Review: Havenwood Series by Riley Hart

Giving Chase (Book 1)

Falling for the older brother’s best friend isn’t necessarily a trope I lean toward, but I’ll make an exception when the characters are far beyond high school and the best friend has just returned from over a decade away. The chemistry between Chase and Kellan is undeniable, but they face multiple obstructions to their happily ever after: the small-town atmosphere, the protectiveness of Kellan’s older brother, the suspicion of Kellan’s best friend, and—oh yeah—the angst that accumulated over that decade-long separation after a hasty hookup.

I do, however, adore the “idiots in love” trope. Kellan and Chase attempting a secretive friends with benefits arrangement that was a poor replacement for the real relationship they both craved amused me greatly. The love story intertwines dramatically with the external conflict when their secret is blown open in a pretty terrible way. An adversary in Chase’s present, connected to demons from Kellan’s past, forces an inevitable confrontation. The subplot is not a traditional murder mystery, but it does provide another excellent bit of closure for the reader that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I love stories where the romantic leads do not exist in a vacuum. Hart fills Havenwood with friends and allies for both Kellan and Chase. Some will end up starring in romances of their own, but they don’t come across as existing solely for that purpose. I also adore Kellan’s two best friends, especially his strong relationship with Josh—proof that just as straight friends of opposite genders can be friends without romance, so can two gay men.

This is a medium-angst story in which watching our heroes get their act together is more enjoyable than painful. I look forward to checking in on Kellan and Chase’s happily ever after as I dive into the rest of the books in this series.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Murphy’s Law (Book 2)

If anything that can go wrong will go wrong is a bit like destiny, then it is undoubtedly destiny that brings Remy and Law back together. Not only in the town of Havenwood, which was intentional on Remy’s part, but as literal next-door neighbors, which feels much more like fate. Law is determined not to fall into old patterns with his ex-lover, but it’s also clear from the very beginning that the two men are meant to be together, no matter how hard they try the “friend” thing while Remy attempts to protect his family and career.

This story is relatively one-sided in the conflict department, and I found that I didn’t mind it that much. I worried about Law being hurt again, but at least he is surrounded by a reliable support system of the friends who populate the town of Havenwood. (I also enjoyed meeting his immediate family and laughing at their ridiculousness.) However, it is Remy who must battle his significant anxiety to live his authentic life. In the grand finale, he finally puts Law first in the most unexpected way possible. It shocked me as a reader, but I completely adored it.

Hart does a bit of work to set up the next book in this series, and I can’t wait to read it. I look forward to checking in on Remy and Law’s new normal as this series progresses.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Hard Knox (Book 3)

On the one hand, this is not usually the type of romance novel I pick to read. I have mixed feelings about the “bisexual awakening” trope, and as a childfree person, I tend to stay away from stories in which children are a vital plot element due to lack of interest. However, I’m thoroughly invested in this series and these characters, especially based on meeting Callum’s mother in the previous book, so I have no regrets about taking the time to enjoy this one.

Knox is a little too perfect for words—a great friend, first to his circle and then extending that to Callum. A great father who would do anything for his kids. He has some typical anxieties about both his kids and his evolving relationship with Callum. Still, he doesn’t hesitate to express his emotions with either Callum or his best friend Law.

Callum is also kind of perfect, but I enjoyed his story arc more. I loved watching him make a space for himself in Havenwood, both in terms of his relationship with his mother and developing friendships with other characters we’ve met so far in this series. His concerns about falling for his “straight” friend are realistic without being overly angsty, so they were easy to wade through.

So, even though it’s not my preferred character types or plot, Hart has more than proven herself with this series. I enjoyed the coziness and love of this romance novel like wrapping myself in a warm blanket. However, I’ve now gone through THREE books of teasing about Griff and Josh’s relationship, so I’m super excited to dive into that story next.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Griff’s Place (Book 4)

I’ve enjoyed this cozy series like a warm blanket. A little bit of angst but a lot of love and found-family sweetness. So, I was not prepared for the final installment to metaphorically destroy me. Like, full-on crying as I tried to come to terms with Josh’s reality and why he’s put certain limitations on his heart. I refuse to elaborate because I’d prefer not to ruin the heart-wrenching twist to this book. But don’t let me chase you away from this book. It’s the perfect conclusion to this lovely series.

Now that all of their best friends have found their happily ever afters, it’s no surprise that Josh and Griff would end up being the odd man out together. And while there is a certain amount of symmetry to Kellan’s brother and best friend ending up together, I love that Hart builds up the unlikely friendship between Josh and Griff first, even as background detail in the previous books. I may have whined to my spouse that Hart does not use the “only one bed” trope as intended, but I’ll tell you a secret: her decision to up-end certain expectations makes the story even better.

As much as I love the representation of Griff claiming the demisexual label, my biggest quibble about this book is how Griff thought he could handle a friends-with-benefits relationship with Josh. His being sexually interested in the other man means he has already caught feelings for him. But I will accept that everyone needs time to learn and accept who they truly are—I did not see this development as Griff making poor choices, but instead anticipated potential heartbreak and cared for him as a character.

My favorite moment of the book was Josh and Chase bonding over their relationships toward the end. “There’s something about Caine men”—what a lovely bookend of love stories for a charming series. I look forward to reading more books by Hart in the future and already have some of her other series added to my extensive to-be-read list.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Published by J.L. Gribble

Author, Editor, Worldbuilder

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