Dustin Walker is out for an evening a fun, feeling a little melancholy, when a pool game catches his interest. He sees a man who is clearly incredibly good at the game trouncing his opponents. When Dustin catches the eye of the pool shark, something different happens. He accepts a game, and the two men unnerve each other as they play. Dustin wins, though his victory is narrow, and Brandon Stewart introduces himself. Brandon offers another game, but Dustin flees, unnerved by the attraction simmering between them. But Brandon follows him out, ostensibly to tell him about a pool tournament that weekend, and the electricity crackles between them. Dustin thinks that he’s straight, but there’s no denying the connection he feels to Brandon, and they kiss.
Dustin can’t get Brandon out of his head. He’s only ever been attracted to women in the past and was married for ten years. But he’s never been affected or driven to distraction by a woman the way he is by Brandon. When he goes to the club again and sees Brandon, the two hook up for an explosive night together. After another night together, Dustin starts to get a little overwhelmed and he backs off. Brandon gives him space, and completely understands, but Dustin can’t stay away.
Even though Dustin is questioning his attraction to Brandon, and whether or not he’s using Brandon as a rebound replacement for his ex-wife, there’s no denying that for Dustin, being with Brandon just feels right. The sex is amazing, the two men connect on all levels, and they really begin building something, even if they don’t label it. Brandon is even there for Dustin when Dustin’s spiteful ex outs him to his entire family. The fallout is huge, and Dustin lets their worries creep in. Even though he doesn’t deny that he is with a man, he still hides Brandon. For Brandon, it’s too much to take, and he has to walk away. Dustin thinks he’s lost Brandon for good. But as he finally gets his head together, he realizes that Brandon was the best thing that ever happened to him. Now he just needs to make Brandon see that too.
Throwback Thursday time! For this week’s selection, I’m bringing you one of my favorites, and the very first L.A. Witt book I ever read. This one has always stayed with me, and I love the MCs so much. They are both cocky, and have a great sense of humor. Seriously, you guys, the chemistry between Dustin and Brandon just leaps off the page from their very first meeting.
This is Dustin’s journey. He’s had it rough for a while. His ex-wife cheated on him in spectacular fashion, and he’s considered a black sheep in his family because he’s getting divorced. And even though he’s only been separated from his wife for six months, his mother and all of her friends are constantly trying to set him up with women. He’s not ready for that, and he thinks he’s not ready for anything. But when he meets Brandon, oh boy, the sparks just fly. He has his moments of doubt, and he wonders exactly what he’s doing with a man. But everything about Brandon just feels so right that he doesn’t question it too much. That’s one of the things I loved best about him. Yes, he overthinks things and has moments where he’s unsure. And yes, he does make some huge mistakes, and let’s other people make him question what he knows. But ultimately, he’s incredibly accepting of his newfound sexuality. And when he’s leading with his heart and not his head, he knows what he wants.
Brandon, for his part, is damn near perfect. I adore this guy and think he’s perfect for Dustin. These guys connect so viscerally. The chemistry is insane, the sex is smoking hot, and I loved watching their relationship grow. They get each other in that soulmate kind of way. And Brandon is so patient and kind. He completely understands when Dustin needs time in the beginning, and is right there with him when the shit hits the fan. Yes, he’s the one that walks away for a bit, and even though I was a little mad at him, I couldn’t really fault him for it. His heart is invested, and to hear Dustin constantly brush their relationship aside is hard on him.
This book largely focuses on the two MCs, but we do get a whole host of secondary characters to flesh out the plot and give it a well-developed feel. But it is also because of a few of them that this book isn’t a perfect 5-star read for me. Dustin’s mother is over the top extreme; she’s manipulative and controlling, and every time they talked about her or she showed up, I cringed. She was a bit of a caricature, and I found her incredibly irritating. Also, after Dustin and Brandon break up, Dustin does a little bit of experimenting. It’s not cheating, because he and Brandon aren’t together anymore, but it felt a little bit like that to me. I didn’t have as much problem with him being with a woman, as I did with him being with a man. Perhaps that was because the sex with the woman wasn’t on the page, while Dustin’s encounter with the man was. I think Dustin needed the experience, but I would have liked to be a little bit removed from it.
Overall, though, this is an excellent read. The ending is decidedly happy for now, as the guys are just agreeing to see what will happen between them now that they’ve gotten their act together. But the really nice pacing, and the amazing chemistry of the two MCs makes this book a worthwhile read, and one I’ve gone back to several times over the years. If you haven’t read Rules of Engagement, then I highly suggest you give it a go. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed that you did.
Cover: Yeah, I adore this cover. The whole pool thing plays a big role in these guys meeting, getting together, and is woven through the whole story. It’s really rather a perfect cover for the story within.