Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Entomology grad student Adam Ellery is doing his laundry one night in the Tucker Springs laundromat when he gets harassed by some drunk frat boys. Adam is about one step from having a panic attack when in walks a hulking cowboy exploding with muscles who chases off his tormenters. Although Adam suffers from extreme OCD, anxiety disorder, and panic attacks, something about this stranger just soothes him and makes Adam feel safe. Somehow he is able to let go enough to life out his fantasy of hot, kinky sex with this guy over the laundry room table.
Adam fears this will be the last he sees of the cowboy, but surprisingly Denver gives him his number, and even more surprisingly, Adam works up the nerve to use it. The guys begin to slowly get to know each other, first through their searing hot sexual encounters, but also by spending time together. But things are not easy. Adam’s mental health issues make dating a challenge. He is nervous and anxious and doubts himself constantly, with fears always threatening to overwhelm him. Adam’s OCD complicates things that are easy for everyone else, the biggest hurdle being that he is incredibly uncomfortable with people at his house or going to anyone else’s — leading to lots of sex in random outdoor places, but definitely making a normal relationship tricky. Adam is sure that any minute Denver will realize that Adam is just not worth the effort, that he will break things off when he knows the true extent of Adam’s issues. So he does his best to hide his most severe symptoms, sure that Denver won’t want him if he knows how bad things are.
For his part, Denver struggles with feeling good enough for his brainy grad student. School has always been a challenge for him and he was told many times growing up that he was just not good enough. Denver has a great job opportunity but worries he can’t handle the classwork required. As a big hulking guy, Denver fears people see him as all brawn and no brains (and he pretty much sees himself that way too). He wonders what Adam even sees in him and is sure that at some point Adam will want to end things and find someone better.
But despite both of their fears, these guys are so good together. Adam just adores Denver, who somehow makes Adam feel safe in a way no one else can. Part of it is physical; Denver is a huge guy and he makes Adam feel protected. But Denver also takes the time and energy to deal with Adam’s issues in a way no one else ever has. He works to give Adam constant support and to help him feel like his mental health problems don’t make him a bad person or a bad boyfriend. And somehow when Denver is in control, Adam’s frantic brain will quiet down and defer to Denver, giving him both a sense of internal calm, as well as super hot sex. (I did appreciate though that even with Denver’s support, it isn’t a magic cure, and Adam still continues to go to therapy.) On the other end, Adam believes in Denver, gives him confidence and helps him believe he is not hopeless and stupid. These guys both have incredible emotional baggage and they somehow are a perfect fit, both in accepting the other’s issues and in helping to build the other’s confidence.
With so much going on with Denver and Adam, most of the story is pretty internally focused on the two of them. We do get to know Adam’s ex-boyfriend Brad, and see how Brad’s smothering overprotectiveness really hurt Adam, and continues to affect him as he navigates his relationship with Denver. We also get to meet Adam’s new friend Louisa who helps advise Adam and give him an outside perspective on his problems. I really liked Louisa and how she was an unfailing supporter of Adam’s, as well as a wealth of knowledge with which to advise him. Maybe a little too pat in terms of being sort of a perfect person to meet at the perfect time, but I did enjoy her a lot.
This story is the third in the Tucker Springs series and is once again set in the small Colorado town. Denver is friends with El and Jason, heroes in the previous two books, and they make some on page appearances here. But this book stands alone perfectly well and you won’t have any problem following along even if you haven’t read the other two. I’ll also point out that Dirty Laundry is an expansion of a short free story Cullinan wrote a while back with the same name. The main elements of the short form the opening scene of this book so no need to read that one first. But if you are looking for the novel, be sure you are getting the one with the cover above from Riptide as sometimes the short story comes up first on searches.
So I thought this was a really great addition to the series. If you are familiar with Cullinan’s writing, you know she can put together some incredibly heated sex scenes and this book is full of them. It is dirty and sexy and lots of fun. And I loved the contrast with Adam, who on one hand is so controlled and fastidious, but on the other can just totally let go and open himself up in wonderful ways when he is with Denver. I loved the way these two people who each had a lot of emotional pain and assorted baggage were able to find each other, and make a relationship work. They end up being just a perfect fit together and I really liked them both. So great story, definitely recommended.
P.S. Heidi will be here tomorrow to talk more about the book as part of her Dirty Laundry blog tour