I would rate this book 3.25 stars.
This is the first book in a trilogy and as such is the introduction to the romance of Sam and Thomas. It’s not a cliffhanger, so the reader can just read this and be content, or read the second book coming out soon for a continuation of their relationship. When Sam’s brother James gets murdered in New York, the family sends Sam to take care of his apartment and send back his things. Both his mother and older brother Bowie put a lot of unreasonable pressure on Sam to also find James’s killer. This is supposed to be a suspense element, but it’s not the focus and stays on the back burner. When Sam meets his brother’s lover, Thomas, neither of them are expecting to need each other. Thomas is missing James and feeling the pull to help Sam, but he’s smart enough to worry the grief could lead to something unhealthy.
Sam is floundering and needs direction; he’s also too busy trying to please everyone else, he can’t seem to get his own life together. They were getting to know each other, and then suddenly Thomas is using what he’s learned about human psychology as a dom, to help Sam. I felt the transition could have been smoother, especially the part about Thomas finding out Sam is also gay. The way Sam learns about his brother James being a sub was an easy way for Sam to understand who Thomas is, who James was. The book seemed to flounder with introducing some of James’s friends, coworkers, and neighbors. No one is fleshed out, and I assume these are meant to give the reader suspects to James’s murderer? There were more jarring moments like his job interview when all of the sudden Angel, someone he met at the BDSM club, is also at the biker bar and helps him home. This seems like too huge coincidence. The main point here seems to be BDSM is healthier than bar fights. This all happens a bit too fast for me, there is still an element of Thomas taking advantage of Sam, his naivete, or even them using each other to escape processing their shared grief.
James and Sam are somewhat alike, they were brothers, but they are also different enough and those differences are never forgotten. The writing here is deftly handled so James doesn’t feel forgotten, but they are not constantly compared–rather Thomas struggles to learn how to be what Sam needs. For the subject matter, there is surprisingly low angst and guilt which seems at odds with the way the book was set up. Sam has always felt he was was supposed to stay in Emory, help with the ranch, have babies, and die there. Yet he suddenly throws off the expectations of his family quite easily and dives into a relationship with his brother’s lover. It’s good that Tommy is not an all seeing, all knowing dom. I like that he makes mistakes and recognizes them. I like that he realizes that where James fit into what he wanted, his style, Sam is much for challenging, taking him out of his comfort zone. They build their relationship and trust scene by scene, yet this is a bit messy–not just the emotions of the characters, but the writing. The sex scenes are always hot, it’s moving the characters around to get them there that seems to not flow well.
I like both these characters, so I’m a bit frustrated that the whole book isn’t as smooth as the parts are or I would have rated it much higher. With more time and effort, this could have had so much more depth, but maybe that’s just what I wanted and not where the authors wanted to take it. I’d like to see more of Sam and James, but this was all too easy, so I’d like to see more about the conflict with Sam’s family. Also, there is nothing about Thomas’s family at all. There is a little intrigue about James having different characters or roles he fulfilled for different people; I definitely would like to see more about that. For right now, James doesn’t seem like a real person, so I don’t care who killed him. I hope the second book takes more time to draw the audience into that part of the plot.
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