Brains is used to being the guy in charge—the one who puts out the fires and soothes the frazzled nerves of his fellow bandmates. He isn’t sorry about the job; after all, they are his family, especially since his own never speaks to him. So when a freak accident on the road brings Brains down and sends him spiraling into panic, it’s the buff guy he jokingly labelled “Captain America” who comes to his rescue. It doesn’t matter that the guy is a virtual stranger just there to see the concert with his son; there is something so calming, so steady about the man and Brains needs him to be his rock since he is melting down and can’t let the band see. Brains has a secret, one that makes hospitals a nightmare and pain a horrible reminder of his past. He just needs this man to be with him until he can get it together.
Paul is back home from his last tour of duty. Being a medic in the army for a special ops team has meant lots of travel and missing time with his son, Bowie. Bowie is a young man riddled with anxiety–crushing fear that renders him unable to deal with crowds and loud noise, among other things. But Paul is back now and ready to make up for the time gone by. Thank goodness for his sister, Penny, who has co-parented with Paul for so many years after losing her husband in the line of duty, leaving her with two special needs children. They make a good team and watch over each other and the kids, but still Paul feels he has missed so much. When he surprises Bowie with concert tickets to see his favorite band, Hush, Paul never expects to feel his own rush of lust upon seeing the handsome drummer, Brains. When the meet and greet goes wrong, Paul rushes to help, his medical training kicking in. Little does he expect to find himself with a house full of rock stars for an overnight stay and the recipient of his lust hunkered down for the foreseeable future.
The bandmates of Hush are back in a new novel by R.L. Merrill, Brains and Brawn. Little has changed for the group; they are still slightly immature, crazy talented, and full of drama. Thank goodness for their drummer, Brains, who keeps them all from imploding, alongside their team manager, Jessica. Before I go any further with this review, I recommend reading this series in orde. The first book, Summer of Hush, lays some critical relational groundwork and this story builds on that information. You might be hard pressed to understand the inner workings of this group without the first book under your belt.
Brains is the star in this story. His own unique foibles and phobias are on full display and his mutual attraction to Paul a major part of the novel. It’s his secret that keeps him from even thinking about going full in with Paul emotionally, but it is a real struggle for Brains to stick with that idea. He is so certain they can never have a relationship and that it would definitely come to an end if they did. For Paul, the last time he invested his heart into a guy it ended in real disaster and so he is more than a bit gun-shy. But both men are so lonely and both want to have that forever type of connection they feel they must deny themselves. It sounds much less intricate here than it really is, but I can’t go into further detail without hitting real spoilers.
Suffice it to say there is sexual tension you could cut with a knife and the author does so well in keeping the reader on the edge of their seat with anticipation. To watch both guys evolve into men who can finally acknowledge their needs and begin to let go of their pasts is worth every moment. I also enjoyed the way both Paul and his sister, Penny, dealt with kids who have special needs. Perhaps it seemed a bit too good to be true, but I have seen parents who take their kid’s emotional and learning disabilities in stride and I love how these two had each other’s backs and gave the kids the space they need to just be themselves. Even Bowie, who admittedly is an adult at the age of twenty-one, finds support and love from his dad and aunt and flourishes because of both. It then further makes sense that Paul is so understanding of Brains’ anxiety and emotional fragility that he hides so well from his bandmates.
There is so much to like about this story. It has a beautiful romance, a positive father/son relationship, and a recognition that mental health issues do not equate an inability to find love and be in a healthy relationship. Brains and Brawn is a worthy sequel in an ongoing series. I will definitely be on the lookout for future installments.