Renegades (Book 1)
After finishing the Irons & Works series, I immediately dove into this spin-off set of tales that feature Ted House, the home set up by two of the tattoo artists for LGBTQ kids in need. Even better, cameos appear by many of the familiar characters from the previous series, even though the story revolves closely around Kane and Soren. Both men have relatively traumatic pasts, for various reasons, but the connection between them is unmistakable (even though Kane is understandably nervous about it after his past relationship experience).
As usual, Lindsey does a fantastic job highlighting the difficulties faced by different members of society without ever making the book specifically about those differences. Kane experiences the occupational (and subsequent financial) issues that follow a felony conviction while balancing the quiet internal stigma of being a male domestic abuse survivor. At first, Soren makes living with his physical disability look easy, until one of the darker moments of this book force him to focus on his limitations before he’d planned. All this while dealing with the fallout of a divorce and child custody arrangement problems, which can be the same even when it was a same-sex marriage. Together, the men must acknowledge the burgeoning feelings between them, even when it feels like the odds are stacked against them. However, when in need, Kane and Soren show up for each other, despite how it might add to their personal difficulties. And isn’t that one of the major cornerstones of a real relationship?
Lindsey might be my favorite contemporary romance author for their ability to highlight characters who aren’t the gay, white default of much queer romance. I can only claim familiarity with some facets of the heroes (and certainly can’t address whether they represent them “right,” since I’m not a queer man), the care and research they put into the development of the men mean a great deal to me. I look forward to continuing with the rest of this series.
Temptation (Book 2)
I’ve been intrigued by Marcel’s character since meeting him tangentially in the author’s On the Market series. Timeline-wise, this book takes place first, which means Antoine has not yet found love in Cherry Creek. However, Marcel has just moved to Fairfield and had his life implode when his boyfriend cheats on him in their bed. He meets Colton through a chance encounter, but Marcel’s need to “do right” by the younger man leads to friendship rather than a sexual relationship.
Though Marcel’s decision allows their relationship to grow organically, the two men continue to stay in each other’s orbits when Colton’s found family adopts Marcel as one of their own. The more dynamic plot elements of this novel involve Marcel attempting to resist continued advances by his ex. His reaction leads him to reconsider how he has interacted with Colton, which results in a sweet romance with a surprising yet completely realistic way in which the two men come together.
I quietly adored this subtle yet sexy romance between two otherwise mismatched people. The Irons and Works crew are featured but tinged by a different perspective since they are authority figures to Colton and newer acquaintances for Marcel. However, the resulting happily ever after is on-brand with the rest of the books in this world created by Lindsey, and I look forward to checking in on this couple in the future (especially since we don’t yet know how Marcel and Vitya end up in business together, as referenced in another Lindsey book).
Certain elements of Colton’s past require a pretty heavy trigger warning that should be heeded by potential readers. My heart broke for him multiple times throughout this story, making how far he comes even more amazing. Even though I said Marcel and Colton aren’t necessarily the perfect pair on paper, they both deserve the happiness they find in each other.
Forsaken (Book 3)
I’m not keen on “gay for you” romance novels, but Lindsey does a fantastic job here of ensuring that Arlo spends time considering his sexuality rather than angsting about it and then hopping into bed with Elliot. The relationship that develops between the two men comes after they establish a strong base of friendship, and I did not hesitate to cheer them on (even in the moments when they devolved into “idiots in love,” a trope I do happen to be a fan of).
I’m not sure how much of an emotional impact this book would have without the subplots of Elliot’s father’s medical issues and his brother’s own drama. However, these make the story more engrossing, especially as it makes Arlo consider his own family relationships and strengthen his resolve to keep those ties cut for valid reasons.
I appreciate that their previous military service brings common ground to Elliot and Arlo, even though this is far from a military romance, and both men have put that time in their lives behind them. Arlo more than Elliot, who experiences PTSD and has a missing limb, but in the end, it means Arlo is better able to relate to certain of Elliot’s mentalities that are often not as clear to those without a connection to the military.
Their shared love of animals does more to bring the characters together, and even then, the characters do not exist in a vacuum. Orlo has been adopted by the “tattooed gay mafia” of Fairfield, as plenty of Irons and Works and previous Breaking the Rules series character make appearances as part of his friendship group. Elliot’s social circle is less known, but the characters are presented as full-fledged personalities rather than one-dimensional stereotypes. Even though Lindsey says they’re not planning to return to Fairfield anytime soon, I wouldn’t mind additional stories featuring these characters (new and old). Even without that familiarity, I look forward to checking out other works by this author.