Rating: 4.25 stars
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Teancum Leon is trying to find some balance between friendship with his childhood friend and former lover, Ammon, and his relationship with best friend, Jem Berger. Both men want to be with Tean, but he is trying to keep them firmly as friends given how complicated the relationships have gotten. Tean is also trying to navigate the complex dynamic with his family, who seem to be reaching out to him to re-establish a connection, while at the same time constantly leaving Tean feeling judged.
However, things get complicated once again when a woman from Jem’s past is killed and men he used to know from the Decker Lake Juvenile Detention Center are involved. One man is being accused of the murder, and he swears his innocence, asking Jem to help prove it. Ammon is on the case, and he agrees to involve Jem because the suspect refuses to talk to anyone else. Tean knows that these men still haunt Jem, but he doesn’t know the details about what happened that has clearly left Jem hurting to this day. But Jem is willing to dig into the case, hoping to finally stop the likeliest murder culprit and the man who caused him the worst of the pain.
As Jem and Tean take off to the Utah desert in an attempt to track down the suspect, they end up discovering another murder, as well as walking into a complex web of drug deals, double crosses, and more death. And along with that comes the ghosts from Jem’s past that continue to haunt him. Tean wants nothing more than to help ease Jem’s pain, but Jem is having a hard time opening up about what happened all those years ago. At the same time, things with Tean, Ammon, and Jem’s personal connections are coming to a head and Tean may have to make a decision between the men once and for all. There could be happiness in their future, but before that can happen, they must figure out who is behind the killings and stay one step ahead of the murderer before they end up in the killer’s sights themselves.
The Same End is the third book in Gregory Ashe’s The Lamb and the Lion series and wraps up the first series arc. So yes, we do finally get an end to some of the torture watching Tean try to sort out his feelings for both Jem and Ammon. But in true Gregory Ashe style, things get more difficult before they get better, both with the relationship, as well as the life and death situation the men confront.
The suspense side of things ties nicely together with Jem’s past, adding an extra layer of intensity. I also liked the way the case gives Jem and Tean a chance to get out of the city, as well as to spend time together investigating. I love the dynamic between these two men and watching them banter and go off on their crazy tangents always amuses me. The case is nicely twisty and there is a plenty of action at the end to really bring the intensity. I did sometimes feel things meander a bit too much; this is a very long book at almost 500 pages and I think the mystery storyline could have been tightened. By the end, there were so many players involved, many of whom had similar motivations, it became a little hard for me to untangle them all and even remember who was who. But I think the story not only gives the men a chance to dig into another mystery in the unique way only they can, but also brings some nice closure to some aspects of Jem’s past that was really needed in order for him to move forward.
On the personal front, let’s just say there is a happy ending here, but it is hard earned. Ammon is still in the picture and he continues to manipulate Tean endlessly. Poor Tean just wants to see the best in him and Ammon uses it to his advantage. I’ll admit, it was hard reading sometimes, particularly when Jem ends up hurt. I wanted to scream a few times at Tean to wake up and realize what is going on around him. But that said, I am always impressed at the way Ashe makes me understand his characters’ behavior, even when I am mad at them for it. Here we really explore what is at the root of Tean’s tether to Ammon and what he needs to do to break it. However, things do make some substantial forward progress with Jem and Tean, and while we may not be at an HEA for our guys, there is a solid HFN to tie things up. Jem and Tean are one of my favorite Ashe pairings, so I am so happy to see them in a good place here.
I think Ashe wraps things up nicely at the end of this three-book arc. We have some resolutions for the main characters, both individually and as a couple. And the mystery itself is tied up nicely. But there are still plenty of issues to explore that can lead into future books, and I am really looking forward to seeing where things all go from here.