Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset are still together and Somers is wearing the ring that Hazard gave him. The ring that means all of the promises and forever. Hazard loves Somers, he has always loved him, but Hazard is wound so tight these days, he’s one breath away from an explosion all of the time. The men do have a reason to celebrate, however, as Somers has received a commendation for outstanding police work.
It’s during this celebratory time that Hazard’s ex-boyfriend, Billy, shows up at their home, spinning a story about an abusive boyfriend and a need to get away and a need for help. Somers sees right through Billy and the manipulative tactics he has over Hazard and both men realize that Billy has ulterior motives.
When familiar faces show up in town to track Billy down, Hazard sets off on a path to hide Billy. But a local murder leads the investigation back around and the killer points to someone Hazard once knew well. Also, the killer known as the Keeper of Bees resurfaces, sending Hazard spiraling to keep his family safe. Everything comes at a price and Hazard and Somers’ relationship starts to unravel once again. Sometimes love may not be enough and Hazard and Somers have to learn to live with the choices they have made while managing the hand they have been dealt and ultimately trying to rise once more to stay together.
Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset. Just the names at this point evoke a feeling in me, well, lots of feelings. This book is defined by the author as part of a spin-off series, but really, these guys go so far back through all of the Hazard and Somerset books and knowing all of the ways they got to where they are now truly enhances the experience.
Ashe knows these characters so well and because of this I know them well. The end of the last book, Police Brutality, was spectacular and brought Emery and Hazard to a special place, but being domestic isn’t easy for these guys. Somers is still on the police force and Hazard is a PI that consults with the police at times and that causes friction in their relationship. Almost everything causes friction in their relationship. Hazard isn’t just haunted by the events of his past, especially what went down with Mikey, he is tormented by those memories, which causes dramatic and dangerous ripples throughout his entire life. He would never ask for help, but Hazard is at the point where he really needs to sort some volatile stuff out.
This series always centers around a murder case and this one got away from the Ozark Volunteers/Bright Lights, which was more to my liking. Ashe likes to expertly misdirect, but I was able hang with it and I like that while the intrigue is incredibly high, I can also see between the layers. There are familiar faces seen and Hazard’s ex, Billy, has a role here. His story, as well as the final outcome of the murder case, were the two areas that I felt there was something held back and by the end I had questions and was looking for missing pieces that weren’t offered.
This book also focuses more on Hazard and Somers’ personal relationship and that hit hard. Hazard and Somers love each other, but they have a lot of issues that are so tightly woven into who they are to each other. They love each other, but they’re mean to each other, hurt each other, and the damage is real and visceral and all consuming. At times, I felt like Ashe wanted me to take a side, but in the end, the idea is to root for the two of them to be together and stay together.
Transactional Dynamics is one of the best books in this entire series for me and given how many books in we are, that’s quite a feat to accomplish. Ashe keeps their relationship fresh and volatile and, as the title suggests, dynamic. Oh, and yeah, the Keeper of Bees is still out there, and I’ll anxiously await the next installment.