Ryder Garrett suffered a traumatic brain injury in high school and has struggled with his health ever since. Some days are good ones, but others Ryder suffers bad migraines, has trouble walking, and can get disoriented or forget people around him. Dealing with his brain injury has left Ryder more reserved than his former outgoing self and his social life (and sex life) has suffered.
Stig Minton is older and more experienced and has had a rough time of it lately with a guy who is not happy things ended between them. With Ryder’s brother marrying Stig’s good friend, the guys get a chance to meet and spend some time together. No one thinks Stig is particularly good for Ryder (Stig included), but that doesn’t stop the connection from growing between the men.
As the wedding plans continue, Stig and Ryder begin to further develop their friendship and their romantic interest in one another. Things seem to be going well for them, but Stig still isn’t sure he is right for Ryder, especially with the threats from his past rearing up once again. And Ryder worries that his health issues mean that Stig is better off with someone else, or that he may be hoping for a change in Ryder’s health that isn’t likely to happen. The guys have fallen for one another, but their issues and fears may get in the way of their happiness together.
Found at the Bookstore is the second book in Christi Snow’s Found series. I really enjoyed the first book and was happy to see this second installment. The first story features Mac and Tommy and their path to love, and this one follows up with two side characters that we meet in that book. Stig is Mac’s friend and former boyfriend, and Ryder is Tommy’s brother who goes through some major mental health issues in that first story. Although you could read this one plot-wise without being familiar with the other book, Tommy and Mac’s wedding plays a big role here, so I think you would appreciate this book more having read their story.
So I liked the set up here as I enjoy the age gap dynamic and I liked the idea of the bad boy set up with the more inexperienced man. I think this story handles these issues well, as Ryder does question his feelings a bit at first as he has never before had an interest in men, but at the same time, he quickly moves on to acceptance as he realizes his feelings for Stig. These guys are sexy together and I like the fact that they both are doting and clearly want to take care of each other. Early on they are a bit too much in each other’s business considering they are basically strangers, but I did appreciate that these guys both place a priority on taking care of one another and are generally good guys. I also enjoyed the focus on Ryder as an artist and Stig as a gallery owner and I think Snow incorporates this interest into the story really nicely.
I did find some other areas where I struggled, however. First, while I think Ryder handles his sudden interest in men well, Stig is sure that Ryder doesn’t really know his mind and will soon lose interest. At one point he insists that Ryder must hook up with a woman first to ensure he really wants Stig and isn’t just attracted to him because he is nearby. While this doesn’t end up happening, it felt way over-the-top and more suited to a fluffy, humorous story then a story with a more serious edge like this one. At one point Stig even tries to figure out what “base” Ryder needs to get to in order for it to count, like they are in junior high instead of grown adults.
Also, this isn’t the only example where we see the characters sure they know the other’s mind and try to make decisions for their supposed best interest. It happens again later as Stig’s past comes back to cause problems, and rather than telling Ryder what is going on, Stig pushes him away to “protect” him, hurting Ryder even worse. It also happens with Tommy, who is all in Ryder’s business about whether or not Stig is good enough for him, sure he knows what’s best for him.
I also felt like the whole plot line with Stig’s ex just didn’t really work for me. We know that they used to play together as a Dom/sub and that Stig broke it off before Peter was really ready. Peter ends up being a total crazy person, severely injuring Stig and then later causing even more trouble. We get just the barest of backstories and suddenly Peter is this super villain, completely crazed and obsessed with Stig. To me he felt almost cookie cutter evil, as we know nothing about him and suddenly he is this huge threat with no real character or story development.
I also had an issue with the way the subject of BDSM is approached here. It felt both victim blaming to Stig when he gets injured, as well as everyone acting like his occasional BDSM play somehow makes him way too wild and dangerous to Ryder. There is an incident early on where Stig connects with Peter to do a scene and there is some extreme violence. [spoiler] Peter basically ties Stig down and then gags him against his will and beats him severely with a cane, injuring him badly. [/spoiler] There is no question that this is not consensual, that Peter is punishing Stig and harming him intentionally, so this is clearly not BDSM, but actual physical abuse.
So what bugs me here is that first, everyone acts like Stig is not right for Ryder because of this wild life he leads and the people he hangs with. I was confused at first because we don’t see Stig doing anything that seems particularly problematic or wild, but then it became clear that the issue is that he occasionally is into BDSM. Here are a few examples of the comments:
“All joking aside, Ryder was too innocent to run in Stig’s circles.”
“But Ry, no. I don’t see him as someone you need to hang out with. Stig’s crowd is very different from yours.”
“I hope you realize that none of this is reflective on you or your lifestyle. I just can’t see my brother hanging out in the BDSM club with you.”
So first off, Stig doesn’t appear to be in the lifestyle as much as occasionally engaging in some Dom/sub play. We don’t see him hanging out with friends who are into BDSM, or anything to suggest this is a major part of his life. And even if it were, the implication that this would make him wild or dangerous or somehow unsuitable really bugged me. But there is this whole undercurrent throughout the book that Stig’s lifestyle is somehow so out of control that someone like Ryder isn’t appropriate for him.
There are other things that concerned me about the way the BDSM is portrayed as well. When he gets hurt by Peter, Stig refers to “his own stupidity that had brought him here” and that later notes that Ryder “deserved so much better than the kind of guy who would get mixed up with someone like Peter in the first place” as if Peter’s abuse is somehow his fault, or as if asking for a Dom/sub scene is the same as asking someone to harm you without your consent. When Stig talks about his former relationship with Mac and Ryder thinks he means they engaged in BDSM, “Ryder reared back in horror” until Stig clarifies they didn’t have a Dom/sub relationship. In horror? To me that just is not ok. Later talking to Ryder about how BDSM helped him feel a connection he says “The only exception to that is when I’m in a BDSM scene. The pain anchors me in the moment. That’s the only other place I’ve ever felt it. But I won’t do this again. I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t need to connect that bad.” It just felt very victim blaming to me, as if Stig’s desire for BDSM is why he got hurt, not because a crazy person took advantage of him.
Ok, so clearly the BDSM aspects of the book didn’t work for me. And like I said, I had some other issues here, so this book wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. Overall though, I think Snow does a nice job with many aspects of the story. It was a nice continuation of the journey we had with Mac and Tommy and I enjoyed seeing these side characters for the first book get their own story here.