When Rod was fourteen and told his father that he was gay, his father told him no one would ever love him. Rod has carried that around with him for years. He’s great for a hook-up, but he’s never had a relationship as his father’s voice is always there telling him that he’s not worthy. He’s made something of himself as he owns an adult toy store and that’s where he meets Landon. But Landon doesn’t seem interested in getting Rod into bed and Rod doesn’t understand when Landon tells him that he wants to be his friend.
Landon has just moved back home to Virginia, the place he couldn’t wait to get away from. His father left the family when Landon was twelve and there are painful memories everywhere he looks. Meeting Rod may be just what he needs as Rod makes him laugh all the time and is unlike anyone he has ever met. With one exception, Landon doesn’t remain friends with anyone he has slept with and, although he’s definitely attracted to Rod, he wants to keep him in his life as well.
The guys hang out all the time and eventually it becomes impossible to keep their hands off of each other. But neither guy is willing to admit they are in a relationship and secrets, even well meaning ones, have a way of taking out the best of intentions.
Shifting Gears follows the first book, Crossroads, in this series. Rod was introduced briefly in the first book and Nick and Bryce do make an appearance here, but this book could easily stand alone.
Rod and Landon are just about perfect for each other. They have a lot of the same hang ups or issues which help them to understand each other even if they might not realize it at first. Rod has no family as his mother died when he was young, he is an only child, and his father, who has since passed away, detested who Rod was and told him often. Landon has never gotten over his father leaving the family and the mess his parents made of their own relationship has him wary of ever getting into one. So Landon likes hanging out with Rod too much to take him to bed so he decides they are going to be friends. Riiiight!
These guys are in the friend zone for a lot of time. While on one hand it was great to see them building a friendship, on the other, their inner dialogues kept that elusive chemistry and tension at a distance for me. They go over the same thing again and again, often using the same words with Landon not wanting to be like his parents and Rod convinced no one could ever love him and it became a repetitive loop. Yet, when these guys do get together, they ignite the pages with Hart’s trademark heated flair. Both characters develop over the course of the book and it’s certainly a case of finding that one right person to complete your life.
Woven through Rod and Landon’s relationship is Landon’s family and his mother plays a role. While she means well, she put Rod in a truly difficult position asking him to keep a secret that he inadvertently stumbled upon, even if it was only for a short time. Rod owns an adult toy store and there are several scenes of him at work and I had to take a literary leap of faith when they stated that the customers in a smaller town preferred to purchase their toys in person rather than online. While it was also great to see Nick and Bryce from Crossroads, bringing up Nick’s family issues didn’t fit in too well with this story. And, I probably only needed to know once, maybe twice, that Rod and Landon were “shifting gears.”
Hart offers a great HEA for these guys and while I had a few bumps along the way, there was a feel good and satisfying ending combined with the set up for the next book in the series that caught my attention. If you enjoyed the first book and especially if you are a Riley Hart reader then check out Shifting Gears