Dax has returned home from war, but now has a new fight. He survived one battle, but now has another one to face: the battle to find himself and his place in the world. Dax never thought coming out to his family was a possibility, he continues to feel like an outsider, and his PTSD is at times paralyzing. Moving to California with his best friend, Chloe, has him looking toward a new life. Things start looking up even more when he meets tattoo artist, Beck.
Beck has never been part of a real relationship and he never dreamed he could have someone to come home to. Growing up without a father and with a drug addicted mother, he was the only one to take care of his sister and his scars run deep. As the men are immediately drawn to each other, they try to figure out if a relationship is in the future for them. But, before they can really get started, life has other plans. Pulled in different directions by family issues and poor communication, the guys may never the find balance they need to have the family they have always wanted.
This is the second book I have read by this author and it is hard not to compare them as the prior book had such distinct characters. On Solid Ground has a lot of elements going for it that appeal to me: a closeted military hero, a tattoo artist, dual points of view, and a lot of darker issues. Somewhere though, this story missed the mark for me and did not emotionally attach me to the characters overall. The beginning sets up a good story with Dax coming home from war and then the two guys meeting. They both find each other attractive and are interested in each other, which is all working fine. Their first real interaction is when Beck is giving Dax a tattoo and Dax has a PTSD anxiety attack. Beck is completely cool with the whole thing and is also cool when Dax attacks one of his friends during an anxiety attack. Dax instantly relaxes when Beck touches him and that part was a little harder to believe.
Dual POV always appeals to me as the more I can know about each character and their thoughts and motivations the better. Each chapter here alternates POV and the character name is listed at the beginning of each chapter. However, both Dax and Beck have a similar voice and many times I had to recall whose head we were in as they are not distinct characters.
Both guys have a lot to deal with. There is so much going on with both of them at the very start of their relationship and the issues keep piling on them. There are so many issues between them at times I did agree with the guys when they said it was not the right time for them to have a relationship. They then have one misunderstanding after the other. Dax is so quick to think the worst that he barely lets Beck get a word out. A little communication, really just the slightest bit, would have avoided a whole lot of the scripted angst going on. And, that’s what they story felt like, a script, where the drama was just inserted at each point and there was a checklist of characteristics added to each guy. The author did not make me care about the characters enough to become emotionally invested in them and all that was going on. Because of this, smaller issues become magnified and the story line lost credibility. Little things, like when Dax goes for his tattoo that has significant meaning to him and he never thought about where he was going to put it. He is having violent anxiety attacks and is given a service dog without having met the dog or trainer previously. After learning only a couple of hand signals, he is then given the dog and he even admits that he doesn’t know anything about dogs. I generally don’t read a lot of stories with children in them and when I do it is often clearly stated there is a child, which is not the case here. A good portion of this story involves a child and the story, and clearly the ending, is more geared toward the child. And, all throughout the book the guys don’t talk about their relationship and then we are told they have this defining conversation that is off page. We learn of so many issues that have damaged the men and the only one that is really dealt with directly is Dax’s coming out. Beck has an incredibly troubled past and in anger he states that he is over everything, but the way he is living is life does not indicate he is dealing with anything. There is almost no resolution to many of their issues. Everything is seemingly better just by the guys being together and it is difficult for me to believe in all of it given the magnitude of history that is piled onto them.
At the start, this book had many elements that appealed to me, but along the way a good portion did not quite come together for me. As with all reading it is personal preference and this book may fall more strongly into that category. If some of the points that were a miss for me would not bother you, then this could be one to try.
One last note on the cover: Beck is a tattoo artist. He has many tattoos, including two full sleeves, and he gives Dax a defining tattoo. There are no tattoos pictured on the cover models.