Twelve years ago, Max was assaulted by the partner he was attempting to leave. Max was stabbed and Tony was sentenced to twelve years in prison. Now running a successful graphic design business, Max is living with his legal ward, Jack, and the two are happy — until they realize that Tony is due to be released from prison in two weeks. Max’s response to this is to improve his home security system, while Jack chooses to visit Young’s Gun Emporium to arm himself.
It is at the gun shop that Jack meets Deacon Young who teaches Jack how to use his weapon and, upon hearing Jack’s reason for buying a gun, Deacon also suggests that Max should visit him. Max reluctantly agrees, but is glad he did once he meets Deacon and the two quickly become friends.
However, the day of Tony’s release arrives and Max receives an email, followed soon by another, and then more serious threats. Without concrete proof that Tony is the perpetrator, the police are unable to act so Deacon steps in as a family bodyguard — but will he be able to keep Jack and Max safe?
Protecting Max is the third book I have read by Edward Kendrick recently and I love the fact that each story has been different from the others. I feel that sometimes authors can become stuck in a rut, but Kendrick does not seem afraid to explore subgenres within gay romance.
I really liked Protecting Max because the relationship between Deacon and Max is slow burn. Kendrick’s focus for the majority of the story is upon building the tension and it is the knowledge that Tony is covertly watching Max, Jack, and Deacon that aroused my interest in the story and prompted me to read so hurriedly. For me, the situation with Tony was more dramatic because Kendrick makes us aware of what he is capable of — and Max is still living with the scars. The fact that the police are unable to arrest Tony seems unfair, though it is realistic and we only hope that this man trips himself up with his actions.
Luckily for the reader, Kendrick is a clever writer who is able to create tension in Protecting Max while at the same time developing his characters and their relationships with one another. Max and Jack’s relationship is already close, mainly because Max became Jack’s legal guardian when Jack’s parents were killed in a car accident when he was six. Now nineteen and aware of the abuse his uncle suffered at Tony’s hands, even before the stabbing, we understand that the reason Jack goes to Deacon’s shop is out of genuine concern for Max.
I really enjoyed the contrast Kendrick makes between Deacon’s unselfishness and Tony’s callousness. I really felt a need for the friendship between Deacon and Max to become more, but I am glad that Kendrick makes his reader wait.
Max’s character is the one that Kendrick concentrates on cultivating the most. It is Max’s closeness to Jack and the friendship with Deacon that strengthens him and gives him the confidence to stand up to Tony. I think the fact that Kendrick represents the abused man in Protecting Max is really important. As a society, we focus upon domestic violence with women as victims. Kendrick forces his reader to look at this serious issue from another perspective and in doing so he gives a voice to those that we rarely hear.
I am writing this review on the day that the world has been shocked and saddened by news of another mass shooting incident in the U.S. and I feel that it would be amiss of me not to mention it when considering Protecting Max. I am a citizen of the UK and the idea of obtaining and owning a gun is alien to me, but it seems to be Jack’s first consideration when he hears of Tony being released. In this case, Kendrick does not glorify the use of guns; they serve a purpose for Jack and Max and Kendrick does show some responsibility as an author. Jack and Max go about this legally, with Deacon not only checking their details, but also teaching them how to shoot.
Protecting Max is a compelling story that has a HFN ending, but I think this is suitable and it was enough for me to feel satisfied by Kendrick’s storytelling. A recommendation if you are a fan of the suspense subgenre.