Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.25 stars

Narrator: Michael Pauley
Length: 7 hours, 31 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

I chose this book for Diverse Books Week as part of our Reading Challenge Month because it features a black, disabled veteran falling for a younger, white, former musician. Each man has considerable troubles, but they make each other better and help save one another from their literal and figurative demons.

A crash ended helicopter pilot Maverick Delgardo’s military career and killed some of his dearest friends. Though fitted for his partial leg prosthesis, he’s been mostly been sitting on his sister’s couch and drinking the days away for the past several months. His brother-in-law ran off with a young secretary, leaving his sister supporting a teen daughter and the sole proprietor of their bail bonds and security firm, which is struggling. Out of desperation, his sister accepts a security gig for a recently disgraced pop star, Deacon Daniels, who may or may not have a stalker. She begs Mav to clean up and show up for the initial meeting while she handles a different case.

Two years ago, Deacon Daniels was a rising star. Then, a stalker fan died while tailing him. Soon after, his elder brother died of an overdose and Deacon was falsely implicated in the death, costing him his recording contract. He took custody of his orphaned niece, but his estranged mother sued for custody and Deacon didn’t have the money to continue his case. Then, new threats began, and people think he’s just claiming another stalker to gain publicity.

Mav is immediately drawn to Deacon, who seems almost frail in his vulnerability. Deacon thinks he’s hit rock bottom, but the cops don’t believe him until his apartment is wrecked—which is when Deacon is evicted and loses the future months’ rent he paid in advance. Broke and broken, Deacon is only too happy to accept Mav’s pity offer to crash at his sister’s house. Mav doesn’t think he’s a suitable bodyguard, struggling with his alcoholism and an ill-fitting prosthesis, but Deacon’s admiration spurs him into trying his hardest to do better.

There are setbacks, though. The negative publicity becomes fodder for Deacon’s mother to deny visitation. Mav’s drinking puts himself and Deacon at risk. Then, people close to Deacon, who may have assisted in his downward career slide, start turning up dead…tortured first. Is this coincidence, or the activity of the stalker? As Mav endeavors to protect Deacon, he also helps him gain custody of his niece again. But, the stalker-killer is getting closer, and it’s soon clear that Mav’s going to suffer his greatest loss if he doesn’t clean up and prepare to face his most difficult challenge.

The narration of this piece by Michael Pauley was tight, with a gritty voice for Mav and a more lyrical tone for Deacon. The secondary characters were all distinguishable, and the light voice of Deacon’s niece, who is 3, was adequately rendered. There isn’t a lot of steam, but it was tender and touching when Mav and Deacon finally reach for one another. There is a lot of trauma in this story, and the narrator uses an appropriate tone to relate these moments, just as well as when our vile stalker-killer assumes the POV.

I really liked the story and felt connected to both Deacon and Mav. The stalker-killer took a good while to reveal himself, though I had an early inkling. It seems this is the first in a series and I’d go for the next one, when available.

This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Diverse Books Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of six $20 NineStar Press gift cards from the fabulous folks at NineStar Press! Commenters will also be entered to win one of our three amazing Grand Prize book bundles. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Diverse Books Week here

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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