Connor is in his last year of college. He should be relieved, but his future is already planned out and it’s not one he’s looking forward to. Connor will be taking over the family farm and all of its many branches from his parents and the thought of having to live in Elkville, Oklahoma for the rest of his life is making him claustrophobic. The additional stress is also ramping up his OCD and Connor’s anxiety is a living, breathing thing on its own. He does feel a momentary sense of calm when he sees Travis, but after a failed hook-up and a heat-of-the-moment misunderstanding, the guys don’t like each other…much.
Travis is also ready to graduate college and law school is in his plans. During his early years of college, he liked the slower pace of Elkville, but now he’s ready to move on. With three months left until graduation, Travis knows it’s a bad idea to be still crushing on Connor who has no plans to leave Elkville. The guys are certainly on different paths, but when they are together everything feels right. Travis loves Connor’s dominant side and if a spanking or two is on offer, all the better. When inconvenient feelings rise to the surface, Connor and Travis have to decide if altering their already chosen paths can work in order to have a future together.
Clean Break is the follow-up to McLellan’s Controlled Burn, which was a book I highly enjoyed. Travis was a side character in that story as he was Joel’s roommate and he made enough of an impression on me to mention him in my review of that book. But it has been almost two years since I have read that book, and Travis was no longer at the forefront of my reading thoughts. Yet the first-person narrative here quickly brought Travis back onto my radar.
Travis and Connor don’t like each other much as the story opens. They are also a study in contrasts. Connor grew up on a farm and is expected to take over and his OCD can control him some days. He also has less experience with men, but is willing to try lots of things to be with Travis. Travis wants to hate Connor. He thinks he really does, but when he’s not raging over their failed hook-up, Travis knows that Connor settles something inside of him.
The writing has a dreamy introspective quality at times along with Connor’s OCD and anxiety written so well it leaps right off the page. The guys start out with a friends-with-benefits relationship and lust turns to spanking. The kink here is mild, but it settles both Connor and Travis from opposite ends. They both know they want more, but with their time together having a firm end date at graduation, they are hesitant to speak up for they want. Connor does try, but his anxiety trips him up and since Travis won’t give him any more, Connor thinks Travis doesn’t want anything more with him. Joel and Paulie are fairly visible secondary characters here and it was great to revisit with them and they rounded out as well as added to the story.
The story is told from both Connor and Travis’ POV and the guys are really different, yet their voices did sound too similar for me at times. There is also some family history and drama with Connor and his father and I kept thinking it was going to go somewhere, but it never did and I wondered why it was such a specific plot point with then no further evolution to it. The guys also go around on the same loop of how they can’t be together for most of the book, and while it was age appropriate, it did throw off the pace of the book in some areas.
Clean Break is a character-driven story filled with emotion and the uncertainty of first love. Connor and Travis are both well-written characters that are better together than apart and their journey to a rewarding happy ending is certainly worth a read.