Nat Walker is a woodworker who is still grieving the loss of his father two years ago. The two were in business together and Nat’s dad dreamed of opening a storefront. Nat is just about to make that a reality when someone else buys the building he wants, and even though it is not the guy’s fault, Nat is still annoyed. When he goes to meet the new dancer who is opening a studio in what should be his space, Nat is quite grumpy about it, but that doesn’t stop the spark of attraction he feels.
Quinn Carroll has moved to the small town of Lakeshore, Oregon to be near his adoptive brother, Shay. The two are incredibly close and Quinn has hated being apart while he was living in New York. Plus, he loves Lakeshore and feels at home here right away. His dance studio seems to be doing well, despite the grumpy woodworker. The only downside is that Quinn has been researching his birth parents without any success. He knows he was adopted at age four, and he loves his family. But part of him still is curious about his history before he came to be with the Carrolls.
Quinn’s whole world is rocked, however, when he learns that at four years old, he was kidnapped from his home and put up for adoption. Not only that, but his birth family is from right there in Lakeshore. Quinn is shocked to find he has an identical twin, along with an older brother. The news totally throws Quinn, as he worries about what this means for his relationship with his adoptive family. Quinn also feels guilt for the circumstances around the kidnapping, and just generally confused and uncertain about all the revelations.
Nat is determined to be there for Quinn, but he has his own insecurities, particularly concerns about his ability to protect and take care of those he loves after the death of his dad. Now Nat has to decide if he is going to trust himself and take a chance on building a relationship with Quinn.
I picked up The Heights for our Self-Published Book Week as part of our Reading Challenge Month. I have heard great things about Aislin’s writing so I was excited to check out this first book in her new Lakeshore series. The premise caught my attention right away with the kidnapping and the mystery behind what happened, and it made for an intriguing set up for the story. The book starts with a Prologue that shows the kidnapping and we learn early on that Quinn is adopted and looking for his birth family. So we know right away that this conflict is building and I think Aislin does a nice job not only showing the challenges this brings for Quinn in terms of shaking up his sense of self, but also the way he suffers guilt and uncertainty after learning the circumstances of the kidnapping. For Quinn, what is most important is not losing his adoptive family, but he worries about how things will play out and gets generally overwhelmed and ends up leaning on Nat for support.
While I thought the set up was really interesting, I do feel like it fell somewhat flat. Basically everything we learn about the kidnapping is told either in the Prologue or shortly thereafter. There are tons of unanswered questions, including why Quinn has no memory of the events, who was behind it all, what was going on with a guard who walked away from his duty station, etc. Yet none of them are answered, despite the families reuniting and the FBI agent investigating. I get why answers might be hard 20 years later, but as a reader, I wanted some payoff to all these open questions and it never comes. It just made the story seem unfinished and took away some of the excitement we could have had uncovering the mystery of what happened. This is the first book in a series, so perhaps some of these revelations will play out later, but given this is Quinn’s book, I wanted more answers now.
On the relationship end, these guys are a nice couple, but I didn’t feel the chemistry all that strongly. Nat is attracted to Quinn (and the feeling is mutual), but Nat doesn’t want to get involved due to his fears about losing someone else he loves. They have a few conversations and one dirty dance prior to Quinn learning about his kidnapping. Then Quinn wants to go out and get laid as an outlet for his grief, and Nat gets all caveman possessive and decides if anyone has Quinn it is going to be him. There is a night of sex, and then suddenly the guys are boyfriends. It just felt way out of nowhere. They barely seemed to know one another and then there is some sort of commitment in the midst of the crisis Quinn is dealing with. I just never felt the connection between them fully and their relationship doesn’t have much chance to develop, it’s just suddenly there. I did appreciate Nat’s support of Quinn however, as well as seeing Nat work through his own issues over the course of the book.
Another issue I had was that I found myself confusing all these guys and having trouble remembering who was who, even late into the book. Nat has a older brother, Quinn has an older brother, and then he meets another older brother, plus his twin. While the moms make token appearances here, basically everyone other than Nat’s sister-in-law who has any kind of speaking role is a guy, right down to Nat’s nephew. It is total dude town here, which isn’t a huge issue by itself, but it just made it so hard to keep everyone straight. As I was reading, I kept trying to remember, is John Nat’s brother or Quinn’s brother? Even now, writing this review, I had to stop and think. I also found the coincidence that Quinn’s adoptive brother just randomly stumbles upon and decides to move to the same town where Quinn was born and kidnapped and where his bio brothers still live was way too much for me to swallow.
So I did have some issues here, but overall I found this an enjoyable story. Aislin has a nice writing style and I think the set up here is really interesting. I hope that the mystery of the kidnapping continues to be explored in future books. But either way, Aislin has given a nice lead in to the series and we meet some interesting characters who I assume will show up in future books. So I am looking forward to seeing what more there is to come.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Self-Published Book Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of the great prize packs of self-published books donated by some very generous authors. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a Kindle Fire filled with Dreamspun Desires/Beyond books, plus a 3-month subscription!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Self-Published Book Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize.