sleepwalker coverRating: 3.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Oliver keeps a very strict line between his sexual partners and his friends and business associates. One person who falls into the latter category is Oliver’s dog walker, Blake. Though Oliver has long found Blake attractive, he appreciates Blake’s skills with Oliver’s chihuahua, Cujo, enough that he isn’t about to risk their relationship on sex. Especially since Oliver doesn’t really do serious with his sex partners.

Blake is an artist who doesn’t have much opportunity to create anymore; anytime he tries to paint, his debilitating headaches flare up. The only thing that helps even a little is marijuana, and though he normally only smokes at home, Blake makes an exception on a particularly bad night. Before Blake knows it, he finds himself arrested for possession and in front of none other than Oliver, the judge on the case.

Oliver knows he needs to get himself moved off Blake’s case, but the courtroom encounter is followed by the men having some more personal interaction, and Oliver finds himself less able to keep his distance. He is drawn to Blake, and Blake to him in return. The men share a mutual interest in kink and Oliver begins to think it might be possible for something more between them. But Blake still seems unsure of Oliver’s feelings and, with his health complications, he is second guessing Oliver’s interest. Now Oliver has a chance at unexpected happiness, he just needs to reach out and be honest with Blake about how he feels.

Sleepwalker is the second book in Rachel Ember’s Tangled Leash series. The books stand alone plot wise, so you can easily read this one with having read Jaywalking, but both Oliver and Blake make an appearance in the first book and Jay and Emile appear here. So I think having read the first story adds a little to the experience, especially since both Oliver and Blake are sort of intriguing characters in the first book. I enjoyed getting their story here and learning more about what is really going on with both men. They each keep themselves somewhat removed from others, so I liked seeing them start to let down their walls with each other as they deepened their connection. The scenes with little Cujo were fun, as the dog has some behavioral issues that stymy the normally in control Oliver. I liked seeing how Blake is sort of the dog whisperer and helps Oliver and Cujo get sorted. I also really liked the scenes where we see Blake exploring his art. After losing his ability to create in his preferred medium, here we see him find a new artistic outlet and it adds some nice richness to the story.

Where I struggled here is in a similar way to my issues in the first book, which is I felt things are just developing between the men before we jump to the happy ending. The stories both seem to skip the middle, leaving me feeling not fully satisfied with the relationship development. In this case, we meet Blake and Oliver when Blake starts walking Cujo, and we know the guys have a professional relationship, though both find the other attractive. For most of the story, these guys seem to be on parallel paths with just occasional interactions. Even when they have a hookup or two, it never seems more than casual for most of the book, and then suddenly things are super serious. I just feel like we skipped over so much of the romantic relationship building part of the story. All the detail goes into the early part of their connection, with so little of the time they are actually falling for one another.

Aside from the relationship, there is a lot of other aspects feel underdeveloped. For example, we know Blake has some serious issues with his mom, and we see signs that they are moving to a better place toward the end of the book, but we get very little information about what happened between them. Or Blake’s migraines. We know he has these debilitating headaches, and we get bits of information, but I kept waiting for the detail about his condition that never came. But even more than that, I wanted more information about Blake and Oliver and what is going on with them. For example, Blake is arrested for marijuana, but specifically doesn’t tell anyone (judge, attorney, his clients) just WHY he had the pot on him. What is it about his character that makes him decide he doesn’t want to tell anyone, even though it may lead to serious repercussions? Why doesn’t he want to tell Oliver what is going on? I’m not saying there isn’t a reason that might make sense for his character, but we never learn what it is, so it just seemed hard to understand. I just felt like so many things are brought into the story, but not ever explained or developed in an adequate way.

As a quick note, Blake and Oliver have a BDSM relationship and we see some on-page impact play, as well as light bondage. The men do have a sexy connection together that I enjoyed, though I would have liked more development in the sexual/romantic side of their relationship, as I mentioned.

Overall, this is a nice story about two interesting characters. I particularly enjoyed the artistic aspects of things, as well as little Cujo. I just wished for more development of things between the men after the early stages of their relationship.

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