Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
Kade Doherty has well-meaning friends. When his boyfriend of eight years walks out, Kade’s friends give him a bucket list of things to accomplish so that he can start living a fuller life. Kade isn’t really keen on the idea, but he does a few easy things anyway. One of which is shopping at an Asian market, and that’s where he meets Blake. Blake is beautiful and Australian, and though Kade hasn’t done the flirting thing in a very long time, he flirts a little with Blake. But when Blake asks him out, Kade declines and moves on.
Later that night while out at a club, Kade sees Blake again. This time he takes a chance and they end up in bed together. But neither man wants to leave it at that, and since Kade has some time off of work, he agrees to go on a little trip with Blake. Blake owns a watersports business, and even though it’s winter in Scotland, they head up the coast to go kayaking. Kade is freer than he’s been in a long time, and the sparks between him and Blake keep them between the sheets more often than not.
The days stretch out before them and Kade is truly enjoying himself. But when he gets a call from his ex, Niall, Kade heads back to the city to deal with separating their belongings. Niall has taken basically everything from their shared apartment and wants most of the money in their joint accounts as well. Kade is tired of fighting, tired of the way Niall treats him, and he just wants to walk away. So he does, letting Niall have what he wants. But Blake is right there to support and take care of him. Kade isn’t quite sure what he’s done to deserve Blake, but he’s grateful. The two men have been growing closer, and for the first time in a long time, Kade can see a happy future. Especially if Blake is in the picture.
The premise of this story drew me in right from the very beginning. Black gave us an engaging hook, and I was invested immediately in this story. I read this all in one sitting, and though there were a couple of moments that had me scratching my head, I really enjoyed this book.
For all that Kade is only twenty-six, he’s pretty much set in his ways. The beginning gives us an interesting juxtaposition of Kade trying to check off an item on his bucket list, and it contrasts nicely with the backstory we are given. Delivered in this manner, it didn’t feel like an info dump, though it easily could have. Instead, we got a great feeling for Kade, the need and comfort he has in routine, and exactly what kind of guy he is. Or so we think, but I’ll come back to that later.
I felt for Kade and I understood him. I could tell exactly how hard it was for him to do this simple thing, shopping in a different place than he usually did, but we also got to see the strength that he had underneath. He was unsure and a bit panicky, yes. But he did it anyway. And that alone made it easy to understand why someone so set in their ways like Kade was would go on to flirt, and then sleep, with someone he’s never met. I loved the way the beginning played out, and I loved how connected I felt to Kade.
When Kade first meets Blake, one of the first things he thinks that Blake must be a little crazy because he’s wearing “flip flops, in Scotland, in November.” And that right there is an excellent summation of Blake’s character. He’s a little outside the norm in ways I never expected, and to me that symbolized how he was a free spirit who wanted to live his own life. Blake has been through his own hard times, and he made it out the other side. This guy was almost too good to be true. He was basically Kade’s fantasy come to life. He shows up exactly when Kade needs him to and he takes care of and supports Kade in a way that should be too much too fast for two people that have just met. And yet, somehow, it just works. Black makes us believe that there really is a guy this good, caring, and sexy out there. I loved Blake’s attitude, his caring, and his outlook. It was one born of a difficult situation, but he is a better man for what he went through. He is his own man.
And when Blake and Kade get together, the sparks just leap off the page. The sex scenes are smoking hot and their connection is just palpable. And what I appreciated here was that nothing felt gratuitous or overdone. These guys are young and hot for each other, and it shows. But it’s not too over the top and works so well within the story.
Remember that thing I said I get back to? It’s my one issue with this book, and some may not even think it was that big of a deal, but it stood out to me. In the beginning, there’s a bit of time spent talking about how boring Kade’s life is, but that he likes it that way. He likes his routines and his quiet life. But then the truth slowly starts to trickle out, and it felt a little inconsistent. Kade really does find comfort in his routines, but it’s because of the verbal abuse he’s suffered at the hands of his ex, Niall. I can absolutely understand why Kade felt his routines were needed and safe when we discover the truth about Niall, but it felt incongruous from the descriptions we got early on. When Kade started thinking about the past with Niall, sometimes comparing it to what was going on at the time, all I could think was “but I thought Kade was the one that wanted it that way.” I would have liked to see a little bit more about the comfort Kade found, and not his insistence that he liked it. It would have made the rest feel less like it was coming out of the blue. Also, a bit of a warning: Niall says some hurtful, disparaging, and abusive things. It’s nothing too extreme, but anyone who has a particular sensitivity to that kind of talk should be warned.
But I could lay that aside, eventually, because this was a really great story. The ending is decidedly HFN, but it absolutely works with this book. These guys are just beginning, and I liked that nothing felt forced or over the top. The Bucket List is a wonderful tale of a man finding his feet again, and the perfect person to care for him while he’s coming out of his shell.