Rating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novel

When Adam Nichols wakes up once again beaten and bloody from his abusive boyfriend, he knows it is time to get out. With no family and having drifted from most of his friends, Adam has few options for where to go, but he calls his freshman roommate, Davey, in hopes of having a temporary place to stay. Davey welcomes Adam immediately and quickly helps him out with a job at the club where he works, a place called Daddy’s Lap with clientele who are into Daddy/boy dynamics. When Adam is ready to move forward, Davey also helps connect him with one of the Daddies from the club, Travis Miller, who has a room to rent.

Travis is immediately moved by Adam’s story and it is all he can do to hold his Daddy side back as he so wants to help take care of Adam. The two become friends and Travis’ natural nurturing side comes out, something that is so soothing to Adam after his ordeal with Zach. Adam had no experience with a Daddy/boy lifestyle prior to his job at the club, but as he watches the other men (and a few women) at the club, he begins to realize that that kind of dynamic may be just what he needs — someone who can help take care of him and let him release some of the pressure he feels, but also someone who will be sensitive to his needs rather than controlling and abusive. Adam has no idea that Travis is not only a Daddy himself, but also a member of the club.

As the men spend more time together, their relationship moves from friendship to romance. However, Travis still hasn’t told Adam that he is a Daddy as well, and when the truth comes out, Adam feels like his trust has been violated. Now Travis and Adam must find a way to resolve the rift and they may just find their happiness together.

Rules to Follow is the first book in Susan Hawke’s new Davey’s Rules series, and I found it a sweet, if somewhat quiet, Daddy/boy story. The book starts off with the aftermath of one of Zach’s abusive attacks on Adam and we can really feel for Adam as he tries to get away and move forward with his life. I appreciated how we see Adam reclaim control, finding a job that he loves and taking self-defense classes that give him the confidence and skills he needs to feel more secure. I think Hawke does a nice job giving Adam some independence and showing his inner strength, while at the same time showing us how a Daddy/boy relationship offers the nurturing and care that he enjoys.

The plot here mostly follows Adam and Travis getting to know one another and beginning their relationship. The guys are sweet together and there is a nice tenderness to their interactions. While Zach is kind of a low level background threat, most of the focus here is really on Adam and Travis’ developing relationship. While I found the early parts of the story really engaging, I did find things start to slow as we get further in the book as there isn’t a whole lot going on aside from Adam and Travis’ day-to-day interaction. The conflict that comes is laid out in the blurb, so there is no surprise here as to what’s going to happen. I also found the conflict to be sort of weak. First, it was hard for me to understand why Travis never told Adam he was a Daddy who also was a member of the club where Adam works. I get he may not have said anything at the start, but they are well into both their friendship and their romantic relationship and he still doesn’t tell him. There is even a point where Adam asks Travis if he is familiar with the club and Travis changes the subject to avoid answering. I would understand if it was presented that Travis wasn’t comfortable talking about or sharing his kink, but that never appears to be the issue. It just felt like an omission purely there to cause conflict later. When the truth comes out, Adam feels his trust is violated and he asks Travis for space. Travis then texts and calls him regularly until friends make it clear he needs to cut that out, then he tracks down Adam’s location through some professional connections and starts sending him gifts. Which… is not giving space. So I’ll admit, I didn’t love how this whole conflict comes together or is resolved.

The title of this series is Davey’s Rules and Davey himself is a prominent side character. So prominent actually that the Prologue of the book is told from his POV as he goes on a date with Travis. The premise is that Davey has a list of rules for Daddies and Travis fails them so they cut the date short. I think some of your feelings about this book (and series) will likely rest on how you feel about Davey. He is clearly a guy with a good heart and he takes Adam in and helps care for him without a thought. He is ready to step in and defend his friends and he is without a doubt a good person. But he is also a lot — a total drama queen, nosy, into everyone’s business, outrageous, etc. I liked him for his heart, but at times I found him too much. I assume we will continue to follow through his eyes over the course of the series until he finds is own Daddy. We also meet some other club members (some more likable than others), some of whom I assume will ultimately get their own stories. I’ll note that some of the Daddy/boy relationships are age play dynamics with “little” boys, in addition to the Daddy/boy kink that Adam and Travis share.

Overall, I found this story sweet and I enjoyed the relationship between Travis and Adam. I think Hawke does a nice job showing how Adam thrives under the Daddy/boy dynamic and how that doesn’t take away from his inner strength and ability to stand up for himself and fight for what he needs. Rules to Follow does a nice job setting up the series and I’ll be looking forward to seeing where things go from here.

Note: While we don’t see the Adam being abused on page, we do see the immediate aftermath, including information about his many injuries. There are also some additional conflicts and altercations later in the book (thought Adam is not injured). So be aware if this is a trigger for you.