Stalwart by K.L. Noone is the second book in the Character Bleed series and picks up right where the first book ends. So if you have not read the first story, be aware this book may contain spoilers. As this story begins, Jason and Colby are very much together and, over the course of the novel, become more transparent about their feelings. Colby also grows exponentially in his trust of Jason and their sex life is a true indicator of his belief that Jason will never hurt him as his ex had done, which had made him so reluctant to be intimate initially. We still don’t have a clear picture of all that was done to Colby by his ex, but we do know from this and the previous book that it had much to do with an emotional type of blackmail, as well as forcing sex on Colby that was painful, rough, and at times unwanted. All this succeeded in making Colby a bit of a mess when it came to scenes of intimacy and forceful touching during the movie shoot. But Jason is amazingly patient and insightful when it comes to reading Colby and they have worked out their own private system to “take the temperature” so to speak of whether or not and even how deeply intimate they can be with each other.
Be forewarned, there is a lot of sex in this novel, but it fits; after all, these books are really geared toward both a sexual reawakening for Colby and the idea of falling in love for both men, so what better way to show that then in the bedroom. But it doesn’t just stop there. I really enjoy how this author shows the growing relationship between these two men in all the little ways. For instance, Jason always remembers the kind of coffee Colby likes, he makes sure Colby eats regularly, he always asks permission before he touches Colby, and checks how invasive or familiar that touch can be. It all adds up to a really lovely romance that grows exponentially between the two men. When one is building a future with a person who is dealing with former physical and mental abuse, it is imperative they look for the signs that their partner is okay with intimacy; that is key in this novel and a wonderful element to the story.
I will say that I feel that Colby makes a mountain out of a molehill regarding a secret he keeps from Jason. I’m not sure why he is determined to worry over how it will be received and, like most things, that fear grows as he fails to clue Jason into just how much control he has over the script. I just don’t see this issue as being that dramatic, but the author certainly feels it is and treats it as such. However, that is relatively minor as the rest of the novel is all about the gradual comfort Colby is deriving from his relationship with Jason and more worried about if they will have a future after they stop filming. Book three should tie up things nicely and I have a feeling it may drop something dramatic into Colby’s lap. I look forward to seeing how the end will play out in the next installment.