When Taggart calls, Justice McKinney drops everything to run to his rescue. Never mind it’s been four years since he’s seen Taggart, and that Taggart turned his back on him after their mothers were murdered by Itor, and that he still loves and hates Taggart at the same time. Taggart needs his help, so Justice will be there.
Taggart Brody wouldn’t have called Justice if he’d had any other choice, but after Ian turned out to be the one who had Taggart captured by Itor, Taggart didn’t have anyone else to turn to. Itor is hot on his trail and if Tag doesn’t get help soon, he’ll be dead. But he called Justice, not ACRO—no matter what Justice thinks. When Justice arrives at Tag’s Alaskan mountain cabin, the old attraction they both thought was long cold blazes back to life. On the floor of the cabin. Then Tag’s worst nightmare comes true when Ian bursts through the cabin door.
Ian Bridges has regretted the day he turned Tag over to Itor, but he’s kept tabs on him in hopes of helping him one day escape. When Itor was attacked by ACRO, Ian though Tag dead until he was hired once again by Itor to locate Tag. But this time Ian’s not going to turn him over. When he finds Tag with his ex, old feelings come rushing back. Ian knows he hurt Tag, but he was doing his best to make it right. Seeing Tag and Justice together though, Ian can’t help but feel that he’s the odd man out.
A blizzard, an avalanche, and an evil superagency on their tails trap Tag, Justice, and Ian in the cabin. Alone. Emotions run high. Tempers run hot. Passions run hotter. When Tag realizes that everything is not exactly what he once thought, a choice is presented to him—Ian or Justice—but what if he doesn’t want to make that choice? What if he doesn’t want to lose either of the only two men he’s ever loved a second time?
Three the Hard Way is the seventh installment of the ACRO series by Sydney Croft. It can technically be read as a standalone, as the authors do a really good job here of outlining the world—or the parts needed to understand the world for this story in particular. This is also the first in the series that is all male. I have read the rest of the series, so a lot of my observations will probably hinge on my knowledge of the series as a whole.
I liked this book. The dynamics between Tag and Justice, Tag and Ian, and Ian and Justice are what make this story so good. I think I’m hooked on Tag and Justice’s relationship mostly. Probably because they have the most history—born to be friends, growing up together, lovers from a young age. They were meant to be, so of course they had to break one another’s hearts at some point so they could heal now. There is so much pain and hurt between them, it’s almost tangible. The poor guys. But when it comes to Tag, I almost wanted to pop the guy in the back of the head and tell him to wake up. He wanted to point fingers at everyone around him, but never saw his own faults. Justice and Ian had no problems seeing where they went wrong. Why couldn’t Tag? Man, it took forever. Justice was probably the man I loved the most. He’s the most stable. And yeah, he can be labeled the good guy of the three. He is an ass, who takes what he wants, but then again it’s hot as hell. I just liked him so much.
Tag and Ian’s relationship is a bit different and it took me a while to warm up to the idea of them. I mean, Ian did turn Tag over to the bad guys after all. I think my biggest problem is with how long the authors took to give me Ian’s story. Ian’s backstory is what makes him human. He has this love for Tag and that’s all well and good, but he’s also the jerk who sold him out to the highest bidder, no matter his last minute reluctance. So, yes, in the end, I liked Ian a lot, but it took me a while to get there.
Part of what was so hard to come to terms with was Ian and Justice’s complete and rapid one-eighty. These guys hate each other on merit from the moment they meet. Not only do they both love the same man—and have both broken his heart—but they work for opposing agencies (although Ian’s role is a little more flexible than actual employee). But suddenly Tag trusts them both again so they trust one another and they’re all sleeping together? It didn’t quite mesh for me.
The plot, with Itor hunting Tag and Ian, is good, but it felt like it was in the background. Most of this story is fighting and fucking. And most of the fighting has nothing to do with the ACRO/Itor battle, it’s all Tag, Ian, and Justice butting heads and hurting feelings (mostly on purpose). Compared to the rest of the series, there is a big difference in the suspense and action plot in this book. I felt a little let down. I wanted more story in that sense—a bigger external battle. The final battle scene did a lot to redeem my feelings for the intensity and feel of this series. I wanted more of that throughout the book, at least more mystery or something, but at least I got the final battle. And what a battle it was.
As holiday stories go, this one is okay. I’m all for second chances (times two) and this one has that in spades. It’s not your typical heartwarming, sweet holiday tale, but it is definitely sexy and full of energy. It doesn’t have quite the level of suspense and action I hoped for, but it is not without its benefits. This is a wonderful addition to the ACRO series and I’m looking forward to more m/m from these authors. For those of you who have a thing for second chances, action and adventure, broken and tortured characters, and sordid pasts, Three the Hard Way by Sydney Croft may just be the book for you.