Lincoln West and his band were on the verge of something big, until a car accident derailed everything. Lincoln suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him with debilitating migraines and the inability to play his beloved guitar. His best friend and bandmate, Dom, has moved on to a duo with his new boyfriend, Trey. While they are traveling, Lincoln is staying at Trey’s house and trying to put his life back together after the accident. One night, Lincoln decides to finally get out of the house and heads to a local club where a gorgeous bar back catches his eye. The guy is very shy, but Lincoln manages to convince him to spend some time together.
Emmett Westmore just wants to keep his head down and for nobody to notice him. He is trying to put a tragedy in his past behind him, and he is now living with his aunt while he tries to move forward. Emmett is shy and wary, but Lincoln is sweet and patient and the guys hit it off. Soon they are spending more time together, getting to know one another, and beginning to fall for each other. But Emmett has a devastating secret from his past, one that could destroy what he is building with Lincoln. He knows he must come clean, but when he does, it could ruin everything they have built together.
Steady Stroke is the second book in A.M. Arthur’s Off Beat series, following Body Rocks. The story takes place about a year after the first as Lincoln has been rehabilitating from the accident (which occurs in the first story). Now we see Lincoln has recovered quite a bit, but he is lonely with Dom traveling and frustrated with the limitations his brain injury is placing on him. He can’t find a job and the migraines knock him flat and he is definitely out of sorts. Things are even worse when a bad date with a guy who can’t take no for an answer leaves him really shaken. When Lincoln meets Emmett, he is drawn to the young man right away. The two of them begin falling for each other almost immediately and their relationship grows quickly and easily. The focus of the conflict is really on Emmett’s past and the secret he has that could destroy their relationship. So things build between them quite easily and the guys fall pretty hard and fast. Sometimes things felt a bit too sweet and easy, and sometimes even over the top perfect, but again, the conflict is external so the focus is on how their rapidly developing relationship might be derailed rather than on their coming together in the first place.
Speaking of the big secret, wow, it is a doozy. I literally gasped out loud when I read it. What is interesting is that we learn this secret fairly early on in the book as the guys are still building the relationship. So we know something big is inevitable, something that would be really upsetting to Lincoln, even as we see the guys falling for one another. I found that it hindered my connection with their relationship a bit knowing that Emmett is hiding something so big from Lincoln, even as Lincoln is letting Emmett in and building trust. I knew something big was coming between them, not to mention it seemed unfair for Emmett to be leading things along knowing the truth would be so upsetting to Lincoln. But on the other hand, it was helpful as a reader to get to know Emmett, to see that he really is a good guy, and to see how much he cares for Lincoln before things blow up between them. I’ll also say I was kind of shocked at Lincoln’s reaction when he learns the truth. He is upset, but at something totally different than I expected. I can’t say more without spoilers, but it seemed like the obvious point of conflict was a total non-issue and he was upset about something that didn’t seem like nearly as big an problem to me.
The story explores some other issues as well. One is with Lincoln’s date who doesn’t take no for an answer and leaves Lincoln shaken and traumatized. He doesn’t want to talk to anyone about it and he has to work through his feelings about it over the course of the book. The story also deals with Lincoln’s return to music and how he finds a way to continue playing after the loss of his guitar. We get a chance to reunite with friends from both the original bands and see Lincoln get an opportunity to play again. I am really enjoying this series and liked the chance to connect again with characters from the first book. Arthur definitely seems to be setting things up for Benji’s story, but things are also intriguing with Tyson, as he has pretty much been MIA and no one knows what is happening with him. So it seems like there is lots more opportunity for good stories from this group.
I definitely enjoyed this second installment and am really looking forward to more from this series.