Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this ebook, though I had fully intended to buy myself a copy if I had not had this opportunity for an early review.

Based on the initial interactions between Remington and Sebastian toward the end of the previous book, I expected this story to be much more of an “enemies to lovers” relationship arc. Instead, I got a healthy dose of reluctant intrigue that morphs into a solid bit of “idiots in love,” all written in a narrative style distinct to this author. Hawthorne elevates two characters stumbling around the unfamiliar to a beautiful dance between two men who inspire each other to go for what they truly want.

This is a medium-heat book with relatively light kink, as both characters discover certain truths about themselves throughout the pages. However, the power exchange dynamic that does evolve between the men exists as both a precursor to the steamier bits of the story and as a solid foundation for the character development that occurs on both sides. Most romances that involve power exchange tend to feature either two experience characters or one initiating a novice into the lifestyle. I thoroughly appreciated this glimpse into a relationship where the characters will have to grow into their roles together, especially when it means that all sorts of things will end up being shared firsts.

This book definitely works best when read after A Real Good Lie for the full backstory between secondary characters Callahan and Jace (and Callahan and Rhys); however, what transpires between Sebastian and Remington is completely stand-alone. The actual conflict in this book is mostly internal, but I find myself curious whether Hawthorne intends a third book in this world. A recurring secondary character might be on the path to redemption, and I’d happily go along for the ride, especially if it means more time spent with the two wonderful couples we’ve met so far.

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

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