Joey is an ER nurse in the small town of Skagit. He loves his Mom, he loves his job, and even though his apartment complex doesn’t allow pets, he loves dogs enough he volunteers to walk the residents of the local animal shelter. The only thing he’s missing is a man. One day, while at the grocery store, a man Joey doesn’t recognize approaches him and says hello. His name is Buck, and he went to the same high school as Joey, only he was two years younger.
Buck is a hard working man. He owns and runs the local auto repair shop and he restores old cars. Buck has had it rough, though. His father was abusive, and his mother didn’t seem to give a damn about anything, leaving him high and dry…and alone. He’s well liked and proud of his business and home, but he’s painfully shy, and it takes a huge amount of courage to approach Joey that day in the store, and when Joey doesn’t recognize him right away, Buck panics and takes off.
They cross paths again in the ER when Buck brings his employee/friend in with a huge cut on his hand. It’s awkward, but circumstances beyond their control are causing the men to be thrown together again and again. Those circumstances are violent and ugly, and they lead Buck, Joey, and a few other residents (and law enforcement) of Skagit down a path lined with evil. The question is whether they’ll both survive, and if they can be there for each other when it’s over.
No Pressure is the sequel to Storm Season. I liked that first book, and I liked No Pressure even more. It takes place in the same small town, and you’ll find quite a few of the same characters, most of whom are delightful and funny. In fact, I would even go so far as to call the town a character here. It’s small, charming, and nearly idyllic, the kind of place you’d want to raise your children. Unfortunately, under the top layer of charm, there is a an underlying evil. Terrible crimes are being/have been committed.
Buck and Joey are both lovable. Everyone in town thinks they’re great, but both men have self esteem issues. They’d give you the shirt off their backs (or a loaner car, or a spare room, or a home to a shelter dog), but something is missing for each of them. Usually, I wind up favoring one main character over the other, but I cared about Buck and Joey equally. (If you forced me to choose, I’d say I loved Joey a little more, and that’s because he’s a nurse. My Dad was a nurse for more than 35 years, so I have a soft spot for the males of the profession.) These guys were meant to be together, and I’m so glad they figured that out. Their scenes together were sweet, but their sexual chemistry was off the charts. I loved how concerned Buck was about Joey. He had no qualms about throwing himself into danger because he wanted to keep Joey safe.
Speaking of keeping Joey safe…he sure needs it! What starts out as a strange sheet of paper on his car window quickly turns into a dark, sweeping mystery. Elle Keaton has written a near flawless plot. It picks up where Storm Season left off, and it includes Adam Klay, an FBI agent (and one of the MCs from Storm Season), and a few other law enforcement officers we saw in book one. The story involves people who are the absolute worst of humanity, and it will bring about feelings of disgust and anger. This is good because it proves the writing is excellent. There is a lot going on, and it’s definitely not simple, but it’s easy to follow, with no confusion (at least on my part). It wrapped up nicely, and I was satisfied with it.
One of the best things about No Pressure is it doesn’t just end when the mystery is solved. That would be too easy. Buck and Joey have been through a lot, and they need time to decompress. It isn’t all moonlight and roses right away. Joey has to go back to work, and Buck has to come to terms with some issues that have plagued him since he was young. This made everything seem more realistic. If they would have just kissed and rode off into the sunset with Xena the dog, it wouldn’t have felt right. I’m definitely pleased with how the book ended.
Several crumbs were dropped to lead me to believe there will be a book three and that makes me very happy. They’re enjoyable stories with great characters. I will tell you right now, while I guess you could technically read No Pressure as a stand alone (there is some exposition), I don’t recommend it. I highly recommend you start with Storm Season. That way, you will know who’s who and what’s what from the very beginning. I’ve checked Amazon, and it seems these are the only books by Elle Keaton, but I wouldn’t hesitate to read anything else she puts out there.