Gideon Jane relocated from NYC to Georgia two years ago after his relationship ended. He had been with the same man for years and forgave his ex every time he cheated. When his ex moved out, Gideon knew it was time for a change. The locals now call him Ghost and he lives a fairly reclusive life on his farm in Georgia. He makes it to town occasionally when his plays with the band, The Executioners, but other than that he keeps to himself. That changes the one night he walks into the local bookstore and meets Harper.
Harper has lived in the same small town in Georgia her entire life. At first, she was bullied and beaten for being gay and then the attacks continued when she transitioned to living as a female. She found some safety and acceptance with the local biker group, but Harper isn’t used to anyone being tender with her. She doesn’t think she’s worthy because so many people have told her she’s not. She seeks out a damaging relationship trying to fill something inside of her, but that’s not working so well either.
Harper is not expecting Gideon. Gideon wants to get to know her and is sweet and gentle with her and that is as equally unnerving to Harper as the cruelty. Gideon is also patient and lets Harper takes their relationship at her own pace. But Harper has to fully embrace that she deserves something good in her life and that’s not as easy as it sounds.
This book is billed as a standalone, but is a spin off from Dabney’s earlier Brawlers series where Harper was introduced. The book is dedicated to all of the readers that wanted to know more about Harper’s story, so clearly she made an impression in the earlier books. The relationship between Harper and Gideon does work on its own, but for Harper herself, as well as the network of secondary characters that the book includes, I was at a frustrated disadvantage as I certainly felt that I was missing key information.
Harper is an intriguing character the moment her story opens here. She has lived in the south all of her life and her story is a tragic one. She had no support as she came out and then transitioning only led to more violence. She has a safe job working at the book store and a few friends that make up the band, The Executioners. It is not clear in this book how that all came about and it is implied that the reader should already know a lot about the secondary characters.
Harper’s life, however, is one of pain. After a suicide attempt and a promise made to not inflict any more harm on herself, she seeks out a destructive relationship with Bill and allows him to hurt her. Bill takes the role of the classic bad guy. He is barely on page, but when he is he is not a fully developed character and didn’t add the impact that I felt was needed given what was happening to Harper. Bill becomes a plot point as he stalks Harper, but it remained a weak link to the story for me.
Gideon is a classic nice guy. He is trying to rebuild his life and is captivated immediately by Harper. He is exactly what Harper needs and he is patient and kind and puts Harper first even after just meeting her. Their relationship is a slow burn as they try friendship out first, but that spark was missing for me. Harper had so many issues and while she goes slow with Gideon, we are never shown her dealing with the root of those issues.
Gideon also lives on a farm. The farm and his schedule are referenced, but what exactly Gideon did on the farm all by himself to earn a living was unclear. He also plays with the band, The Executioners, which is the name of the series. The band aspect is barely shown and again I felt that this may have had stronger ties into the previous series.
The many secondary characters are given plenty of page time and it would work great if you are familiar with the characters. It became unclear to me which characters already had a story and which characters would be given upcoming books. Joker was one such interesting character and while he clearly had ties to the previous series, some research uncovered that his full story will be next for this series.
This was Harper and Gideon’s book and Harper was an interesting character that needed a chance and someone to believe in her. But, their relationship was a bit flat for me and there was too much brought in from the previous series to fully work for me as a standalone, along with a villain that inflicted so much pain on Harper but came across on page as a caricature. I would suggest that this book would be best served if you are familiar with the earlier series.