leaning into alwaysRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

Eric Schuster is engaged to his best friend Zane Richards. The guys are a few months from their wedding and Eric is incredibly happy. Part of him wonders what a sexy surfer turned sailor like Zane sees in him. After all, Eric was always the geeky kid who got picked on and though he is successful now running his own tech firm, he still has doubts about his appeal. But Zane is clear he loves Eric and can’t wait to spend their lives together.

Things get complicated when the Zane is hired for a job that involves working with his ex, Dean. The guys haven’t been together for years, but it is obvious to Eric that Dean is definitely still interested. Zane sees the relationship as only business and doesn’t understand why Eric is so jealous, but Eric knows the truth. Dean seems like just the guy who would be perfect for someone like Zane, and Eric’s self doubts make the jealousy flare even higher. Now Eric must trust in Zane’s love and committment and know that he is the only one that Zane truly wants.

Leaning Into Always is book 1.5 in the Leaning Into series. It follows the first two books in the series, the first of which feature Eric and Zane starting their relationship. So while you don’t need to have read book 2, Leaning Into the Fall, you will want to be familiar with Eric and Zane from Leaning Into Love before starting this one.

I think Hayes does a nice job here with what can be a difficult storyline, taking an established couple and giving them some internal conflicts to face. I’ll admit, this isn’t always my favorite trope, and I think it is handled well here. Eric deals with some major jealousy issues, and at times he acts stupid, but even as Zane is sometimes frustrated with him, the love both these men have always shines through. They work through their problems and talk about how they feel, even when neither is quite understanding the other’s viewpoint. Hayes does a nice job walking that line between establishing a conflict that stirs up issues between the men and having them work through it maturely and with love.

Part of what makes the Dean situation hard for Eric to handle is his own insecurities about not being good enough for Zane. He is an accomplished guy, but being back in that high school environment brings back a lot of memories that affect his confidence. Hayes helps us to understand why Eric is struggling and gives his problems some context. For his part, Zane is able to open up about his own insecurities, which helps give Eric some perspective and further develops the characters.

Leaning Into Always is a nice follow up to Leaning Into Love and I think it works well placed between the two current books. It reunites us with two likable characters and gives us more insight into their relationship.

Note: The first book in the series, Leaning Into Love, was originally released as part of the It Was Always You anthology and has now be released as an individual story

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