Krial is one of the candidates for the planet of Noval’s breeding program. Along with 20 other men, he is a finalist to be the Chosen One, a position that will award him with one of the rare female mates on the planet. The problem is, Krial has no interest in women. But gay sex is outlawed on the planet where repopulation is the number one goal, and Krial has no choice but to participate in the program.
The only plus of having to spend three months on this backward planet is meeting Dax, his trainer. Dax is big and strong and tough — even more so than Krial himself — and Krial is totally hot for him. But Dax has never even given any indication he is gay, let alone interested. Krial never expects he will actually be selected as the Chosen One, but when the worst happens, Dax finally makes it clear that he returns Krial’s feelings. The problem is that the men have only one night together before Krial is stuck with a life and a mate he doesn’t want.
So the blurb for Released says it is a “complete, smutty, erotic m/m romance ” and that is exactly what you are going to get here. This story features two strong, alpha men who like hot aggressive sex with other men whom they know can take it. It is pretty high on the dirty, sexy times with the focus mostly on the physical side of things. The story is fairly simple and takes place over about 24 hours as Krial competes for the role of Chosen One, finds out to his shock he has been selected, and then moves into a hot night with Dax (with some more stuff the next day that ties it all up neatly and allows our guys their HEA). But I do like the bits of world building Ridges incorporates, giving us some history behind Noval’s population issues and subsequent policies, along with the politics for the planet going into the future. We also get a sense of the training program and some of the backstory on the relationship between the men.
Given the length and the focus on the physical side of things, we don’t get to know a lot about either Dax or Krial beyond the training program and their feelings for one another. A bit more sense of them would have been helpful, especially Krial as he is our POV character. For example, how was he chosen to participate in the training? What was his life like before he came to Novak? But this is a short story and I think things work pretty well given the length and focus.
So I enjoyed Released and think it is a nice choice if you are looking for some good, sexy fun. There is enough plot and world building here to hold it all together without it feeling too unbalanced in favor of the smut. And I liked both Krial and Dax and enjoyed the way it all worked out. So overall this story was quick and easy, sexy, and fun.