Read my reviews of previous books in The Game series:
Top Priority (#1) | Their Boy (#2) | Breathless (#3) | Doll Parts (#4) | Out of the Ashes (#5) | The Shepherd (#6) | Adrift in the Embers (#7) | Hostile Takeover (#8) | Senseless (#9) | The Secret Plan (#10) | Apex Predator (#11) | Prowl (#12)
Do you own a waffle maker? You should probably go make some before you start reading this book. No, I will not be providing further information. I promise you’ll thank me.
We may be a dozen books deep into this series, but if you’re new, this actually might not be a bad place to jump in. (You’ll want to go back and read from the beginning once you’re done, anyway.) The main storyline is relatively separate from what has gone before, and this is the first time Dean, Santiago, or Gael is a point-of-view narrator, even if we do get scenes with them in previous stories. That being said, be prepared to be hit with a ton of secondary characters whose lives already entwine with our main three if you start fresh here. Dee definitely stands by her policy of not over-explaining things her narrator already knows, and it’s also the natural result of telling stories within such a close-knit community of characters. On the other hand, loyal readers will definitely appreciate the low-key overlap of storylines that does occur in this series, especially since this is very much a world where the characters don’t fade into the background once “their” book is finished. We get plenty of delicious glimpses of previous series main characters, whether it’s because they are part of the social network of the main trio of this book or because they are present for an event that is more, ah, intimate.
Mclean House community ties that extend beyond the kink are ultimately what lead to the multiple inciting incidents for this story. The founders take their responsibility to their members seriously, whether it involves safety issues (Reese asking Santiago to use his investigative skills to check on Gael’s stalker ex) or something a little more…personal (Macklin suggesting that Gael take Dean’s course once he discovers their shared interests). Only the dynamic between Santiago and Dean evolves a bit more naturally, with the stars finally aligning for these two men to fully explore what might be between them. Otherwise, Dee comes down from her epic summer of writing romantic suspense to give us one of the most dramatic external plots we’ve had so far in this series. Santiago’s desire to protect Gael and Dean (and with the forces of Mclean House backing him up) brings new meaning to the concept of “safe house” while also giving these characters the space (with only a bit of forced proximity) to develop in their individual and collective relationships.
Alas, there’s only so much space in a novel, especially when it needs to include four romance arcs for a balanced trio rather than one between two people. I especially appreciated that Dee doesn’t skimp on the real interest that exists between Santiago and Dean, separate from their attraction to and appreciation for Gael, even if I’d have loved to see a bit more conflict within the development of that relationship. That doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing from attraction to love, however. One of my favorite things about the Mclean House community is when Tops inflict their caretaking instincts on other Tops, especially when it’s expressed via affectionate brattiness (since the subs at Mclean definitely don’t hold the monopoly on being brats). Santiago going full Daddy on Dean is as sweet as his similar care for Gael, just with an added dose of hilarity. I also loved that it comes from a place of genuine care, as Dee doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the real-life issues that can come from involvement in an age-gap relationship instead of only fetishizing it as part of Daddy kink.
The external plot issue that initially brings all three characters together is solved in a simultaneously dramatic and low-key way. I don’t mean that as a complaint: Dee keeps the story focused solidly on the development of her characters and their relationships without dragging the book fully into romantic suspense territory. Don’t let that ease you into a false sense of complacency, because she’s still not afraid to hit us with a cliffhanger when we least expect it (even if, in retrospect, she’d planted the seeds all along). Daddy Santiago, Professor Dean, and their Peach end this story on a solid note, so definitely still read this book as soon as possible—just know we’ll all be back to howling for the next as soon as possible when you’re finished.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.