James Gossett’s father was a Southern Baptist preacher and he put the fear of hell and damnation in James from a young age. James knew early on he could never live up to his father’s expectations, and when James was injured in a military exercise that left him a double leg amputee, he father saw it as just another sign of failure. Coming out to the man led to the end of their relationship, and James has now made a life for himself in Fairfield, CO, with a great group of close friends who are like family. But as much as he tries to move past what his father taught him, James still feels massive guilt associated with having sex, which has kept him a virgin.
After growing up in foster care when the system pulled him away from the only woman who ever cared for him, Rowan Balk is now an attorney specializing in helping to protect disabled families. He is in town working on an adoption case for Sam, one of James’ close friends. When Rowan and James meet, their connection is unexpected for them both. Rowan is in no place for a relationship; in fact, once Sam’s case is over, he is planning on moving to a new area where his services are more needed. But the attraction between the men is fierce and something about Rowan gives James the nerve to confess his sexual secret. While he can’t offer James much, Rowan can offer him the chance to explore things sexually for the first time, and James is eager to agree.
With Rowan, James finds himself able to take those first steps with sex, and the chemistry between the men is off the charts. But James wants a relationship and a future with someone, and Rowan is clear he can’t be that man. When family issues call Rowan away, it looks like it may be the end of their brief connection. But both Rowan and James feel something strong for one another, and if they are willing to take a chance, they may find happiness together.
Bio-Mechanical is book four in E.M. Lindsey’s excellent Irons and Works series. I have been reading this series somewhat out of order, as well as skipping some books, and the stories stand alone well enough that it is working just fine. The books are designed as standalones, though there is a large cast of characters that make up a lovely found family and who appear in each other’s books. So the more you read, the more developed the stories are, but you can jump in at any point. In this case, Bio-Mechanical actually connects really well to the last book I read, Blank Canvas, as that is Sam’s story and we meet Rowan there as his attorney. The timelines for the books overlap significantly, so the stories fit together well.
In some ways, this storyline is pretty typical for the genre with James being the inexperienced virgin and Rowan stepping in to teach him all the wonders of sex. The guys are hot and sexy and they get up to a lot of fun exploration together. So on that end, it isn’t breaking a lot of new ground. But I think Lindsey elevates this story from the common trope by creating some really interesting and well rounded characters in Rowan and James. Rowan grew up with an addict mother and was saved by a cousin who raised him as her own. That is until she was diagnosed with MS and the courts took him away from her and left him in foster care where he suffered greatly. So Rowan is a crusader for the rights of disabled families and is determined to prevent what happened to him from happening to others. He is a great mix of strong and vulnerable, and I really liked how we see James step in to show Rowan he doesn’t have to always take the world on his shoulders, that he deserves love and comfort too. For his part, James is fighting the demons of his upbringing. He is unfamiliar with sex, but he is not weak or naive. James has a lot of internal strength and when he is ready to reach for what he wants, he doesn’t give up.
The only place where I struggled a bit here is that I felt like we were starting the book a few steps into James and Rowan’s relationship. As I said, the books often overlap in timelines, so it is possible that some of their early interaction occurred in another book. But here it seemed like we see the guys chatting and suddenly James is trusting Rowan enough to not only share his secret, but for Rowan to teach him all about sex. I wasn’t really clear what it was about Rowan that was different, what it was that made James decide he was the guy to confide in. Things just felt like we sort of jumped into the action without quite enough lead up early on. However, once these guys are together, I think the story is really nicely developed and I enjoyed them a lot as a couple.
So I find I am really loving this series. I particularly enjoy the sense of community and found family among the group and I am intrigued by the characters whose stories are coming up next. I am really looking forward to more.
P.S. Ok, I am going to admit right here that I just realized that all these titles refer to a different style of tattooing (Free Hand, Bio-mechanical, Stick and Poke…). Yeah, I should have figured that out sooner, lol!