The Good Boy (Book 1)
From the back cover description, I expected this to be a short book with a meet-cute, some kinky fun, and maybe a bit of a low-angst dark moment before the happily ever after. Instead, I got a solid romance arc, fascinating and three-dimensional main and side characters, an unspooling storyline that highlights the darkness of Lane’s summer, and kinky yet poignant fun.
Derek and Lane have multiple decidedly un-cute meetings before Derek’s caretaker instincts override the pain Lane’s parents have caused in his life. Derek maintains a careful balance between being open about his life and desires and not pushing beyond Lane’s comfort levels, despite obvious evidence that Lane has been hurt in the past in a way Derek cannot abide. The romance and attraction sneak up on both of them until Lane is firmly entrenched in Derek’s life as if he was made to be there.
The kink and heat levels here are deliciously high but always appropriate to the context. The puppy play mentioned in the blurb is more of a vehicle for Lane to explore his boundaries safely than full-on puppy immersion—sweet, rather than sexy, and definitely shouldn’t turn off readers not comfortable with that aspect of BDSM.
The authors connected Lane and Derek so thoroughly that the dark moment brought me to tears (though to be fair, I cry at everything anyway), but then they balance it out by having Derek save the day while also giving Lane the agency he needs to make his own decisions (and therefore save himself). I will never underestimate the power of a drunk phone call again. This book definitely ends on a solid happily ever after and can be read as a stand-alone story, but I look forward to reading the follow-up novel because I enjoyed the characters so much.
The Boy Who Belonged (Book 2)
Happily ever after doesn’t mean a life without problems, so I’m always drawn to books that pick up after that point but focus on the same characters. The love between Lane and Derek isn’t in question; however, both men have individual problems that the other can’t solve, stemming from the differences inherent to their lives. This book weaves together three plots: Lane’s continuing issues with his parents, Derek’s concern over the current state of his life (and how he fits into Lane’s), and the bumps in the road that can’t be fixed just by loving each other.
There’s no overt puppy play in this book, but the scenes between Derek and Lane are steamy and intense. In excellent romance genre fashion, since this is still a romance novel and not straight-up erotica, each of the scenes is either influenced by or has an impact on the relationship between Derek and Lane.
The secondary characters also continue to shine, especially a certain over-dramatic peacock (and I’m not talking about the parrot). I’m proud of how far Lane has come since the beginning of the first book, and I’m even more convinced now that their happily ever after is for real.