Intoxicating (Book 1)
Intoxicating skirts the line of being an insta-love story, but the growing attraction between Linc and Wyatt takes on multiple dimensions that entranced me. The “Daddy” dynamic is not as overt as implied by the back-cover description—it trends toward light kink rather than age-regression. Instead, Wyatt receives a sense of structure to his life, along with growing close to someone he can trust in a romantic context for the first time in his life. My heart broke multiple times for Wyatt as the text revealed more details of his past. Linc tries his best to resist Wyatt’s temptation due to his professional position. However, those details of Wyatt’s past (and present) make Linc breaking down those barriers not only understandable but heartwarming.
My current reading trend includes lots of books requiring trigger warnings, and this book is no exception. Linc also has his own tragic past, and Wyatt’s present consists of some pretty ugly elements. Luckily, Wyatt has other allies on his side, and I adored the secondary character of Charlie. She is a whirlwind of delight, kind of on the wacky side, but her devotion to Wyatt is never in question.
I love happily ever afters that also resolve the external plot conflicts in delightful ways (even, or especially, when involving law enforcement and lawyers). Despite the not-very-happy circumstances of their meet-cute, Linc and Wyatt more than deserve riding off into the sunset together. I’m just bummed that the next book doesn’t feature Charlie in her own love story.
Captivating (Book 2)
Shep and Elijah’s relationship in this book won’t be for all readers for multiple reasons, not the least of which is the character of Shep himself. Though it’s definitely a relationship, there’s not necessarily a “romance” in this book. It is still very much a love story between the two men, even if it is nontraditional. What I did love is that both men realize exactly how nontraditional their relationship is due to Shep’s “limitations” and do their due diligence to make it work for both of them in the healthiest way possible. The immediate chemistry between them is palpable, and half of the fun is watching Shep and Elijah test each other’s boundaries as they settle into what works best for them.
Except because Shep is also Elijah’s bodyguard, certain aspects of their relationship cause a healthy dose of this book’s conflict as they run counter to the public persona crafted by Elijah’s manager to “protect” his marketability as a movie star. That conflict runs straight into issues stemming from Elijah’s past, and both men must work together to solve the mystery that will finally break Elijah free. (Trust me, it’s the sexiest solution to a mystery ever.) This book delves into the darker side of Hollywood exposed in recent years, and potential readers should heed the trigger warnings.
Make no mistake: This isn’t a book about two broken or flawed men who heal each other. Each man is whole, despite their baggage. The connection between them makes them stronger and satisfies the “happily ever after” requirement of a true romance novel. They just happen to treat romance a bit differently, and that was okay with me. James has more than proven her ability to craft striking relationships between unique characters, and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series, featuring two characters teased in this one.
Exasperating (Book 3)
Having briefly met Calder and Robby in previous books, I wasn’t expecting to like them as much as I did. Robby’s downward spiral, also hinted at previously, appeared overly dramatic and indulgent. However, James immediately gives the reader a peek into Robby’s backstory at the beginning of this book, which puts Robby’s actual position in the world into stark relief. In a matter of moments, James took me from giving Calder major side-eye about his visceral response to Robby to being relieved that the younger man had someone in his corner without any ulterior motives.
James has been excellent so far about giving readers as much information about her heroes’ past as needed to create truly three-dimensional characters. Calder and Robby each require more information for that context, but it’s woven into the storyline precisely when required. They each have “dark” pasts, though entirely different, from which they’re trying to escape. Escape into each other would be perfect, except Calder accidentally gets himself hired as Robby’s bodyguard. The tension in this conflict is dramatic and sexy, and Calder proves himself to be a good man who wants to do his best for those closest to him. I laughed and cheered at the turning point in his relationship with Robby, despite what Calder was willing to sacrifice for his happily ever after.
Both heroes in this book have social and professional connections with previous book characters, and I enjoyed meeting them again. I loved watching Robby bloom under the knowledge that he’s no longer alone in the world, even separate from his romantic connection with Calder. As a bonus, James treats readers to the protective halves of these partnerships working together to save Robby and the tattered remnants of his biological family. I did not quite expect the details revealed in the epilogue regarding the future paths of their life together, but it was incredibly satisfying. James continues to blow me away with the passion exhibited in this series, and I don’t just mean the sexy kind.
Infuriating (Book 4)
This story is a departure from previous works in the series in that the body to be guarded is not a high-paying, relatively famous client. Instead, Jackson ends up with Day in his charge as a favor to a family friend, and their lives quickly become entwined with what was supposed to be an external murder mystery. The chemistry between the men is instantaneous, and two of my favorite things about this book are the lack of “oh, we shouldn’t” in them pursuing a physical relationship and the positive attitude toward sex work (in this particular case, Day is a camboy who does not have physical relationships with his clients).
I’m not a fan of the “insta-love” trope between two characters, but James only inflicts it here on Jackson. However, there is nothing sketchy or manipulative about how Jackson interacts with the man he’s decided is the one for him. Instead, Jackson makes it clear that he cares about Day and feels a responsibility toward his safety. Otherwise, he does nothing to prevent Day from practicing his own agency beyond the scope necessary to keep in safe in the immediate crisis. One of my favorite scenes in the book is Jackson bringing Day home for dinner with his family—specifically how Day attempts to show Jackson that they aren’t right for each other, which backfires spectacularly because Jackson’s family is as loving and supportive as he is. Day’s inevitable descent into love is both charming and satisfying because, by the end of the book, Jackson has even convinced me that they belong together.
Plenty of characters from the earlier books in this series make an appearance, creating a lovely supportive cast for both men. I’m thrilled that James has promised at least one more book in this series, and I’m even interested in checking out her spin-off to this world. I highly recommend this series to readers interested in the bodyguard trope because James ensures that it’s never as simple as that, which makes it all the more amazing.