This is my first book by this author, but I can already tell you that it won't be my last. The writing style is truly engaging, and I was enthralled from start to finish by this book.
When we first meet Edgar-Allen Church, who simply goes by his last name, he's about to be released from the correctional facility where he's spent the last five years after a conviction for assault. He needs a place to stay, so he calls on his old friend Miller Quinn in hopes of crashing on his couch.
There's some history here I won't go into too much (plus some hero worship on Church's side), between Church and Miller, and while some of it is good, some of it definitely isn't. Church is gay, and he's not hiding it, but Miller's conservative upbringing hinders him from allowing himself to be who he truly is.
This has caused their previous friendship to falter, but Church is still in love with Miller, though willing to keep that to himself, since his previous advance in that direction wasn't welcome. Miller likes Church, and he is secretly attracted to the younger man, but he can't possibly be gay because reasons.
As the story unfolds, we get some background info on Church, and his friends Ghost and Tobias. This is not presented as an info dump, but cleverly woven into the story as flashbacks of sorts, and really paints a complete picture of Church's rough upbringing, and shows clearly how difficult his life has been so far. How lost he is, and how Miller is really a beacon for him. If only...
But the romance, slow burning from the start, that eventually unfolds between these two, as Miller starts to shed the shackles that keep him from admitting his attraction and claiming who he really is, is not the main focus of this book. There's action too, and a Russian Cartel, harassment against Church that nearly derails his journey to real adulthood, and some suspense as well, what with Ghost (who needs his own book) trying his best to... well, you should read this for yourself.
The two main characters really grow throughout the book, with Church getting his anger under control and growing up into the man he was supposed to be, and Miller freeing himself from the voice inside that belongs to his late and very homophobic father and allowing himself to return Church's affection. Their chemistry was hot, and while there are some more explicit scenes, they were tasteful and clearly showed their emotional connection. These two men just fit together, and I fully believed that they truly loved each other.
I also appreciated the author for including a strong female character in Miller's sister, and his niece was also well portrayed. While they are supporting characters, they both played a role that helped Miller and Church move forward.
Ghost was a really interesting character too, and while we don't find out much about him, or what he really does, there is sufficient information to understand that he too cares for Church, and will do what he has to so his friend has a chance to make it. Tobias too was a good friend to Church - he has a slightly different background but was there when needed, even if it might be detrimental to himself.
The plotline with the Russian Cartel was intriguing, and while I have no direct experience with that sort of thing, it did feel realistic here. I'm pretty sure this sort of thing does happen in similar ways as depicted here, and I appreciated that the author seems to have done good research into this topic.
At its core, this book is about second chances and finding redemption. These themes apply not only to Church and Miller, but also to Ghost, who's probably the most mysterious of all the characters in the book. Church and Miller are given a second chance, not only as far as their relationship is concerned, but also as far as living an authentic life, especially Miller, and finding peace with who they are, with each other, and with the lot they've been given in this life.
A highly engaging read, and highly recommended. I need more from this author. Could Ghost's story be next, please?
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **