Rating: 3.75 stars
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Scott has just come out publicly, becoming the first out gay athlete in the NHL. Not only that, but he has shared with the world that he is poly and in love with two men, Casey and Will. It throws things into upheaval and the media is all over them, but all the guys want to do is get back to the ranch and to their normal lives. It isn’t easy, as the paparazzi are stationed outside their gate and won’t leave the men alone. Not to mention that as soon as the guys arrive home, Casey gets pulled into a murder investigation when the current sheriff is killed. He isn’t sure about getting back into law enforcement, especially with all that is going on in their lives. But Will and Scott know how much Casey loves the work and encourage him to take on the investigator position.
Will is trying to settle back to normal on the ranch and ends up taking on a mentor role to two LGBTQ teens who are working for him for the summer. Will remembers what his life was like at that age, and how much Graham and Annmarie Slater changed the course of his life by hiring him and supporting him. So Will wants to give back to some of these other kids who need help as well. But things are complicated as Casey’s murder case begins to bleed over into the lives of the teens.
Scott had been looking forward to a quiet summer at home with his guys, but the media still won’t leave him alone. He also worries what will happen when he gets back on the ice, and whether his teammates will be accepting of him and his relationship.
And Casey is mired in what is now looking like a double murder case with very little in the way of suspects or leads. As his digs further, however, all three men end up finding themselves involved. Someone doesn’t want their crimes to be discovered, and they are willing to kill to keep it quiet. Now Casey, with some help from Will and Scott, needs to get to the bottom of the case before it is too late.
Changes Going On is the follow up to Changes Coming Down and it picks up almost immediately after the first book ends. You will want to have read the first book before this one as this continues the guys’ journey and ties things up for them. The immediate crisis for Will, Casey, and Scott is the fallout from Scott’s public coming out. Things are kind of chaotic for them as they must deal with the media and Scott’s team and all they want to do is go home and be together on the ranch. But almost as soon as the immediate crazy dies down, Casey gets a call asking him to investigate a murder and things heat back up again.
The story here largely follows two paths. One focuses on Casey investigating the murder, and the other focuses on the ranch and Will’s mentorship of some older teens, though the two subplots do end up crossing over at points as the case heats up. Scott is also dealing with his team and the fallout from coming out, but that isn’t as much of a plot focus. For me, I found the case the most interesting as I enjoyed seeing how the mystery unfolded. I don’t think this is high octane (at least until things heat up at the end), but liked following along with the case. The ending did feel a bit over the top at times, particularly when the guys take some pretty intense steps to help resolve things themselves rather than having local law enforcement handle it. But I did find it engaging.
Interspersed with Casey’s investigation is Will’s focus on the ranch and two teens he begins to mentor. I had noted in the first book that we never really get Will’s backstory, and it is explored nicely here. He has a young ranch hand, Kris, who is a lesbian and who confides in Will and he takes on a mentorship role. I was kind of confused about her age though, as she lives at the ranch and appears to work there full time, but also is going on a school band trip. It is summer, so maybe she graduated but is still going on the trip? I wish this had been explained more as it didn’t make much sense to me. I do think there is a nice quality here of things coming full circle for Will and getting to help these teens find their way.
My biggest issue is that this is a long book, and I think perhaps too long. The three threads focused on each of the men intermingle nicely, but there still just seemed to be a lot to wade through and I feel like the story could have been tightened a lot. I found myself often eager for the Casey mystery subplot to return because the rest of story felt sort of meandering a lot of the time. So I think the book could have benefited from some tightening. Also, it is clear as a reader that Scott’s mom is being super rude to Will (she considers him the expendable third to Scott and Casey’s relationship) and I kept waiting for some sort of confrontation or at least discussion with her to address the way she was treating Will and it never happens. It just felt this thread was dangled out there but never really addressed.
Despite this, I did enjoy this story and loved getting the follow up for Will, Casey, and Scott. I particularly love the way these three very different men fit so well together and seeing their relationship explored across these two books. The stories are a nice mix of genres, bringing together a rancher, a member of law enforcement, and a pro athlete all in a really lovely relationship.