Read my reviews of the previous books in The Games series: | Book cover of Out of the Ashes (The Game #5) by Cara Dee

Though my favorite of this series is one of the previous installments, it can simultaneously be true that this series keeps getting better and better with each new story. Every title stands alone and focuses on different characters and their relationships, but as the months pass, the series continues to build upon itself. In particular, the threatened “Brat Boot Camp” from Doll Parts is the Game for this book, of which two of the main characters here are integral participants (though from both sides of the event).

However, before we get to this month’s Game, we meet Tate and Kingsley. This second-chance romance features an emotionally wrenching first act as we experience the aftermath of their breakup. Dee has an amazing ability to spin up our investment in her characters so that their pain is visceral even if we haven’t spent much time with them yet. In a bit of a reverse arc, Dee gets the dark moment between the men out of the way early so that the rest of the story can focus on how they rebuild their relationship. The phoenix imagery is far from subtle at times, but love doesn’t have to be subtle.

However, Kingsley and Tate aren’t the only main characters of this book. This is where I mention up-front that though a major element of their breakup was an accusation of cheating, no actual infidelity occurs in this story (I know that’s a dealbreaker for many readers). Instead, Franklin’s character arc happens to involve Tate and Kingsley in a way that is an integral part of this story. Following along as this character reinvents himself and comes into his own is amazing. Many layers of his life are in flux at once, but I appreciated that his focus was primarily on his daughter and secondly on his newfound freedom to explore his sexuality. I worried that his presence in the story would fizzle out once the focus switched to Tate and Kingsley for the boot camp. Franklin’s surprise appearance at the very end was a perfect and simultaneously lovely and amusing way to leave things on a positive note for all three men.

Franklin does not become an integral part of the relationship between Kingsley and Tate, but his presence in their lives certainly affects it. The focus of the relationship dynamics in play is not that all three men will end the story on a happily ever after that features them in an equal triad. That sort of triad is not what is currently right for all of the characters. Instead, Dee creates an intertwining relationship arc that is unconventional and perfectly lovely.

As I mentioned previously, this book is possible to read in isolation. If you do, you miss the excellent context that makes appearances by secondary characters more interesting than in a purely supportive role. This goes for both previous main characters and the interesting way that Dee teases the next book. In addition, I thoroughly appreciate the way Dee also ties this series into others, with appropriate callouts to the Auctioned series and We Have Till Monday.

I’m pretty particular about which books I buy in hardcopy form after reading the ebooks. Ultimately, I don’t think I can offer any higher praise than that I preorder hardcopies of this series before I’ve read them—with absolutely no regrets so far.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic review copy of this book from the author.

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

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