Rating: 4.5 stars
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Owen Meade lives a fairly reclusive life. He works from home, has his groceries delivered, and barely interacts with the outside world. Owen is socially anxious and worries about people’s reactions to his stutter and to his congenitally amputated left arm. When sexy veterinarian Nick Reynolds moves in downstairs, Owen is surprised to find how comfortable he is with Nick. Nick accepts his missing hand casually, and his warm and friendly demeanor make Owen confident in ways he hasn’t been in years. Nick also introduces Owen to his sister June, who is also missing an arm. June lives life totally differently than Owen, filled with a confidence and a determination that she can do anything. And slowly Owen begins to come out of his shell, socializing and making friends.
He begins to fall for Nick as well, and it seems that Nick shares his feelings. But each time things begin to get intimate, Nick pulls back. The old Owen would have given up, sure to blame himself for whatever is going on. But he has gained confidence and enough inner strength to talk to Nick about what is really happening and soon finds out Nick is hiding a big secret. One that at first sends Owen running, but he soon realizes that his feelings for Nick haven’t changed. And now if he wants happiness with the man he has grown to love, he must fight to show him that they truly deserve to be together.
Never a Hero is the fifth installment of the wonderful Tucker Spring series, a series co-written by Sexton, L.A. Witt, and Heidi Cullinan. Each book takes place in the same small Colorado town, but although the characters often reappear in each other’s books, they all work well as standalones as well. Here we revisit with Nick, whom we met briefly in Second Hand as Paul’s boss, though this is the first time we really get to know him. Nick is such a good and solid guy. He is open and direct and accepts Owen without a second thought. Nick clearly cares about people and he is angered by those that cause Owen pain, and is fiercely loving and loyal. At the same time, he is burdened by a mistake from his past, one that makes him doubt his own right to happiness. He is such an interesting character, because while he will do anything for others, he doesn’t think he deserves the same love and happiness as everyone else.
Owen is even more complex. He grew up with a mother who constantly belittled him and was always disapproving. Whether it was his missing arm, his stutter, or his sexuality, she never missed an opportunity to make him feel not good enough. Truly the woman is horrific, and even though things have gotten better for Owen since he moved away from home, he still bears the emotional scars from her abuse. Nick’s ready acceptance and affection, as well as the new friendship with June and some of Nick’s other friends, slowly help Owen to grow more comfortable and have more confidence. It was so nice to watch him grow and change over the course of the book from someone who felt like he would never have much, to someone who felt strong enough to fight for his own happiness.
One of the things I really liked about this story is the way the dynamic changes over time between the men. At first it is Owen who needs support, who is filled with doubts about himself and needs Nick to be there to bolster him and give him confidence. Nick helps Owen change his life by taking those steps to get out of his house, to feel more comfortable with others, and to stop worrying so much about what others may think. But over the course of the story, that dynamic changes. Nick is the one who is pulling away, who thinks he needs to sacrifice himself, and that he doesn’t deserve happiness. And Owen is able to be there for him, to reach out and show Nick that he doesn’t have to spend the rest of his life paying for a mistake, that he is entitled to happiness of his own. And that Owen has enough strength to support Nick when he needs it.
There is such a lovely warmth to this story, I really loved it. There were times when I got frustrated with Nick’s secrecy. I mean, I get it, but I also couldn’t help but wonder how this was a secret he intended to keep forever and how telling Owen wouldn’t have been the better option. But I also understand his reasons and think Sexton pulls it all together really well. So another great installment of this really wonderful series. I liked it a lot and definitely recommend it, as well as the series as a whole.