Five years ago, Ryan Shannon’s life changed when his addict of a partner walked out on him and their newborn son. With no prospects and desperately needing help, Ryan returned to his native Michigan to help his brother launch a brewery. In that time, Ryan’s managed to get some semblance of order in his life. He’s a mostly competent parent, a rather accomplished brewman, and completely alone romantically. All that changes with an invitation to dine with his brother, Quinn; Quinn’s girlfriend, Audrey; and Audrey’s wounded warrior brother named Cole. The chemistry between Ryan and Cole is off the charts, but Cole’s demons and his struggle to adapt to losing his vision mean a relationship isn’t going to be easy—if it happens at all.
In the meantime, Ryan is running himself ragged trying to stay on top of the brewing game as the Shannon’s brewery takes flight. To help get organized and break into the big leagues, the brothers hire a newly minted MBA named Lynette. Little did Ryan suspect that he’d be drawn to her, but something about the firebrand calls to him. If Ryan can’t have what his heart truly desires—namely a blind vet—then Ryan decides to at least enjoy a fling with Lynette. But things get complicated because Ryan, Cole, and Lynette’s paths keep crossing…and the attraction between all three of them is undeniable. On a physical level, things get searing hot for the trio, but when emotions start to get involved and boundaries get made (and broken), each of them will have to search deep in their hearts to find out if what they have is worth fighting for.
This book started off with promise. In fact, it started off like many get-together stories. Ryan is running himself ragged keeping up with a booming brewing business while Cole is doing his best to adjust to his new reality as a blind man. When they first encounter each other at Audrey’s house, sexual tension oozes off the pages and the characters get right to it when their respective siblings are out of the picture. However, what ensued, after what felt like a lengthy build up of “this man is so hot” and multiple references to erections pressing into the back-side of trouser zippers, was a disappointingly perfunctory sex scene that felt like it really glossed over the mechanics of two very sexually frustrated and aroused men finally getting sex.
The relationships in the book failed to improve from there. For me, it was the lack of skill in developing any sort of awareness in ANY of the characters regarding bisexuality, as well as how the three-person relationship is handled. For example, Ryan acknowledges his bisexuality on-page and even comments that it means that a good looking man like himself is unlikely to be thirsty for long because he basically has his pick of any man or woman. So when I read this narration (emphasis mine):
Ryan sat for nearly thirty minutes, trying like hell to square his thoughts about the woman—and the man—in his life. And honestly wondered how in the world he could ever be happy with either one of them given his own inability to decide […] which goddamned team he batted for.
I get annoyed because bisexuality, as I understand it, means you aren’t picking a goddamned team.
Even worse, however, was the treatment of the love triangle. There was such promise for this thread. We basically watch Ryan fall in love (or what passes for love in this sex-drenched book) with both Cole and Lynette and I, for one, was just dying to see how he’d pull all three of them together. I waited in vain, though, because Crowe focuses on developing Ryan/Cole and Lynette/Ryan and Lynette/Cole as couples, but is dreadfully muddled on establishing the poly aspect. Ultimately, these three made the shift from couples to trio by way of a one-night threesome…and then, it was just taken for granted that they were in a three-way serious relationship—zero on-page discussion. It annoyed me that there seemed to be absolutely zero discussion about the realities, mechanics, and emotions involved (hell, even as PAIRS the verbal communication stopped at “you make me so hot”), yet after that one bout of sex, suddenly they’re totally cool with realizing they’re not just bi (Ryan) or just gay (Cole) or just straight (Lynette), but also polyamorous and want to all be together as a triad. In addition, on-page sex scenes that include Lynette feel longer and more intimately described and rather more focused on her; sex scenes that don’t include Lynette felt rushed and sloppy. Ultimately, this lack of attention to personal relationships and focus on sex, sex, and more sex made this book read more like a thinly veiled attempt at erotica.
Another huge detractor for me was the depiction of disability. Cole lost his vision in an explosion that also killed the fellow Marine with whom Cole was in a relationship. These events leave Cole seriously hurting, especially emotionally. What stuck in my craw was the casual way people who are not Cole think it’s okay to remove Cole’s glasses from his face and pet his assistance dog, including Ryan letting his child climb all over the dog.
The storytelling in this book left a lot to be desired, as well. There are a lot of shortcomings in the supporting cast (they only exists insofar as the MCs need them to) and I was confused by the timing of many of the little events in the story. What let me down the most, however, was how things play out between Ryan, Cole, and Lynette. They are a picture of disfunction and it’s just so frustratingly disappointing to see these three either fucking or fighting, but never actually discussing what their relationship is. For me, this oversight robbed critical scenes of real impact.
With characters reduced to little more than their sex drive and problematic story building, this book is a hard pass for me.