Jason Spade and Quent Jackson started off as college roommates, moved on to being work partners, and have been best friends for the last eight years. When we first meet them in Gambling Men, Jace has finally seen his opening with Quent, sensing the man may actually return his interest, and makes his move.
It turns out that Quent does in fact have feelings for his best friend. Although he has previously only been interested in women, for years Jace has been the one man he can imagine being with. When Jace makes it clear that he is interested, Quent is thrilled to begin a romantic relationship to go along with their close friendship and business partnership.
The guys have been so close for so long, that their romance blossoms quickly and fairly easily. They know how to read one another, know what the other needs, and are not afraid to open themselves up emotionally. Even Jace who struggles with showing any weakness or need is willing to put himself out there for Quent, whom he loves deeply and with his whole self.
The men have a regular poker game with some friends, and the spirit of the game is evident throughout the book. Jace, who was raised by his uncle and his uncle’s partner, was taught poker early on and is a firm believer that poker models life. He is competitive, bold, and always wants to win. Despite that, he is a likable guy, if a bit prickly at times. And those things that make him great at poker also make him great at business. He is the leader of the company, their partnership, and their relationship. Ever since college, Jace led and Quent followed.
There is no bitterness or conflict here though; Quent happily accepts their roles and loves Jace’s competitiveness and confidence. Jace is one of those guys who is prickly and strong on the outside, but soft and gooey when Quent is around. And although Quent is the follower, he is not a pushover. He is willing to stand up for what he wants, and doesn’t let anyone walk all over him, including Jace. But he is also a sweetheart, the one the office staff go to with problems, the one who knows the names of the old ladies in the building. Quent is the balance for Jace and the two of them fit perfectly together.
Gambling Men is an interesting book because it is so tightly focused on the relationship between the two men. It is virtually completely character driven, delving into the heart of things between Jace and Quent. I never found it boring, but there is not really a strong plot, just a detailed look into Jace and Quent and how they are making things work together.
Although there is no strong conflict, that is not to say the men don’t have their issues. Jace struggles with letting go a bit. After losing his parents at a young age, and his uncle and his partner a few years ago, he worries about losing Quent as well, and needs frequent reassurance. When Quent gets hurt, Jace panics, unable to bear the idea of something happening to another person he loves. The guys also sometimes relate a bit too much through the lens of the poker, challenging each other and framing things in terms of the game. At the times they need to remember to talk directly to each other when they have issues, not always through the framework of the game. But in general, the book really focuses on the details of their relationship, the growth each man makes emotionally, and the love between them. Overall pretty low on the Amy Lane angst meter!
I will say that as interesting as I found the poker theme and as well as I think Lane weaves it into the story, there were times when it got a bit much for me. Not so much thematically, but the frequent use of poker metaphors between the men. They seem to be constantly “putting the cards on the table,” “going all in,” “raising the stakes,” etc. Even for poker fanatics, it is hard to imagine people talking that way quite so much.
I found this story to be a lovely, quiet romance. We really get to see the intimate details of the love growing between Jace and Quent. Without lots of conflict and plot twists, our focus is purely on the men themselves and their relationship. I loved to see their personal growth (especially Jace) and their growth as a couple together. They are super hot together (super hot!), which makes the book both sweet and really sexy. I enjoyed it quite a bit and definitely recommend it.