The world-building nerd in me loves when authors write multiple stories in the same universe, even if the characters and events can stand alone. This is my third visit to this low-key shared world, and I thoroughly enjoy the sprawling connections of friendship and family that link the characters. And though the previous books were poly romances, this unexpected love story between Gray and Lake proves Crane is more than able to craft an equally compelling story with only two characters in a relationship and no overt external plot.
Though I’d met each of these heroes in previous books, I did not immediately connect them as a romantic possibility (even without the explicit knowledge of Lake identifying as straight). However, I knew I was in for a ride with Lake by page 2 and that I was in trouble for starting the book 10 minutes before I had to leave for an appointment. Lake drew me in immediately, and he more than worked as a delightful foil to Grady’s sharper edges. Sometimes I find the grumpy/sunshine trope to be contrived, but Crane layers enough other elements into these men’s personalities that here it drew me in.
For the first half of the book, Crane spends as much time developing the solid friendship between Lake and Grady as most authors do with a romance. Following Grady as he melted for Lake was compelling, and this book proves that initial low heat doesn’t mean it can’t also fulfill the requirements of slow burn. I knew that the eventual fall-out would break both my and Grady’s hearts, but Crane takes a last-minute turn that avoids too much drawn-out angst.
I’m a fan of “bi-awaking” books mostly because I like stories about someone finding their person, no matter what form that person takes. However, I’m more than over the “bi-panic” that tends to accompany the trope, so Lake’s evolution as a character was both refreshing and delightful. It’s never directly identified, but I think Lake also makes for an excellent representation of potential demisexuality based on what he shares about past relationship experiences.
While I not-so-patiently wait for more in two series Crane is currently developing, this was a lovely and enjoyable story. Hot and emotional in all the right ways without dipping into overwrought territory. Readers who don’t necessarily enjoy poly romances should check out the love story between Grady and Lake so that they don’t miss out on writing by this wonderful author.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.