Story Rating: 3.75 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Aiden Snow
Length: 8 hours, 51 minutes
When S.W.A.T. Captain Ivan Hart’s wife asks for a divorce, Ivan is actually relived. After being trapped in a loveless, abusive marriage for twenty-two years, he is more than ready to freely pursue a relationship with a man. Although confident in his abilities and prowess as a law enforcement officer, Ivan is insecure about his appeal as a man, sure that no one would want an oversized, hulking bruiser like him—an idea constantly reinforced by his ex-wife. Burying himself in his work to deal with the loneliness of his new freedom, he is jolted out of his status quo when he meets Lennox “Free” Freeman. The shy, brilliant tech specialist triggers all Ivan’s protective instincts. When he comes to Free’s rescue while he is being harassed by a drunk, aggressively handsy cop, Ivan can’t stop himself from checking in on Free every day when the man begins working on the narcotics task-force his friend Cashel “God” Godfrey runs, even though he is convinced that someone as attractive and intelligent as Free would never want someone like him.
For Free, being rescued by large, chivalrous Ivan is like a dream come true. Naturally attracted to bigger men, but wary of them from past experience, he can’t help but be charmed by the teddy bear of a captain. Unsure of Ivan’s sexuality, Free is willing to be just friends with the man so long as he can have him in his life. Through coaxing from their friends, Ivan and Free eventually stop dancing around one another and begin to spend time together; soon, the attraction and pent-up longing from the two months they have known one another sweep them up into a plethora of feels and passion. Unfortunately, their newfound joy is quickly challenged by Ivan’s insecurities, Free’s anxiety, and the danger inherent in their profession.
Full disclosure: I tend to have a hard time reviewing A.E. Via’s books. NOT because they are bad, but because she is so good at creating these huge men with huge personalities and writing great action scenes in the vein of high-adrenaline OTT action movies that I get sucked in and brush off the weaknesses. That being said, Nothing Special VI: His Hart’s Command is another solid addition to Via’s pantheon of large, bad-ass men with biceps of steel, perfect for tearing apart foes and cuddling. Both Free and Ivan are charming, loyal, likable, and just fragile enough to tug on everyone’s heartstrings. Their interactions are sweet, without being syrupy, and their relationship nurtures both men in ways they need. His Hart’s Command is also the tamest so far of the “Nothing Special” series when it comes to OTT drama and action, which I appreciated. In all honesty, the requisite big action scene almost feels out of place and unnecessary as it doesn’t really add to either character’s development or emotional journey. Toning down the action/crazy drama gives the story room to breathe and focus more on the characters; my only complaint is that the focus is a bit unbalanced.
Free is presented as a mysterious character with a complicated past, but his rich background is glossed over somewhat. He tells Ivan his story so the reader knows the facts, but his anxiety disorder, which manifests with physical symptoms that almost veer into panic disorder territory, is never addressed apart from vague illusions to being hurt by big men and being used for his tech genius. It seems like Free had more than one run-in with illegal enterprises harassing him for his skills, but the only solid information given is about Free’s father’s shady ambitions. Conversely, Ivan’s toxic, emotionally and physically abusive marriage to his unhappy wife has more in-depth exploration. The reader gets the how and why of the marriage, the destructive dynamics still present, and the lasting damage done. Thus, when Ivan eventually begins to break free of the hold her poisonous narrative instilled in him, I could actually believe in and see the natural progression of his emotional journey.
Free’s personal arc is not conveyed as well, mostly because his anxiety attacks are used more like relationship motivators as opposed to visual indicators of underlying complex issues (a pet peeve of mine). This isn’t helped by the fact that the power of dick love and the need to be a strong partner for his man conquers Free’s anxiety (more evidence of anxiety/mental illness as a prop syndrome). It makes the story feel like Ivan’s emasculation is worse/more important than Free’s anxiety. However, presenting a character with anxiety is a delicate balancing act; moreover, there are not as many discussions around abuse against men from their female partners, so maybe Via’s focus was more on that while also trying to keep Free’s anxiety from defining him. Regardless, Ivan and Free are both likable characters that work well together and with a relationship that evokes the feels and whose insta-love isn’t overly saccharine.
As mentioned in my Promises: Part I review, narrator Aiden Snow is a great choice for the characters Via portrays, and his narration of His Hart’s Command is also solid. His character voices are very good overall, although he does struggle a bit with Free’s. Free has a “slight” British accent that kind of wavers in its intensity throughout. Considering Free grew up in the UK, it’s a little surprising that his accent is written as minor (maybe he’s worked to hide it to stay under the radar?). Yet, the inconsistent accent isn’t too distracting (or worse, a really bad one). Additionally, Snow’s inflection is still a bit flat during inner monologues or parts of the narrative where some emotional inflection is needed. He tends to respond best to cues expressly written in the dialogue, creating a sense of a lack of engagement with the story. It’s not a huge problem, though, and mostly noticeable to me because his narration is so strong in other respects. I can’t imagine that enthusiasts of the series or stories featuring baritone-voiced bad-asses in general won’t find Snow’s narration enjoyable.
Fans of the Nothing Special series are coming for the testosterone-drenched sex, high-energy stakes, and larger than life, LEO alpha-men with big hearts and big needs (both emotional and physical) that can only be filled by another man’s energy. Nothing Special VI: His Hart’s Command, combined with Aiden Snow’s deep, smooth voice should fit the bill.