Sanctuary (Book 1)
I’m a former military brat and current military spouse. I spent over a decade as a medical editor in rehabilitation, which included a focus on prosthetics. I hesitated over reading Sanctuary because I know I can be picky about books with either of those themes, much less combined. I’m so glad I decided to dive in; I ended up binge-reading this entire series in a single weekend.
I instantly fell in love with Nick and Elijah, along with the fantastic cast of supporting characters that ensure the central pairing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There’s nothing better than found family, especially when everyone is open and supportive about their own and others’ sexualities.
A very different sort of sparks flew at this couple’s initial meeting. This usually means a roller-coaster of a ride to get to the happily ever after, and this book was no exception to that rule. I could quibble about the lack of communication between the men at certain points in their relationship, but both had reasons to hold back until external elements forced them into full honesty.
Even better, the ending isn’t really an ending because I still get to check in on these characters throughout the rest of the series. I wish I could be a client at Wrecked, and not just because of all the hot guys! Not only is the romance in this book heartwarming, but also the gym’s excellent vibe that comes across so clearly in Fox’s writing
Surrender (Book 2)
It’s fun to meet two characters on a collision course in one book and then get to watch the dramatics right away in the sequel. While I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Jean-Pierre as a romantic hero, I knew I would adore sexy, snarky Jake. (If I could be a client at Wrecked, I’d definitely be more into yoga with him as the teacher.)
This pairing might be a match made in heaven, but both characters have gone through hell. Each man experiences post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) based on events in their pasts, which means getting together in all the ways they’d prefer for their relationship is a metaphorical minefield of potential triggers. The road to their happily ever after is fraught in all the best ways because Jake and Jean-Pierre desperately want to do right by each other, but even when it’s sexy as hell, it’s not easy. (I’d probably also have stuck with talk therapy if I could visit Jake’s therapist.)
Side note: Fox reveals in her author’s note at the end of the book that she also experiences PTSD and wanted to explore that in her characters. As an author who tortures my own fictional babies by inflicting my anxiety disorder on them, I am fully aware of the strength that can take. I appreciate all authors who share my efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness through their work.
The exciting finale might come as a bit of a surprise to the type of series Wrecked is purported to be, but it more than fits with the full cast of characters Fox has created in her world. It also connects this book with her slightly more hardcore spin-off series—so much so that I powered through the rest of these books so that I could get to it! I look forward to seeing Jake in both series as they move forward.
Crash (Book 2.5)
Note: At the time of writing this review, this story is available as a free download from the author’s website.
Most of this book depicts a scene from Surrender, but from a different point of view. It’s just as amusing and sexy and romantic. I’m not one for “insta-love” stories, but Ivan and Benning are absolutely delightful, so I rolled with it. The ending made me laugh out loud, and while I’d happily read a longer-form version of this story, it’s also perfect as this deliciously sexy short.
Do I also definitely want a story about Ivan’s three roommates? Yes, please.
Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Goodreads.
Shameless (Book 3)
Most of the time, relationships aren’t easy. They wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to read about if they were. In this book, Roly and Heath have the added baggage of a contentious and adversarial relationship in high school. Roly’s efforts to befriend Heath as an adult would be adorable if it weren’t also poignant and incredibly flawed. However, the resulting shenanigans (especially the inevitable hate sex) are hilarious and embarrassing for everyone involved.
Both protagonists of this book have a steep learning curve for accepting each other into their lives. Heath must learn to see past the harm Roly did to him as a teenager and get that Roly has changed—for the better. However, “better” is always a work in progress, and Roly is not the shining paragon of virtue he could be. He continues to run from his past through vaguely self-destructive methods, despite how much his found family encourages him to take care of himself first.
When Roly’s past suddenly arrives to beat some sense into him (literally), Fox once again shows the worst of military service’s aftereffects with care and sensitivity. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often go hand-in-hand. Fox also does not shy away from depicting Roly’s past rather than merely telling the reader what he experienced. That level of visceral storytelling makes the happily ever after for both men so much more worth it.
Side note: I’ve been reading M/M romance fairly regularly for close to 4 years. Shameless is only the second contemporary romance in all that time to feature characters on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent HIV. I’m passionate about this topic due to my day job, and I encourage all authors and readers of this genre to learn more about PrEP at the CDC’s website on PrEP.
Covert (Book 3.5)
Note: At the time of writing this review, this story is available as a free gift for signing up for the author’s newsletter.
Enough clues are scattered through this series’ main books that I was not surprised by this one’s premise. Morris is a cantankerous jerk, but this story humanizes him with its peek into his backstory.
I don’t want to spoil too much with my review, but I love how the reveal came about. I also appreciated the reminder that the ability for people on the queer spectrum to live their authentic lives is still a relatively recent development in the United States (and still fraught for many).
However, Morris and his Maggie are living their happily ever after, and it’s lovely. I highly encourage readers who enjoy the main series to get their hands on this supplemental novella.
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars.