Broken Pieces (Book 1)
Like it says on the tin, this is a book in three parts, in which each part encompasses a complete love story arc. First, it’s the young adult love between Josiah and Mateo as they are thrust together in the foster care system. Then, the older and unexpected love between Josiah and Tristan as they craft a tentative friendship that quietly blooms into something more. Finally, Mateo returns to Josiah, but he becomes an integral part of the relationship already shared between Josiah and Tristan. At first glance, Josiah is the link between the two other men, but I also loved the quiet care that Tristan and Mateo share even beyond their connection with Josiah.
I often scoff at romance novels in which the characters appear to exist in a vacuum, with no external support system. In this case, however, Hart crafts lone characters with intention, featuring only two secondary friends with well-developed personalities of their own. In addition, Tristan’s mother is both the reason for his loneliness and the reason that he finally fully embraces being loved by Josiah (and Mateo) in the book’s sweetly poignant third act.
This is not a low-angst book, and the story features multiple darker moments that are part and parcel of the lives these characters find themselves in through no fault of their own. However, the journey is worth it for readers looking for a quiet sort of nontraditional love story that will make their heart ache and soar in all the best ways.
This book easily works as a stand-alone story, but I look forward to reading about these men’s lives as they continue to work on the multiple relationships that exist between them.
Full Circle (Book 2)
Falling into a relationship, even one with an obvious happily ever after, doesn’t mean all the problems in a person’s life are magically fixed—either externally or within the relationship itself. This is especially true for Josiah, Mateo, and Tristan, who each have enough issues for a complete subscription. Even who they are in the present directly affects their ability to be secure in their relationship, especially for Mateo (current parolee) and Tristan (prosecutor).
Mateo’s past as a gang member provides a direct external threat to these characters since his uncle has no desire to let his gay nephew walk away from gang life unscathed. Tristan reluctantly enters therapy, but his overall willingness (need) to give his men everything they deserve/want also threatens to spectacularly backfire until he’s able to be completely honest with them. And since this triad is not one that would work missing one of its three ingredients, Josiah is left to stress about his partners, especially when it’s evident that they are keeping secrets from him.
This novel is a sequel that does not work without first reading the previous installment, even though that one doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. It’s a satisfying wrap-up to the story of these three men as they work together toward the future they deserve. Specifically, this book is an excellent example of how relationships require constant work and communication to remain healthy, which is an idea I love seeing in the mostly fluffy world of romance novels. This book isn’t a dark romance, but it’s a more realistic representation of characters coming together, especially those who don’t look like obvious matches from the outside.
Once again, there’s no cliffhanger here, but I immediately launched into the conclusion of this trilogy to find out more about Ben’s story. Both books made for excellent road trip fare.
Losing Control (Book 3)
Hey, remember how damaged Josiah, Mateo, and Tristan were in the first two books of this trilogy?
They’ve got nothing on Ben and Dante.
At the end of the previous book, Ben’s experience wakes some previously suppressed demons in his head, sending his mental health into a tailspin. His previous fixes (including alcohol, but mostly sex) no longer work, causing him even more distress. When he runs into Dante, who freely admits to his own demons, the two characters experience a delicious push and pull in search of both control and escape with the other.
(I should note here that unlike many romance novels, this entire book is from Ben’s perspective. It creates a one-sided view of the burgeoning relationship, but Hart is excellent at also showing us what we need from Dante even solely through Ben’s eyes.)
Which man caves first is debatable because it’s clear they both have something to offer the other. The light BDSM framework creates something of a safety net because it allows Dante to force Ben to take care of himself physically—but it also lets Dante repeat some of the mistakes from his past. When both men catch feelings for the other and Dante refuses to allow him and Ben to continue on their mutually-destructive paths, the end result is not what either man expects.
That Ben experiences post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is evident from page 1, but his recent kidnapping only exacerbates what already existed. Hart reveals information about Ben’s sister throughout the story, but the final bombshell had me recoiling from my Kindle. This will not be an easy read for some people, and I encourage heeding the warnings at the beginning of the book if necessary.
Even though Ben and Dante eventually get their happily ever after together, nothing about this book fits the traditional romantic arc framework. However, I felt strongly for both characters, even when I didn’t particularly everything about them. This is a solid conclusion to an equally difficult trilogy, and I have no regrets about reading any of it.