Rating: 4.5 stars
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FBI agent Gabriel Genêt has returned to Hooperstown, North Carolina, a town where he spent a summer during his teen years. Back then he spent his time fooling around with (and slightly tormenting) Andrew Wynne while their parents had an affair. Now ten years later, Gabriel has returned on a case, investigating Andrew and his role as a vigilante crime fighter. Like Gabriel, Andrew is one of the “awakened,” someone with special powers (in Andrew’s case, he can manipulate cold and ice; in Gabriel’s, electricity). But unlike Gabriel, who is determined to do things through proper legal channels, Andrew’s do-it-yourself brand of crime fighting is running him afoul of the law.
The FBI suspects Andrew is up to something. Reports of crime rates dropping, suspects found in strange situations, and other clues let the FBI know something is going on. So Gabriel is sent to reconnect with Andrew in hopes that their past will make it easier to catch him and bring down Andrew and his group of vigilantes. And of course, Gabriel is not sharing any of that information with Andrew. But Gabriel is unprepared for how hard it will be to keep his emotions in check as he and Andrew rekindle their relationship. Gabriel firmly believes that people have no place operating outside the law and is committed to bringing Andrew down. At the same time, Andrew is sneaking into his heart and causing his resolve to waver the tiniest bit. For his part, Andrew totally believes in his cause. He has the power to directly help people one-on-one, to truly make a difference in people’s lives and he is determined to continue. Though their feelings are getting stronger, both men are committed to their beliefs and firmly feel they are in the right. With such a strong conflict, it may not be possible for the men to both have their own way and to also have each other.
So Losing Better is the latest in Hawthorne’s Superpowered Love series. Now if you all have listened to me, you are already familiar with this series having read Riot Boy, about which I rave non-stop due to my obsessive love for Brady. But just in case you haven’t yet checked them out, all the books feature one or more characters who are awakened to their superpowers. There are few different flavors, generally involving manipulating energy in the form of heat, cold, or electricity. The books are all set in the same world, but the characters and story lines do not overlap (at least not so far), which means you can read them all as standalones or in any order.
In previous stories, the MCs are normal guys doing normal things, who just happen to have some special powers to spice things up. Here for the first time we have two guys who are actively using their powers to fight crime. The problem is that they have totally opposite beliefs about how to get this done, which makes for a really interesting conflict. Gabriel firmly believes that the only route to fighting crime is through proper channels. If people take the justice system into their own hands, the potential for abuse and harm is just too great. And so he is determined to stop Andrew and the rest of his group. Andrew, on the other hand, believes that people can make a difference on an individual level. He returned to a Hooperstown that faced a total mess of crime and has managed to clean things up, making it a wonderful place to live. He knows he can help people and believes he can do it as well, if not better, than the official law enforcement. I love this conflict that Hawthorne sets up here. These guys truly have a fundamental difference in belief that leaves them at this terrible crossroads. Both hope the other will see the light and change his way of thinking, but both also firmly are committed to their own viewpoint. They can’t both win here unless they are willing to compromise and open their minds up to a slightly different way of thinking. I loved that we get a nice resolution here, but not a magic ending where things fall perfectly into place. It will take time and work and a little faith from both these guys to handle the resolution to their conflict.
So the other interesting aspect of the story to me is that Gabriel here is a bit of a hard man to love. I mean really, he is sort of an ass, at least part of the time. Which makes for a unique perspective as he is our POV character. Basically Andrew is this big, shaggy, lovable puppy of a man (who also happens to be scorching hot). So we love him right away (especially because he doesn’t wear underwear with his soccer shorts). So when Gabriel comes in with the intent to deceive Andrew, to play on their past in order to trap him and ultimately arrest him, it definitely makes him a little unlikable. Not to mention he is sort of arrogant and pompous and sure he is always right. What saves Gabriel for me are a few things though. First, he is totally and completely a believer in his cause. Yes, he is intense and hard core, but he truly believes that he is right and stands by those beliefs. Second, we quickly see the cracks in the armor. Keeping his distance emotionally from Andrew is hard for him, almost from the start. We see him rationalize and justify his behavior towards Andrew, but deep down we know it is because he has feelings for him. And finally, there is just enough snarky playfulness to make Gabriel endearing to me. But just know a lot of the time he is still sort of an ass.
My only real complaint here is that the story started a little slow for me. As we are only in Gabriel’s POV and he is keeping a lot of secrets from Andrew, there is a lot of time spent as he conducts his investigation where we don’t really know what Andrew is thinking or feeling. The early story felt a little one sided to me and it was hard to see the emotional connection beyond the (scorching) sex. Things picked up more for me mid-way through and by the end I was frantically flipping pages and the book ended on a really high note for me. So nothing major, but I did wish for a little more balance at the beginning.
Oh, and as an FYI, this story is not a menage, but there is some threeway action with Andrew’s adorably twinky friend Kieran. He is never a love interest of either man, more a bit of fun for all them, but just know in case that isn’t your thing. I personally ADORED Kieran (he practically ejaculates glitter, according to Gabriel) and am so excited to hear he is getting his own book.
So overall I really loved this one and thought it was a great addition to the series. Really interesting conflict and super sexy loving. Lots of fun and definitely recommended.
P.S. Once again Hawthorne includes a playlist of songs in the back of the book that fit with the story. We get lots of great 80s music and other fun stuff.
Cover Review: Another lovely cover by the fabulous P.L. Nunn