hardwood coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

Everett has finally admitted to himself that he is gay, but at 44 years old, he is having trouble admitting it to anyone else. He knows that his best friends, all gay themselves, will accept him happily, but he does worry about his ex-wife’s reaction. Still, Everett has finally worked up the nerve to go to a gay bar by himself and see how it goes.

No sooner does Everett make it through the doors then he meets Watson. The two hit it off, but Everett isn’t brave enough to make a move, and he figures that will be the end of it. But as it turns out, Watson is Ev’s daughter Livi’s music teacher, so the two end up reconnecting. The chemistry is great between the men, and Watson is understanding that Everett is just slowly coming out, and not turned off by Ev’s total lack of experience with men. In fact, Everett seems to be everything that Watson has ever wanted in a guy. But he also knows that a gay virgin who is just barely stepping foot out of the closet isn’t ready for anything serious. Watson worries he will get hurt if he lets himself fall for Everett when Ev inevitably moves on, so he is determined to keep things casual.

That is easier said that done, as the chemistry between the guys is off the charts. Everett is falling hard for Watson, but he still hasn’t worked up the nerve to come out to his ex, Val, or to his friends. And Watson is still worried that he is going to end up heartbroken if he gets too serious about Everett. Now both men need to be brave enough to trust in their friends and in each other, and they may just end up with their own happily ever after.

Hardwood is the third book in K.M. Neuhold’s great Four Bears Construction series. It features four close friends and business partners, and each story focuses on one of the men. This one stands alone just fine, though the other bears do appear here and we have met Everett in earlier books. He was an intriguing character as the only (presumably) straight one of the group, but we knew there was more to his story and we get that here. This is a fun and sexy coming out story pitting an adorable flirt in Watson, with a hunky construction worker who is exploring his sexuality for the first time in Everett.

I enjoyed the set up here, as Everett is still incredibly close with his ex, Val, and the two of them are co-parenting their 8-year-old daughter, Livi, well together. I appreciated that Val is neither the evil ex, nor the cutesy gal pal, but instead a solid friend and partner for Everett. Livi is cute, without overwhelming the story. I am not always a fan of kids in romance, but I found there is enough of her here to really showcase Everett’s bond with his daughter, as well as Watson’s way with kids, without distracting from the main romance.

While Everett loves Val, he was never really attracted to her fully. The two were best friends and dating sort of was the next logical step, followed by marriage. But they had a mostly sexless relationship and Everett has been celibate most of his life. So not only is he experiencing sex with a guy for the first time, but also sex of any kind in years. Everett and Watson are super sexy together and lots of fun. The scene with the vibrator gone awry is hysterical and I think the story has a nice blend of heat and playfulness.

I am really enjoying this series and this book was a great addition. Everett and Watson are engaging characters and just great together. I am really looking forward to the final story and seeing how things all tie up for our four bears.