I would rate this 3.5 stars.
As the third book in the series, while you could skip the first one, I feel like you would need to read book two before this one. They function like a duology, being concurrent in the time line, layering in information that wasn’t focused on during Padraig’s and Emil’s POV. This book focuses on what happens from Mark’s and Francis’s POV. As a nurse, Francis is a caring person and aches that Mark that has no support system, but he has to go back to New Jersey to deal with the fallout from his job and make decisions about his own future. He’s certainly not going to out Mark. Seeing Francis’s remembrances of Marcus helps give some of the depth I wanted in the second book.
This shows Mark’s job with welfare checks, keeping an eye on the campgrounds, domestic violence, and helping at a fire for crowd control. Mark didn’t want to study criminal justice, but it was one of the only subjects his parents would pay for, so I am left wondering if he ever wanted to be a cop or even likes his job. Getting Mark’s POV was as awful as I thought it would be with his internalized homophobia. With Francis in the picture, he finally has a reason to try and work out his issues and starts talking informally to Evy, the town shrink. Of course the moment he starts doing the work to shake off his parent’s influence, the more support he has if he can allow himself to ask for it. It’s difficult to take a previously unliked character and make him sympathetic.
Francis has been in Acker before prior to Marcus’s death, so he knows the townspeople. While that’s convenient, by book three I should know and be more emotionally engaged with all the side characters than I was. Instead of building on that, eight new people get added to the mix, two of whom even knew Marcus and Padraig in N.J., but are still not as fleshed out as they could be. Charles and Henrietta are an older couple with health issues that live outside of town and need live-in help, creating a perfect job for Francis when he moves to the area. Thankfully, they are a welcome addition, adding some heartwarming moments.
Francis reads Mark in a way no one else has and takes charge. The loves scenes here are steamy, more frequent and more explicit than the previous books. With all of Mark’s issues, this level of trust and sexual openness is not realistic so soon. I’m of several minds about the light D/s explored here…it works in book three, but there wasn’t enough forshadowing so it looks like it wasn’t plotted out beforehand. This plotline allows Mark to not have to be in charge of his pleasure, which could be a copout for someone with toxic masculinity. I have to say if Francis didn’t make him give verbal consent the whole way, it wouldn’t have worked for me at all. When Mark inadvertently triggers Francis, we don’t get to see Francis work it out from his POV. I think this was to keep things low angst for the reader; it wasn’t good enough for me. Knowing what happened and seeing a character’s psychology are two different things. However, I was happy with the resolution of Mark’s relationship with his parents. This is a happily ever after for all the friends and while I should have “all the feels,” the same distance that keeps out the lows (angst), also keeps out the highs (joy).
Buy From Amazon
**This book was previously released by Dreamspinner Press and has been republished by the author. It is currently exclusive to Amazon.