I sped through the story. Or, maybe it was that I was so engrossed in the story I wasn’t paying attention to time.
What Ms. Knight does beautifully is reveal Tommy’s complexity. He’s tough as nails and soft as a teddy bear all mixed up in a hot package. While he would be considered trash by most, based on his parents, their meager home, and the brood living too cramped under one roof, one thing shone through more than anything…he loved his family. I couldn’t get enough of the descriptions of his observations of and interactions with the kids, from the 1-year-old twins to his 17-year-old sister. He paid attention to each like a true parent would, and held dreams for them the way any good parent should. Everything he did was for them, in an effort to meet their basic needs and to help them to feel safe and cared for.
When Bobby offered to help, Tommy resisted, pride standing in the way of accepting anyone’s charity. We never do get a clear picture of how Bobby got involved in Tommy’s life in the first place, but based on his history, we can assume it had something to do with poor choices on Tommy’s part. Regardless, Bobby wouldn’t give in, and continued to remain in Tommy’s life.
The antagonists in this story were his dad and step-mother. Somehow Ms. Knight managed to make the unfit parents sympathetic. Despite their neglect, horrific lifestyle, and ambivalent ways, through Tommy’s eyes we can see redeeming qualities in them as well…although, whenever they’re around trouble follows. The other protagonist, or rather, obstacle, is life. We all know how it feels to be dealt an uneven hand, sometimes stacked in our favor and other times against us. Tommy’s deck seemed to be constantly throwing him on the losing end of an uphill battle, yet watching as he works to rise above his circumstances, to carry his family above their meager existence, is the heart of this wonderful journey.
And woven throughout is the message we can all relate to. Hope. Hope for a better future. Hope for love. Hope that we can count on the goodness of others to outweigh the bad things that happen in our lives. Again, Ms. Knight weaves hope throughout the story, allowing the reader to experience Tommy’s resistance and ultimate acceptance and triumph.
This book demonstrates, through grit and pain, that love and hope truly can shine through the fog of everything trying to drown us out.
You can buy The Last Thing He Needs here: