stripped bareRating: 3.75 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novel

Shane Templar works as both an escort and computer security consultant.  When one of his regular clients, David Debussy, gets a threatening phone call from his father and subsequently lands in the hospital, Shane rushes to his side.  At the hospital Shane meets Matthew Langer, David’s best friend and lawyer to the Debussy family. It doesn’t take Shane or Matthew long to realize it was David’s homophobic and domineering father that put him in the hospital and Matthew quits rather than work for the man any longer.

Shane and Matthew definitely make a connection, but Matthew lost his husband to a car accident two years before and doesn’t feel emotionally ready for a new relationship. But the attraction between the two men is fierce and they start a sexual relationship intended to have no strings attached. But as the men grow closer, Matthew is still holding back, unable to fully commit to Shane after suffering such a significant loss.  The men continue to struggle with their both their differences in personality, as well as their different goals for their relationship.

At the same time, the men are caught up in David’s situation with his father, including connections to Matthew that he never expected.  And Shane too gets involved in trying to get some payback for Walter Debussy’s terrible behavior and that of his henchman Roy.  As Shane and Matthew get tangled up in Walter’s secrets and his desire for retribution for their involvement, their lives might end up at risk as well.

This story follows two basic threads that weave together throughout the book. The first is the development of the relationship between Shane and Matthew, and the second is the sort of suspense plot involving Walter Debussy.  The relationship aspect takes us through somewhat familiar territory with Matthew as the more uptight, controlled man who has suffered a great loss and is now protecting his heart, and Shane as the wilder, more rebellious partner.  The two have a bit of an opposites attract element that I always enjoy and they grow nicely together throughout the book. I appreciated that the story avoids the expected in that Matthew is the one more hesitant about a relationship while Shane who is a bit more renegade is actually looking to settle down and really make something work with Matthew.

I will say I found myself frustrated with both these guys at times.  This is a long story and the two men seem to break into fairly regular arguments throughout the book, which are never really resolved so much as smoothed over by a lot of sex.  I will tell you, I did something I NEVER do here and actually found myself skipping over some of the numerous sex scenes because they just didn’t add much to the story and seemed to be a substitute for any real resolution of the issues between these two guys.  Matthew is a little straight-laced and at times would be very judgmental of  Shane (sometimes deservedly so). But then he would be somehow shocked that Shane was annoyed or offended by Matthew’s attitude. What bothered me more (and honestly this is a romance novel staple, not just something this book does) is his attitude about having a commitment to Shane.  I get a little crazy with guys who are like, we are seeing each other exclusively, have sex all the time, spend every free moment together, and practically live in each other’s homes.  But I told you, we are not in a relationship.  I totally get Matthew’s pain and that it hadn’t been so long since his husband’s death.  But I found myself annoyed at him all but living with Shane and at the same time saying there was nothing serious between them and unwilling to commit himself fully for so long.

Shane is an interesting character, a bit rougher and wilder, living on the edge of the law.  While he works as a security consultant, his skills lie in hacking and he manages to get involved in stirring up some trouble. Shane also works part time as an escort, something that felt like an add on for titilation here more than anything. The story opens with Shane drugged and tied to a bed and I thought this would be the start of some sexy or thrilling hijinks, but this scene ends up totally irrelevant and never leads anywhere.  Shane’s explanation for why he is an escort (basically easy sex) makes little sense given how good looking he is supposed to be, and after that initial scene, he gives it up to be with Matthew. So again, this seemed more like a source of a cheap thrill than a real plot point.  What frustrated me about Shane is not him skirting (or breaking) the law with his hacking. In real life, no way, but in a novel character I am fine with a little lawlessness. But he seems unable to learn from his mistakes, constantly stirring up trouble for his friends, as well as invading Matthew’s privacy.  Even when Matthew makes it clear how much he holds his privacy dear, Shane goes ahead and does it again, only concerned with his own curiosity.  He knows he is violating a trust, and just doesn’t seem to care enough to stop.  And Matthew’s justifiable anger just gets swept away in sex and emotions and again, never really resolved.  So I guess I never really felt fully in sync with either of these guys. They are both interesting characters and well developed and layered. But I found myself frustrated with both of them at times and annoyed that nothing ever gets resolved by any means other than orgasm.

The other aspect of the story is the suspense element dealing with Walter Debussy.  Shane and Matthew initially meet as Walter harms David and the two get involved with both helping David and also dealing the connections between Walter and Matthew’s past.  This plot thread sort of winds in and out of the romance part of the story, but never really gathers the strength I think it could have.  I kept waiting for the hacking, and the secrets, and the threats from Walter all to come together into a powerful thriller aspect.  And while we do get some small peaks here and there, the big payoff never really materializes.

This is a very long story and I think maybe it just needed some tightening to pull together the key aspects and give it some more intensity. As it was there were some interesting spots and some nice elements, but nothing that ever fully grabbed me, either with the romance or the suspense parts of the story. I also have to add I found several places with editing problems that distracted from my enjoyment and were quite frustrating.  I found it a good story, but I found myself just wanting more to keep my excitement throughout the book.


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