Review: Finding Series by Sloane Kennedy

This post contains reviews of all the currently available books in the Finding series:

  • Finding Home (Book 1)
  • Finding Trust (Book 2)
  • Finding Peace (Book 3)
  • Finding Forgiveness (Book 4)
  • Finding Hope (Book 5)

Finding Home (Book 1)

Cowboys, historical or modern-day, aren’t my go-to for romantic heroes. However, I’m fully invested in reading each of Kennedy’s sprawling shared universe series, and this book was the next up on the list. On the tin, the relationship between the three(!) main characters seems incredibly contrived. But I know by now that Kennedy will craft a compelling relationship arc between them. And after finishing the story, I wasn’t disappointed.

The easy version is that, in a perfect world, Finn and Callan would have gotten together and lived happily ever after. Except this isn’t a perfect world, and they live in an especially bigoted rural area, so it takes Rhys crashing into their lives for the connections between them to bloom fully. Acknowledging their attraction to Rhys helps both Finn and Callan finally recognize the true strength of their feelings for each other. Additionally, Rhys’ support keeps Finn from abandoning his home in search of a more accepting living situation. This almost backfires tragically, but the sweet ending reminded me of the reason people idealize rural life.

Moments in this book do not flinch from revealing how nasty bigotry can be. Some readers should take care, if necessary, while reading. Rhys and supporting character Dane have the privilege of both age and different life circumstances to stand up for their identities. Unfortunately, too many people are stuck in the same position as Finn when it comes to living publicly as their authentic selves.

This story could have been longer, but I’m not sure it needed to be. It does the work of the full relationship arc and introduces the readers to the town and a few additional supporting cast that I have a feeling will star in love stories of their very own. I look forward to continuing my journey through this world.

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

Finding Trust (Book 2)

This book is a country romance, but neither lead is a cowboy. Instead, a vet and former FBI agent cross paths after their recent arrivals to a small town in Montana. It was easy to spot the potential relationship from a mile away at the end of the previous installment to this series. The sparks between Jax and Dane are apparent, especially when they continue to clash over unintended conflicts and misunderstandings. However, Jax’s training allows him to spot Dane’s danger, and he won’t simply walk away. The connection between them continues to grow even as both men try to pretend that they don’t belong in each other’s lives.

I just read an article about the difference between a trauma bond and being in love, so it’s easy to spot the indicators for the former in this story. However, it’s a romance novel, so let’s pretend that the inevitable happily ever after means it’s the latter, okay? Dane’s backstory is suitably tragic for all the angst a reader could hope for, but Jax is level-headed enough to at least attempt to safeguard his heart.

Clues that this series crosses over with other series by the same author are more evident in this installment. It can still be read as a stand-alone, but I highly recommend reading at least the first story in this particular series for some context regarding supporting characters and the town’s current (and long past due) upheaval. I’m following the author’s suggested reading order for these related books, so I’ll be returning to events in Seattle for a bit, but I can’t wait to come back to Montana and check in with these characters.

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

Finding Peace (Book 3)

The love story in this book is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: two characters finding peace, both together and within themselves. Both men are dealing with some pretty heavy baggage, professionally and personally/medically. Gray has retreated to Dare, Montana, to figuratively lick his wounds (and hide his medical condition from the public). Luke stumbles into Gray’s life as he’s on the run from secrets from his past that threaten his future.

This is very much a strangers to friends to lovers story. Honestly, watching the prickly men develop trust and friendship even before the sexy bits was just as fulfilling to read as the eventual romance. I have my usual complaints here about the “gay for you” trope, but Kennedy is flawless at depicting characters as so much more than gender stereotypes, and this reflects equally well in presenting relationships as more than the physical. Luke’s desire for Gray has nothing (and still everything) to do with sex, and it nevertheless ends up being a more than satisfying read.

The more apparent external conflict comes from Luke’s side of the narrative, culminating in a dramatic showdown. They work together and separately, both between Luke and Gray and between Luke and those out to silence him for the secrets he carries from his military career. Even though I know how romance narratives work, I still held my breath at the end until both men were safely back in each other’s arms.

I appreciate novels that present characters from all walks of life as romantic heroes. I hesitate to say more here so as not to reveal too much about Gray that a reader should learn naturally over the course of the book. However, I want to comment on how much I love how Kennedy allows her character to remain a sexual person despite his medical concerns.

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

Finding Forgiveness (Book 4)

I loved this book less for the relationship and more for the characters. Hunter and Roman more than deserved their happily ever after, but I don’t even mean that in the romantic sense. Both men deserved the chance at happiness that had nothing to do with romantic love, and it’s probably only because this is a love story that they end up finding and helping each other toward both.

After what happened to Finn and his lovers in this series’ first book, I felt trepidation about accepting Hunter as a sympathetic character. However, Kennedy knows how to pull at the heartstrings, and in short order, I wanted him to escape his demons as much as I’d cheered for Finn earlier in the series. The full story was more significant than we knew from Finn’s perspective, and Hunter has more to deal with than just a false accusation. Readers should heed the trigger warnings for this book because Hunter might be young, but he’s already forced to deal with mature issues.

We met Roman more recently, as we found out about the contentious family history that he shares with his half-brother Gray. Roman’s character arc is as dramatic as Hunter’s but in a different fashion. Here, he’s the one who needs to forgive, rather than the other way around.

Together, they support each other through the ups and downs. The only reason I’m not giving this excellent book 5 stars is that I have no idea what Roman sees in Hunter (the other way around is much more plausible). But the love, affection, and care going both ways is evident, so I chose to roll with the love story that accompanied the other drama, and overall, I very much enjoyed this book.

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

Finding Hope (Book 5)

Every time I think I’m used to how much Kennedy enjoys gifting her characters with tortured backstories, the next book brings all the angst and feels. In particular, this story brings together multiple of this author’s series in one nearly explosive combination. And even though the youngest member of this trio, Beck (an adopted Barretti), has the most healing to do after trauma, Quinn and Brody are not without their share of past pain. The two older men certainly do not heal Beck on their own, but I don’t even mind the age gap between them and Beck because the latter certainly needed more mature lovers to help him through some essential parts of his recovery.

Chance brings these three men together the first time, and fate drags them together the second. Coincidence? Sure, but this is a romance novel, so we’re going to roll with it. None of these guys is precisely the talkative sort, so it feels like it takes forever for them to stop denying their connection and then for the secrets to start coming out. However, Kennedy’s writing and characterization drag you along without feeling like the story isn’t going anywhere.

Though this book probably works as a stand-alone, readers will get so much more out of the leading and supporting characters if they have read most of the previous works in this shared universe. It’s a bit of a commitment, but I’m so glad I had all of that extra context to truly appreciate the connections between people, both in Montana and back in Seattle. And though I’m not sure whether Kennedy’s stories will take us back to Dare, I’ve had a lot of fun while here, and I wouldn’t mind a return visit to check in with these characters again. (Meanwhile, I’m happily heading back to the Protectors series, which has just as much delicious angst but fewer horses.)

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

Published by J.L. Gribble

Author, Editor, Worldbuilder

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