Eighteen months ago, Brandon Weber’s ex-boyfriend raped him, beat him, and left him for dead. With the indefatigable help of Liam and John Macadam, his friends and colleagues at the law firm where he works as a legal assistant, along with his therapist, Brandon has finally put some of the bigger pieces of his life back together. Part of his coping mechanism has been to avoid any romantic entanglements and, for the most part, that has been successful. At least until the young Devin Macadam joins the same law firm. The sparks start to fly from the moment Brandon and Devin meet. Now, Brandon is starting to realize his heart may not be as healed as his body…a fact that may come between him and true happiness with Devin.
When Devin joins the ranks at the law firm of Macadam, Lawton, Roth and Roth, he knows he will have his work cut out for him. Afterall, the firm was started by his own cousin and Devin wants to make sure it is clear he was hired on his own merits. But before his nose even touches the grindstone, he meets Brandon—a wildly attractive assistant working for Devin’s cousin…and now, for Devin as well. From the first time they shake hands, Devin feels something for Brandon. And he is determined to build something real with the slightly older man, even if that means reevaluating how he usually dives into new relationships and what it means to be there for someone.
Too Close to the Flame tells the story of Brandon and Devin, characters who are part of the legal world built by authors Taylor and Harwood. All things considered, this title does fine as a standalone and, for readers who are interested in the supporting cast, each couple has their own book available as well. Fans of the other releases will probably enjoy the occasional scenes where the couples from previous books appear. Liam and John formed the most substantial support for Brandon and Devin, but the other two couples were sort of a blur to me.
At its core, this is a story about Brandon overcoming the violence he suffered at his ex’s hand. The attack itself is covered very briefly first thing in the book before the scene shifts immediately to Brandon in the hospital. This builds a strong foundation for the reader to understand what happened to Brandon and sets the stage for his trust issues later on. After this short introduction, we skip ahead eighteen months and, once Devin begins working at the law firm, the story quickly focuses on developing the romance between Brandon and Devin.
The focus on the romance between Brandon and Devin was problematic for me. Devin raised all kinds of red flags to me, even though it seems like he’s supposed to be 200% dreamboat. Here are some examples of what I perceive to be, well, not great traits. This first quote is internal narration from Devin’s point of view; the second quote is dialogue Devin says while with Brandon.
I listened to Brandon tell me other things that [his ex had done] that chilled me to the bone. If Jeb had been nearby, I would have killed him right then, with my bare hands, and I would have enjoyed it.
“I swear to God, I will kill that guy if I ever see him!”
This is a scene were Brandon and Devin engage in sexual penetration, told from Brandon’s perspective.
He sat back, pushed my legs up, and moved into position. When he put the head of his cock against my hole, I panicked. “Sweetie.” On autopilot, he braced himself against me and started to push. “Devin!” I yelled. He shook his head and came slightly back toward earth. “What?” His voice had a frustrated tone that I matched. “Lube! You’re way too big. I can’t take you without lube.”
Again, I don’t think I am supposed to dislike Devin. He is both a narrator and Brandon’s love interest—in other words, a major character. But the behavior he demonstrates just didn’t sit right with me. As a result, I was turned off by the character in general and began interpreting his words and actions very critically. I think this behavior indicates a level of emotional immaturity in the character, which made it hard for me to buy into the sweeping love story the authors so clearly were pushing.
One thing I did like was how the authors incorporated the legal world into the story. It serves as a very obvious frame to support the day-to-day working lives of all the characters, yet the actual legal details are spare (and didn’t feel like the kinds of low-hanging fruit one gets from spending five minutes googling “what do lawyers do,” probably because the authors themselves seem to have legal backgrounds). Mostly, it provided flush settings with relaxed schedules for the characters to flirt and to work…and flirt, have heart-to-heart chats about love, and flirt. Did I mention the flirting at the office?
Overall, I was not too into the story primarily because I found Devin such a turn off. Having a main character exhibit what I thought was problematic behavior prevented me from being swept away in what is otherwise a very “star-crossed lovers” type get-together story. For what it’s worth, I was able to look past Devin’s shortcomings once his and Brandon’s relationship was a little more established thanks to Brandon enthusiastically participating in their frequent sex sessions. For me, though, it was too little too late. That said, readers who want a character who is so “crazy in love” that he cannot seem to control himself, coupled with a partner who’s been badly hurt in a so-called crime of passion, you may rather enjoy the dynamic in this story.