the protectorRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Years ago, Saul Alvarez was a mercenary working for a Miami drug dealer, Durango, and spending his nights as a Dom dishing out pain to eager subs. Until the day he was charged with guarding Javier Escardo, one of Durango’s top whores who had been forced into prostitution and suffered extensive abuse. Both men were forced to do the work in order to protect the safety of their families, and, from that day forward, shared a special bond and connection with one another. Now, seven years later, having escaped from Durango together, Saul’s mission is to protect and care for Javier, along with the group of other bad boys and ex cons with whom he shares a home.

The abuse Javier suffered at Durango’s hands has left him mentally fragile and Saul’s primary goal in life is to be the support Javi needs.  Saul puts his own desires on the back burner, including his desire for Javi, in order to take care of the man. But Javier is ready to for the relationship to progress to more, and makes clear to Saul he is strong enough to try.  Just as they are ready to move forward, the pair meet Kyle Jansen in a local cafe and sparks fly between all three of them.  Javier knows that there are things Saul wants that Javi can not give him, things Javi will never be strong enough for no matter how much he improves. He has been encouraging Saul to look for a third, but Saul has been resistant. Now after meeting Kyle, Javier is sure he is the man for them.

Saul is strongly attracted to Kyle as well. The former porn star is gorgeous, not to mention strong and confident. Saul can see how perfectly Kyle would fit with the two of them, and the attraction between them all is crazy. But Saul also knows that he and Javi live dangerous lives. Durango is still after both of them, not to mention that Saul wants revenge for the abuse Javier suffered. Kyle is just settling into his life after his porn career ends, finally getting time to really live after years of public appearances and crazy scheduling. Saul knows Kyle can do better than to be stuck in the middle of their dangerous lives, but as the men get to know one another better, it is clear that Kyle wants Saul and Javier as much as they want him. The relationship between the three men is growing into something more, but with Durango still after them, their lives are at risk before they have any hope of a future together.

The Protector is the third book in Jessie G.’s Sizzling Miami series and the first book I have read. I picked it up in anticipation of reading the author’s upcoming spinoff story, Tricking Chase, as the author indicated that the two books were closely linked. So I jumped in to this series in the middle (something I rarely do — you all know I have series OCD!), and for the most part this worked without having read the previous two books.  I found I quite enjoyed G.’s writing and really liked these characters. This is definitely a “lovable bad boy” type story (and probably series), where we see these rough men who love and care for one another, share their feelings, and are total softies under their hard exteriors. It probably skirts the edge of too romanticized, but I found I liked it and it worked perfectly here.

This book drops us into the story with a quick prologue of the day Saul is charged with protecting Javier, essentially being his bodyguard while Javier is forced to sell his body for Durango’s benefit. We then jump seven years later to present day, where we see the men living together, along with a group of other ex cons and assorted bad boys. The two have been partners for years, but nothing sexual or romantic has happened between them. We can see how protective Saul has been over Javier, and he is afraid to push Javi before he is ready, so he has been holding back. It is clear that every single decision Saul makes it done with Javi in mind; taking care of him is Saul’s primary goal. But when Javi makes it clear that he wants more between them, Saul is thrilled to finally be with the man he loves, even though he worries Javi’s feelings are because of Saul’s role as his protector more than real love. The relationship between the guys is fascinating, and we can see how much Saul has contorted himself to be exactly what Javier needs, even at expense to himself.

When they meet Kyle, the three men are immediately smoldering in their attraction to one another, and what starts as a one night thing quickly turns to more. Javier has felt like a third person is just what their relationship needs, a way to bridge the gap between Saul’s and Javier’s needs. From the start, things are pretty intense between the three of them, and Kyle fits perfectly in the relationship. He is strong enough that Saul can let out some of his darker side, and he can care for Javier without all the mental baggage Saul has as a result of their past together. I think Jessie G. does a great job showing us how these men work together, why a threesome is the perfect fit and why Kyle is the right guy for them. I loved the way the three men complement one another and really fit together. And I love how Kyle pushes both men a little out of their comfort zones and the routine they had established together that was starting to hold both of them back.

There are a few places I wished we got more, however. The story starts with a quick flashback in the prologue, but we don’t get much detail about what happens in the intervening years. I would have loved to better understand just how these men escaped their lives with Durango and we get only a very cursory overview of what happened and how they have been living since then. Also, they meet Kyle on the very day they decide to take things further in their own relationship, so we see very little of Saul and Javier as a couple before Kyle is brought in. In fact, their very first sexual encounter is completely off page, which surprised me considering this book has plenty of graphic sex scenes. I really missed seeing that moment when these guys connect together sexually and take their relationship that final step, and I think it would have helped to show their bond before Kyle becomes involved. It would also have helped give a better sense of Javier, who it seems has not had sex with anyone since leaving Durango and that abusive life (we are told the men were committed to one another as partners even though they were not sexually involved).  So he pretty much appears here as this total sex kitten, flirting and comfortable with pretty much everything, and I felt like we missed seeing how he makes that leap from sexual abuse to so comfortable with sex. Interestingly, their first sexual encounter with Kyle is also off page, which again stuck me as odd in a book with many other erotic scenes, and definitely left me missing that moment of initial connection among them.

From the suspense end, this story seems to be the culmination of a conflict that has been building over the series, as the men finally have their confrontation with Durango and the other men in the group are involved.  The focus shifts to this part of the plot through the later parts of the book, and we see again how much Saul cares for his group, but also how much they love and care for him in return, each willing to risk their lives for Saul.  For the most part, I could follow what was going on without having read the other stories, though there were definitely gaps where I just had to go with it because I wasn’t familiar with details. It is a lot to follow because aside from these three men and the four MCs from the previous two books, there are lots of other side characters in this group of men.  Keeping track of them all and their relationships to one another was kind of daunting, and that is where being familiar with other two books would have helped.  I think if you can just go with it, this story works as a standalone, but honestly if I were to do it again, I’d probably start from the beginning of the series just because I really enjoyed this book and would have liked to follow from the beginning.

Just one quick aside. We are told Saul was a hard core sadist when he worked for Durango, but we never see any of that on page and by the time we meet him in present day, he has totally given up that part of his life. It is clear that he and Kyle will have a bit of a Dom/sub arrangement, mostly centered around Saul’s need to control and protect and Kyle’s desire for that comfort and support. The story also connects us with some other characters who are in BDSM relationships, but overall, virtually none of that is on page.  I just mention this because the blurb can be a bit confusing on that regard, so I just want to clarify that this isn’t really a BDSM book.

So I really enjoyed The Protector and quite liked Jessie G.’s writing. I am really looking forward to the spin off series that features Kyle’s cousin and his Dom and the motorcycle club and am excited about reading more in this world. If you are a fan of reformed bad boys, this book (and this series) is definitely something to check out. I found it quite entertaining and look forward to more.

P.S. I followed up with the author just to get some clarity on how these two series work for those of you interested in checking out one or both. So as I said, this book is the third in the Sizzling Miami series and there are three more planned after this that will focus on some of those secondary bad boy housemates I mentioned. There is also a planned sequel to this book (which I think is fabulous because this story definitely has room to grow), and a novella follow up to book 2.  Then there is an upcoming spin-off series, Devil’s Pride MC, the first of which will feature Kyle’s cousin and his partner, both of whom appear in this book. Then the series will continue, following other characters from their motorcycle club. I do think this book mostly works as a standalone, but as I said, if you find this story intriguing, I’d consider starting from book one of Sizzling Miami to get the full picture. Then you can continue on with this series, with the new one, or both. I think I am going to go back and at least read book 2 so that I am geared up to continue with this series.

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