Narrator: Mark Larchmont
Length: 6 hours, 11 minutes
After going undercover with the Heathens motorcycle club for the ATF, Bram barely made it out alive. He should be recovering from his injuries and laying low, but with his brother Linc missing, Bram instead heads to the town of Shades Run where Linc was last seen with the Havoc MC. Bram knows it is dangerous getting involved with another club with the Heathens out looking for him. And although Havoc is not as violent and lawless as the Heathens, dealing with them is still plenty dangerous. But Bram can’t give up on finding his brother, regardless of the personal risk.
Though he tries to keep his connection to Linc a secret, it isn’t long before Havoc, and their president Sweet in particular, recognizes there is more to Bram’s cover story. But Bram is still keeping his identity as an ATF agent a secret. Neither man fully trusts the other, but Sweet and Bram share an attraction that they find impossible to resist. Sweet knows that there is more going on with Bram than he is saying, and Sweet must protect his club at all costs. Since losing his partner years ago, Sweet hasn’t been interested in giving his heart up again. And as much as Bram cares for Sweet, he has to put Linc’s safety above all else.
As Bram continues to look for Linc, he is falling harder for Sweet, but danger is around every turn — especially when it becomes clear that someone Bram should be able to trust is working for the other side. Now he must figure out how to help his brother without losing Sweet, or his life, in the process.
Running Blind is the second book in S.E. Jakes’ Havoc series, following Running Wild. It has been almost five years since I read that first book and I had no problem jumping in here, so I think this one stands alone just fine. While the MCs from the first book have a couple of cameos, and I am guessing other side characters overlap, I came into this one pretty cold and it worked fine.
I think the set up worked well here with both Sweet and Bram having to figure out how to trust one another. It is clear that while each are doubting the other, they have a strong attraction that neither can deny. We get a good sense of both men and they are nicely matched. Even though Bram is the more vulnerable most of the time, he has a clear strength (both physical and emotional), that make him a good fit for Sweet. As much as Sweet has the power, I never felt like Bram couldn’t hold his own. I also enjoyed the insights into the Havoc MC, particularly seeing it contrasted with the other local clubs. There is some nice suspense and excitement toward the end of the story and it comes together well (leading nicely into the next book).
My biggest hurdle here is I didn’t really feel the connection between Sweet and Bram the way I wanted to. These are hard men with a lot of secrets, and though they fall into bed almost immediately, it takes time to build trust. But I just never really felt what they were seeing in each other, aside from the sexual attraction, and their romantic feelings for one another just didn’t come through for me fully. The guys spend a lot of time growling and angry at one another, and although there is tenderness at times, I didn’t really feel it. I am not sure how much of that is the MC tough guy thing that Sweet has going on and how much of that is the narration. Sweet is the president of the club and he expects to be obeyed at all times and that includes by Bram (even though Bram doesn’t always listen). But I know sometimes performance choices by the narrator can impact how I feel about a character, so I am really not sure if my disconnect is coming from the story or the audio.
I generally enjoyed narrator Mark Larchmont’s audio performance and I think it mostly fit within the story. However, he tends to use a growly twang for almost all the characters, including Sweet, and this made many of the MC members sound largely interchangeable. I often couldn’t tell who was speaking within a conversation. The growling, sometimes biting, tone also gave the impression of constant anger and irritation, which I don’t think was always supported by the story. Even moments that I felt were supposed to be softer and more tender came across as hard and angry. So I am not sure exactly where to point as the focus for why I didn’t quite connect with these guys as a couple, but I am guessing it is some combination of the narration and the story itself.
Unfortunately, this one didn’t capture my attention as much as I had hoped, especially after really enjoying the first book. However, if you are fan of tough men, particularly in the motorcycle club world, this one may be worth checking out.
Note: There is a side character here named Gypsy who is one of the MCs in the next book. Jakes has indicated that Gypsy will be renamed Mercy and the blurb for his upcoming book contains the new name. It sounds like his name will also be retroactively changed in the first two stories in the series.