Rating: 4.5 stars
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After a rough time growing up, Kyle McKee is the co-owner of a successful speakeasy in NYC with his best friend, Jesse. Kyle is the chief mixologist and his drink combinations are legendary. He lives a simple life in a small, one-bedroom apartment and has the best friends who offer unconditional support. His love life, though, is a different story and after a string of bad dates, Kyle has taken a break from dating
Luka Clarke is a lieutenant with the FDNY. He is mixed race and bisexual and when he crosses paths with Kyle at a local restaurant, the man immediately has his attention. The men meet again under less than ideal circumstances when Kyle is trapped in a fire and Luka’s team gets the call. Grateful, Kyle invites Luka and his team to the bar where the flames between the men continue to spark.
The men seem perfect for each other and their chemistry is intense. But Luka’s mother and sister are less than pleased with Luka dating a white man and their disapproval cuts Kyle deeper than he will allow Luka to see. Still, Luka is sure his family will come around when they see the incredible man that Kyle is.
Their growing relationship is ground to a halt when the men are attacked and the hate crime leaves them scarred, fearful, and not knowing how to connect with each other. Kyle and Luka both have layers of emotion they try to hide, but eventually it all boils over, leaving them struggling to continue on as they were. They men will have to come to terms with their pasts, as well as the attack, to be able to move forward and love each other without fear.
Behind the Stick continues the Speakeasy series and I am a fan of this series, the setting, and the characters. This book is best read in order as Jesse and Cam, from the second book, Extra Dirty, are visible and important characters here. All of the men, including Carter and Riley from the previous Tidal series, are present and the series is well layered and I certainly appreciated and enjoyed having read about all of the connections.
Kyle and Luka are naturally drawn to each other and their attraction is well written and flows easily. The men both want to have a partner to share their lives with, but they also know they have a lot to work around, such as work schedules and past family issues. With Kyle, we see the impact his uncaring mother made on his life and while Luka has a lot of support from his family, he sometimes feels that it is too much. Some of Luka’s family is also not supportive of his relationship with Kyle as the last relationship Luka had with a white man didn’t end well.
The men are open with each other and communicate in the beginning as Kyle explains his relationship with Jesse, as well as with Cam, which leads to a sizzling evening for the four men. The speakeasy is more a fixture here as well as Kyle is the co-owner and the authors did a great job of making me want to visit and try all of Kyle’s liquid creations. The character development is rich and layered as well, and both Kyle and Luka are well written. The book was well paced for me right up until the end. The men go through a crisis together and pull away and I would have liked the same balance in the last chapters of the book.
This was a great addition to the series and offered another great couple with Kyle and Luka, while keeping them connected to the speakeasy as well as their close group of friends, and I certainly hope there will be more chances to visit this world.