Rating: 4.75 stars
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Length: Novel

Afflicted II continues the story of Hunter and Dillon from their first book, Afflicted.  The men have decided to open themselves up to a real relationship with each other, and to try to move past the fears that have prevented both men from really trusting in someone.  Dillon has given up his job as a high priced escort, and Hunter is determined to stop closing himself off in the need to prove his own independence and abilities.  But even once they have committed to each other, both men have a lot of baggage and issues to work through.

Ten years after being tossed out into the streets by his homophobic family, Dillon is still in a lot of pain from their betrayal.  Finding out that his cousin is the young man dating Hunter’s mom brings back up a lot of his anxiety and anger.  Although he and Travis were close as teens, the fact that his cousin has never tried to reconnect with Dillon is still a source of pain.  And when Travis tells Dillon about what has been happening with his family, and how they feel now, it just rips those wounds right open.  All Hunter wants to do is protect Dillon, and he is torn about when to step in and when to back off and let Dillon work through the issues on his own.

At the same time, Hunter has his own family problems.  After years of constantly struggling against his mother’s caretaking, they are finally reaching a place where they are both beginning to see each other as adults.  At first Hunter has a hard time with the idea that his mom is dating a man thirty years her junior, but over time realizes how much she put her life on hold for him and how she now deserves her own happiness.  In addition to his fears about how to best help Dillon, Hunter also struggles with really trusting and opening himself up to love and a deeper commitment.  Dillon is ready to move things forward but Hunter is still so scared – worried he is not enough for Dillon, worried that things won’t work out.  After spending so many years closing himself off emotionally from other people, Hunter struggles to feel confident in their relationship, despite how much he cares for Dillon.

So the two men must each work to face their fears and move past them.  Only by doing that can they really reconcile themselves to what happened in the past, and open themselves up to the future together.

Afflicted II is a wonderful resolution to Dillon and Hunter’s story.  As the title indicates, this is really the second half of their story, and it follows their relationship as it continues to grow and move forward.  The story assumes a familiarity and understanding of the events of the first book, so they definitely need to be read in order.  I loved the way this story takes their relationship further and we watch them grow and fall in love.  Here we move away from “will they make it” to watching them work through their issues both personally, and then increasingly together.  Most of the focus is on Dillon and his family as that issue is so enormous and painful.  The sudden shock of realizing his cousin is back in his life, as well as facing the news of what has been happening with his family over the past year, is incredibly painful and overwhelming. Dillon’s anger is understandable, but he also knows that he needs to move past it if he is ever going to be able to settle into a life with Hunter.

I continue to love these guys together.  There is such a raw, gritty sexuality between them and I love the unexpected hard edges, especially with Hunter.  He doesn’t use his blindness as an excuse for anything.  He is strong and independent and refuses to let anyone pity him.  Hunter has built up such a wall around himself to prove he needs no one. Yet with Dillon he slowly lets down those barriers, opening himself up to Dillon’s love and care. But Hunter is still tough and refuses to be treated as something fragile. And when these guys get together it is dirty and raw and so incredibly hot.

One thing I love about these books is that Hunter is not just written as sighted person without sight.  Hunter uses his other senses in everything that he does and it is totally integrated into the way he acts and absorbs the world around him.   He truly perceives the world differently that those who can see, and Shire captures this so beautifully. We see the way Hunter uses touch to find his way around, how Dillon’s smell impacts him so deeply, and how he uses the rhythm of everyday sounds.  It is wonderfully done and the writing is rich and evocative.

If I had a tiny criticism it would be that I think at times the story relies too much on the reader’s memory of the first book.  They really need to be read as a set, almost back to back, to truly get all the details in the second story.  For readers like me who read them as they were released, I think the three months in between made it difficult to remember everything and there isn’t a lot that is re-explained.  For me, there were a few characters I didn’t fully remember and a little backstory that was foggy.  If I was doing it again, I would reread the first book again before picking this up.  And for new readers, you will definitely want to read both books in order to fully appreciate Dillon and Hunter’s story.

So this was a wonderful book and a fabulous journey for these two men. I loved following along, watching them both grow over the course of the two books.  First we get their relationship development as each man works to open himself up to really being with someone else.  And then we see their connection deepen, as their relationship grows and they turn to each other to get through the difficult times.  I loved Dillon and Hunter and they complement each other so beautifully. It is a raw and gritty, but also romantic and loving.  Fabulous book and fabulous series.  Definitely highly recommended.

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