Rating: 3.75 stars
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Rowe has returned home. Well, not exactly home as he can’t bear to live in the house he shared with his late wife. Everything is still there and Rowe has just closed the door and he’s waiting. He won’t allow himself to fully examine just exactly what he is waiting for, but having his old friend and former Army buddy, Noah, turn up at his door wasn’t in his thoughts. Although Rowe hasn’t seen Noah in thirteen years, they kept in touch sporadically and memories of that one night they spent together still remain. The same night that sent Rowe running away from Noah.
Noah had devoted his life to the Army. He recently left and now wants something more permanent. A permanent address and a permanent family and a permanent home. Rowe was the first person that came to his mind and while he comes seeking friendship, Noah is haunted by that one night with Rowe and Noah has always wanted more. He and Rowe were always in sync and, most importantly, he misses his friend.
However, Noah wasn’t expecting to walk into the middle of a battle where Rowe and all of his friends, the friends he calls family, are all targets. With an arsonist and a sniper out to make their presence known, the threats are all too real. So is the heat that burns between Rowe and Noah. The heat that Rowe can’t fully accept could be what finally burns their friendship to the ground.
Torch brings us to the third book in the Unbreakable Bonds series and is not intended to be read as a standalone. All of the books overlap and the true treasure in this series is the family and the friendships that these guys have created. As the series name suggests, the bonds all of these guys have is unbreakable and it’s great to get dropped right back into their world.
This book brings us Rowe’s story, although I did feel like I had a good idea of who he was from the previous books. This book digs just a little deeper. Rowe is still recovering from the shock of losing his wife. He’s back home, so to speak, and back at work, but in many ways he’s going through the motions. Until Noah shows up at his door. Although Rowe has always dated women and married a woman, he had noticed men before. But since he was attracted to women, dating them was just easier, and his wife was the perfect match for him. Noah was the only man that truly got to him and the memory of their one and only night still flares to life on occasion. It took the men a little maneuvering to get back their easy friendship after that night and now that they are together again the attraction is combustible.
Rowe hadn’t been the character to fully capture my attention in this series so it was cool when the beginning of this book had me completely intrigued with him. His relationship and friendship with Noah was engaging reading and at first I couldn’t wait to read more. However, Rowe became a huge contradiction for me that ultimately wasn’t explained well. At first, we see that Rowe is still grieving, which is completely understandable and realistic. We are led to believe that his hesitation with Noah was due to his hesitation with being with a man. That was presented as the reason for him running all of those years ago. And, that’s how it’s presented present day, until it isn’t. When Noah asks Rowe if he’s hesitant due to his grieving or as he puts it “the gay thing,” all of a sudden it’s only the grieving aspect and the daunting prospect of moving on that is the issue. All of the explanations for Rowe’s behavior or the lack of explanations really didn’t all come together for me.
Noah, for his part, is just taking whatever Rowe will give him. He’s been dreaming about Rowe for years and at first it worked fine. Rowe, however, takes complete advantage of Noah. I mean the heat these guys generate was something to see, but Rowe was out of bed so fast each and every time. He was constantly running time and again. At first Noah was giving Rowe space, which worked initially, but this went on almost the entire book. Sometimes the push and pull really works out, but here it became tiresome for me.
What was also tiresome was the larger overall plot. Everyone is in danger and they know who is behind it all. Yet, they are constantly outwitted and constantly outmaneuvered throughout the entire book. The “mystery” end of things here is so overly transparent and then there were a few smaller plot holes that also didn’t add anything. We know the threat is tied to Ian’s past and, while we’ve been given the basic outline of what happened to Ian, he’s the reason all of this is going down and the lack of his full story was hindering the plot for me here as everything goes back to him. That’s not to say that I still can’t wait for his story.
That’s the draw of this series and I’m addicted to this world and the characters. The highlight is the ensemble cast and seeing all of the characters appear and interact in every book. The larger plotline falters for me with each book and, while this wasn’t my favorite of the series, the next book still can’t come soon enough.