As teenagers, Castor McCormick and Blake Kowalski drove each other crazy. Both boys spent summers with their grandparents, who were neighbors. It could have turned into friendship, or even attraction, but instead the two young men bickered and drove each other crazy.
It has been years since Cas and Blake have seen each other, but they reconnect when Castor moves into his grandmother’s house across the street from Blake’s mom. After severely breaking his leg, Blake is stuck recuperating at her house since he can’t climb the stairs to his apartment. At first memories of their past cause the men to avoid each other, but a little scheming by their grandmother and mother bring the men together.
As it turns out, the tension is still there between the men, but this time it is definitely of the positive variety. The men have a spark that leads to friendship and then dating. Cas even hires Blake’s company to do some renovation on his house. Things are going really well for the guys and they find themselves falling for each other in ways that they never expected. Even as Blake and Cas start to believe this relationship could turn into something real and lasting, Cas’ job and Blake’s jealousy could end up causing a rift between them.
This is a fun, sexy story with a bit of an enemies to lovers vibe. Both men have bad memories of each other from their teen years, but we can kind of see how if they had just given each other a chance back then, they could have been hooking up instead of hating on each other. So when they meet as more mature adults, all that tension gives way to some crazy heat and attraction between them. The relationship kind of surprises both of them, partly because of their past dislike for one another, but also because neither man has ever really been relationship material before. But Blake and Cas fall hard for one another right away. The story is full of heat and sexy times, but it is also clear that they are building a real relationship with one another.
The story line here is fairly simple with Cas’ job causing the major conflict. He used to travel a lot for work, but had planned to settle down in his new house and work locally. But when things don’t go as planned, the men have to be separated for long periods, something that really strains their fledgling relationship. I think this part works well and Vaughn gives us nice detail on Cas’ work life and the toll it takes on him. We also get sort of a late conflict dealing with Blake’s jealousy that didn’t work as well for me. It seems to blow up way bigger than warranted on both sides and ends up feeling a bit manufactured given what seems like a relatively simple issue to resolve.
I am a big fan of enemies to lovers and I do wish Vaughn had let this play out a bit more. Much is made in the story of how much these guys hated each other as kids. Their friends and families all know about it, and it is referenced many times throughout the story. But when they meet again, there is really no tension or fallout from their pasts. They reconnect, like each other from the start, begin dating, fall in love, etc. I wished we could have seen this theme play out more significantly for all that it is brought up in the story, but really the transition from hatred to friends/lovers happens immediately and easily.
This story is the second in the Hard Hats series, and follows Wood, Screws, & Nails (which Vaughn co-wrote with Kade Boehme). The first book is very mildly linked in that Blake is Aaron’s friend who broke his leg, thus leading to Julian’s friend (and Aaron’s ultimate love interest) Mal coming along instead to help them renovate a house. Although we get a brief cameo from Aaron and Mal, this book stands essentially on its own and there is no reason you need to have read that first story to pick this one up.
I found this a fun and sexy story. I would have liked a bit more tension for the old enemies, and I didn’t love how the jealousy element played out. But Blake and Cas are super hot together and I really enjoyed how their relationship developed. It was nice to see these men who had never really experienced love or a relationship before find it with one another. So definitely an enjoyable story.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.