tender with a twistRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Logan Rosner has come to the small town of Rainbow Cove, Oregon, to be the chef at a new GLBT-friendly tavern he opened with his friends Mason and Adam. Logan is happy to be out of Portland and feels like in his new home he can finally start to explore being true to himself and what he really wants, rather than working to meet the expectations of his parents or his ex. Logan is beginning to spread his wings, but he still struggles with his interest in kink and finding someone who will take him seriously as a Dom, given his youthful appearance and lack of experience.

Curtis Hunt is a woodcarver who lost his love two years ago. Curtis has long ago learned never to hope for or expect too much, as life has a way of always bringing disappointment in the end. He lives a basic life with a few close friends and has learned to be satisfied with what he has and never really dream for more. With Troy gone, Curtis has been settling for some friendly play partners, but when that ends, he is left a bit adrift. When the Tavern has a leather night, Curtis reluctantly checks it out, and there he sees Logan in a whole new light. The men decide to act on their shared attraction and matching desires to play for the night, but Curtis is clear that it can never be more.

Despite his determination to keep his distance, Logan’s sunny personality and endless enthusiasm are a bright spot in Curtis’ life. And so when Logan suggests that Curtis might help train him to be a more experienced Dom, Curtis finds himself agreeing. The two have many fabulous scenes together, and the chemistry between them is strong. But despite the fact that Curtis feels more peace than he has in a long time when with Logan, he is still determined to keep his distance. He knows Logan can do much better than him, and doesn’t want to tie the man down. And Curtis doesn’t want to get attached, sure that Logan will inevitably leave town. But Logan is definitely interested in something more with Curtis, and thinks the two can have a real future together. Now he just has to convince Curtis of that.

Tender with a Twist is the second book in Annabeth Albert’s Rainbow Cove series, and I really liked this second installment. We meet both Logan and Curtis in the first book, Trust with a Chaser, and Curtis was such a fascinating side character, I have been eagerly awaiting his story. And Albert does a wonderful job here with our cranky woodcarver and helping him move from his bleak place to one of happiness with Logan.

These two are a bit of a mismatched couple, something I love in my books. Logan is younger with a sunny disposition and a way of looking at life with happiness and enthusiasm. He looks young, and between that and being an only child, his parents still treat him like a kid. Now that he is in Rainbow Cove, he wants to start living like the person he feels on the inside, and that includes embracing his kinky side. But getting anyone to take him seriously as a Dom is proving hard. Curtis, for his part, is still nursing his broken heart from Troy’s death. He is a loner and somewhat cranky and has had a rough lot in life, between a crappy childhood and the loss of his partner. So whereas Logan is full of optimism, Curtis is reserved and protective of his heart, not wanting to wish for something that can never last. And as much as he likes Logan, he doesn’t believe they can have a future. I really enjoyed seeing how these guys mesh together, how Logan can slowly draw Curtis out and help him find his happiness again. These guys have such clear chemistry, even as Curtis is at times hesitant, and I enjoyed seeing Curtis’ walls slowly come down the more time he spends with Logan.

This story definitely embraces the kink, so I have tagged it as a BDSM story, but really that is not the focus of the book. These guys explore a Dom/sub relationship, including pain and impact play, but I wouldn’t describe it as hard core, especially if you have read more intense BDSM. That said, if kink is not your thing, it does play a major role in their sexual activities, so be aware. That said, I really enjoyed the kinky elements here and the way it plays with the power dynamic between them. Curtis is older, more experienced, and more intense. He holds people at at distance and keeps himself reserved. Yet with Logan, Curtis welcomes submitting and I enjoyed seeing Logan as the newbie Dom find himself over the course of the book, as well as how their interactions really help bring Curtis back to life.

So I really enjoyed this second installment after being a bit lukewarm on the first one. It looks like there are at least two more books planned for the series, so I really excited to see where Albert takes things from here.

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