As the president of the Broken Chains motorcycle club, it’s Smokey’s job to take care of his people. Things have been difficult lately, between the Satan’s Souls coming into town and stirring up trouble, the lack of any strong allies for the Chains, and dissatisfaction from his brothers over his connection to a local sheriff. When someone murders a member of another club in Smokey’s town, things go from bad to worse. Not only does it mean that the Cobras will want answers Smokey can’t give, it turns out Eliah Burns witnessed the murder. Eliah was Smokey’s brother Rory’s professor last year, and Smokey and Eliah had a night together neither can forget. But now Eliah’s life is in danger and Smokey is the only one who can help him.
Witnessing the murder was terrifying and Eliah is pragmatic enough to know this isn’t something he can handle himself, nor is it likely the cops are going to be able to help. His only choice is to trust Smokey to protect him, and hope that whoever is behind the killing doesn’t figure out Eliah’s identity. Soon it becomes clear, however, that Eliah is a target — not just for being a witness, but because of his connection to Smokey. Someone from Smokey’s past is behind what is going on and threatening those he cares about. And he does care about Eliah, as much as he is trying to stop himself. Smokey’s life is no place for someone like Eliah, and he knows there can be no future for them. But that doesn’t stop him from wanting Eliah.
Eliah is stronger than he looks, however, and as terrified as he is about what is going on, he also isn’t willing to give up Smokey if he can help it. But with ghosts from Smokey’s past looking to cause trouble, and Smokey’s determination to get retribution no matter the cost, there may not be much chance for a future between Smokey and Eliah.
Backfire is the second book in E.M. Lindsey’s Broken Chains motocycle club series. The story starts off with a little bit of a timeline overlap with Tidal Wave, as we see Eliah and Smokey first meeting and hooking up about a year before the main events of this story. This sets the stage nicely for the men to reconnect here when Eliah witnesses the murder. While the relationship between the men is all covered in this book, there are some bigger picture series elements carrying over in terms of the pressures Smokey is facing, and so I think reading the first book is helpful, though not necessarily essential.
This is sort of an opposites attract story in that we have a mild mannered, British transplant, history professor in Eliah, paired with a hardened biker with a rough past in Smokey. And without question, Eliah is out of his element here as he encounters the world of motorcycle clubs for the first time and needs Smokey’s help and protection. But that said, I love how both men are more than they first appear. There is a tenderness and caring about Smokey, and also a vulnerability that he tries to never show. He lets Eliah in almost despite himself and we get to see a softer side of Smokey here than he can ever show his brothers in the club. For his part, Eliah has a deep strength that I really loved. He deals with chronic pain from a childhood accident and he is built of far tougher stuff than may first appear. I love that these men are more evenly matched than one might think, and there is a sweet and sexy vibe to their connection, and a great happy ending for them.
This story continues with some of the larger issues that carry over from the first book in terms of various problems that the Broken Chains are facing. Smokey knows he has let things slide and that the club is not where it needs to be, both in numbers and alliances. With so many threats coming, he knows they are not prepared. Then the murder happens and suddenly things are thrust into even more chaos. Things are intense and exciting and this aspect of the story develops really nicely. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I really love how things all play out with the resolution to the threat. I also enjoyed meeting Eliah’s brother, Jude, who gets drawn into the mess. We get hints of how his story will develop and I am so eager to see that all play out in the next book.
I will note that there is an issue Smokey faces with regard to someone from Smokey’s old club who is now a local sheriff. The Broken Chains are mad at Smokey for a decision he made in the last book with regard to Nate, and I feel like there wasn’t enough explanation in either book for me to fully understand what was going on. This was a big issue in terms of the men trusting Smokey, so I think that could have been clarified better here to bring readers more up to speed with the problem. I also noticed that both of these first two books feature characters who left their old clubs to protect a sibling, and who end up falling for “civilian” men that they must protect after they get themselves in trouble with rival clubs. The stories and relationships are ultimately different, but the set ups were a little too similar for me coming one book after the other.
I continue to really like this series and, as I noted in my first review, I think Lindsey’s skill at character development is really suited to this type of series. These books feature complicated men and their personalities really shine here. We tie things up nicely for Eliah and Smokey in this story, but there are lots of open issues to take us into future books, and I can’t wait to see what is in store next.