Review: Irons and Works Series by E.M. Lindsey

This post includes reviews of the following books in the Irons and Works series:

  • Free Hand (Book 1)
  • Blank Canvas (Book 2)
  • American Traditional (Book 3)
  • Bio-Mechanical (Book 4)
  • Stick and Poke (Book 5)
  • Scarification (Book 6)
  • To Touch the Light (follow-up novella)
  • Last-Minute Walk-In (follow-up novella)

Free Hand (Book 1)

Derek and Basil don’t meet under the most auspicious of circumstances. It’s less meet-cute and more “meet panic attack.” As someone who also has experience with anxiety symptoms, I can relate to Derek’s combined embarrassment and intrigue over the man who helps him through the awkward encounter.

For me, it is easier to identify with Derek in this story because I have little experience with the Deaf community. However, I adored Basil’s character from the beginning because refusing to bend to a world not made for you is pretty universal. The chemistry between Derek and Basil is obvious, but part of me is glad that the road toward them getting together isn’t straightforward. There’s not quite as much of a communication barrier as between two hearing people who don’t have a common language, but I’m a firm believer that physical attraction alone does not a relationship make. Instead, both characters take steps to learn to communicate with each other, which makes the happily ever after all the more satisfying.

The multiple external conflicts in this story set up the characters I’m sure I’ll be following in future installments of this series and also bring closure to an element from Derek’s past. Certain reveals will likely be difficult for some readers, so check out the warnings in the Author’s Note and stay safe if you consider reading.

I look forward to continuing this series and checking in on Derek and Basil as it progresses. And while my tentative plans for my first tattoo were put on hold due to the pandemic, this book definitely piqued my interest once again.

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


Blank Canvas (Book 2)

While this book can be read as a stand-alone, this series’ first book introduces the two protagonists. The events/time periods of books 1 and 2 have some overlap, making reading the books as a series even more interesting (and I expect this theme will continue as we meet other secondary characters throughout this book).

For all that Nico has experience with a life-altering injury, his is mild “in comparison” to Sam’s spinal cord injury. Note the words in quotation marks—I use them intentionally because playing “disability/trauma Olympics” should never be the goal between people in fiction or real life. Sam’s reality does not make him more or less than Nico, merely different (as all book characters should be different). At this point, the only issue with Sam’s disability is that biased government bureaucrats want to use it as an excuse to prevent him from adopting his niece.

The love story in this book is sweet, and Nico’s external conflict of opening a restaurant is fun, but the highlight of this book is Sam and Nico coming together as Sam fights for his niece. It’s not pleasant, and quite a bit of it is frustrating, but that makes the eventual happily ever after for the ENTIRE family all the better. This includes Nico, but also Sam’s found family of characters who populate the rest of this series.

Special shout-out to the fantastic scene in which Nico and Sam discuss the realities of sex between anyone, not just when one of the partners has physical limitations. The realism was refreshing, but the way Nico shuts down Sam’s ingrained reticence is both loving and hilarious.

I had fun with both of these men, even through their troubles, and I look forward to reencountering them as I continue with this well-written series.

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


American Traditional (Book 3)

Even though they are twins, Sage is a different person from Derek, one of the romantic leads in this series’s first book. This doesn’t mean that Sage is free from the trauma that comes from his past, just that he expresses it differently than his brother. Will also carries baggage from a previous life, which slams into his current reality in the form of the orphaned little sister suddenly in his custody. Luckily, he has the crew at the tattoo shop down the street from his café to step in and help out where needed.

One of the facets I love most about this series is how the books overlap each other, which is seen again in this volume. While this book can be read as a stand-alone, readers would be missing out on so much great context for the greater world of the series. Also, while it is Sage’s attraction to Will that brings Will into the local fold, it is immediately evident that the rest of Sage’s friends now consider Will part of their circle of care, even when Will and Sage are not romantically involved. The found family trope is one of my favorites in all fiction, not just romance, and I love seeing the Irons and Works family grow here.

Another facet of Lindsey’s works that I particularly enjoy is that the “sexy bits” in each book are far from formulaic. The amount of steaminess is entirely appropriate to the needs of the characters and their developing relationship. A kiss can be as hot as explicit sex in Lindsey’s hands. The way her heroes come together is always satisfying, no matter the hurdles in their path to getting there. Once again, I’m excited to revisit this world and follow another artist on his way to love.

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


Bio-Mechanical (Book 4)

I used to be an editor for a rehabilitation medical journal, so I have an occupational interest in representation for characters who use prostheses. As a reader, I especially like when authors portray characters who use prostheses after limb loss because they are NOT war heroes, whether regular people or veterans disabled outside of combat (as in the case with James). While I obviously can’t speak to the lived experience, I do appreciate Lindsey’s portrayal of the reality of living with limb loss, from having a wheelchair handy at home to how prostheses are not as simple as “replacement limbs.”

Of course, the point of the story isn’t that James is a double-amputee, but that he’s been living a small lie to his closest friends. They assume he’s a bit of a player when in reality, he has yet to experience sex with another person despite his age. A large part of this “problem” stems from the disconnect James has resolving his sexual interest in men with the religious teachings he experienced as a child. Luckily, he shares an instant connection with Rowan, which leads both characters to some delightful sexy bits. This unique friends-with-benefits relationship should be simple on the surface, except this is a romance novel, so both characters catch feelings. I had a great time experiencing the shenanigans of these “idiots in love” (one of my favorite tropes).

There is no overt dark moment to this book unless you count the expected tragedy that strikes Rowan’s closest family member. Rowan’s reaction is entirely human—he can only deal with what he can immediately handle and puts the changes in his relationship with James on the backburner. I had lots of feels for Rowan’s situation myself, which made his eventual reunion with James all the sweeter.

I try not to read the next book in the series until after I’ve written the review, but I’m enjoying Irons & Works so much that I immediately jumped into the next installment!

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


Stick and Poke (Book 5)

I zoomed straight from the previous book in this series into this one because Lindsey has been teasing the Mat/Wyatt relationship for so long that I couldn’t wait to read it. Not only were all of my expectations met, but they were even exceeded! From previous books, I already knew that Lindsey is deft at writing Deaf characters—in this book, she also proves equally capable of writing from the perspective of a character who is legally blind. This book also features a protagonist with difficulty reading/writing after a traumatic brain injury, which Lindsey also represents well.

Despite their physical/mental limitations, Mat and Wyatt’s love story was so much fun to read. That is, of course, after Mat admits to himself that he has always been bisexual, and the two characters finally stop circling each other. Wyatt may be blind, but he is older and wiser in ways Mat is not, and the two men are a joy to read as they grow closer together (yes, I also mean that quite literally).

Much of this book also focuses on Wyatt’s difficulties with his family and ex-husband. Luckily, Mat is there to support him every step of the way. The support is wholly reciprocated, and Mat is also inspired to return to his roots despite the car accident that diverted his original life goals. My only quibble with this book is that it did not feature much of the other characters in this series I have grown to love. Then again, by the fifth book in the series, everyone has fallen in love and has their new relationships to focus on. I might be close to reaching the end of this series, but I still have plenty more books by this author to enjoy before I finish her entire back catalog. Lindsey has become a “drop everything and read” author for me to follow.

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


Scarification (Book 6)

In the previous book, we’re briefly introduced to Miguel, but Amit has been a known quantity in this series since book 1. I’m thrilled that he finally gets his own happily ever after because the guy is way too perfect and happy on the outside—which means there’s got to be more going on under the surface. Then again, learning more about him in this book broke my heart more than once, as Amit is battered on all sides by his family’s expectations and needs, especially since almost nothing about him fits into the mold expected of him.

Miguel’s story is no more straightforward. He might never have been a motorcycle club member, even though he was born into the life and it nearly killed him. Running away to become a tattoo artist, even though he could have been so much more before his injuries, isn’t the happy ending he wanted. In this book, his past drags him away from the bubble of the tattoo shop that would love to call him family if he can allow himself to be loved.

Plenty of miscommunication on both men’s side cause the darker moments in this book, but luckily, they both end up with a great support system to help them through. The biggest surprise in this book comes on the part of Amit’s family, which provided almost as many good feels as the love story itself.

I’m sad that this is the ending of the main part of this series because I’ve come to love this author and her work. I look forward to the two novellas that follow next and then jumping into the spin-off series and spending more time in the town of Fairfield.

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


To Touch the Light (Follow-Up Novella)

Though I read this book about two weeks after Hannukah ended, the best thing about Hannukah is that it’s easy to celebrate its spirit any time of year. I thoroughly enjoyed this supplemental novella that takes place “near” the main Irons and Works books, featuring previous series heroes as secondary characters to a lovely holiday romance that breaks all sorts of rules (including which holiday is traditionally the focus at this time of year).

For such a short book, both characters spend much time subtly (and not-so-subtly) comparing their pasts with their present. On the surface, Mario’s present is better than his past, and vice versa for Vitya. However, even today, Mario continues to have issues with gender dysphoria and discrimination, and even in his former life, Vitya could not live as his authentic self. Luckily, these two souls find each other as a bit of light in the darkness. The romance between them is sweet, and I appreciate the care Mario takes with their inequal employment situation.

Overall, this was a delightfully satisfying read featuring a lot of what Lindsey does best—nontraditional romance heroes reaching fulfilling happily ever afters. I may have read it “late,” but this nonpracticing Jewish reader still enjoyed the holiday treat.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.


Last-Minute Walk-In (Follow-Up Novella)

This follow-up novella to the main Irons and Works stories fast-forwards to Derek and Basil’s future life, the heroes of the first book of the series. I already knew that I would love this book because I love this author, and I loved these characters. What I did not expect is for the story to affect me emotionally as much as it did—in a good way!

Derek and his twin brother Sage have established their home for LGBTQ kids (Ted House), though mentioned mostly offscreen in previous books. One of the kids has a tragic backstory, but a brighter future presents itself—if she can find parents for the child she’s carrying. When she asks Basil and Derek to be those parents, it puts their life plans on fast-forward. The drama here is not between the men, who do want to get married and start a family. Instead, the drama stems from an external influence and then culminates in a lack of communication. My heart broke multiple times for the couple, even though I knew the happily ever after was coming.

I do wish I could have had some of these scenes from Basil’s point-of-view, but I understand that it might have diminished the impact of Derek’s scenes. Plenty of other Irons and Works artists make cameos thanks to the love and support that exist in this amazing found family. I’d still love one of those guys to give me a tattoo, and this book was the perfect lead-in to the next series that looks like it focuses more on Ted House. I can’t wait to start reading them.

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

Published by J.L. Gribble

Author, Editor, Worldbuilder

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