Garrick is doing his best to recover from his injuries and get back to being a smoke jumper. In the past year, he’s made a lot of progress, but he still can’t walk without crutches and not for an extended length of time. When Garrick finds a stray dog on his porch, the poor pup is scared of the crutches, and even more scared of his chair, so Garrick has no choice but to ask his neighbor across the street for help. But his older neighbor isn’t the one who answers the door, but rather her pretty grandson, Rain.
Rain is spending the summer in Painted Ridge to ostensibly help his grandmother, but she doesn’t seem to need him much. When Garrick shows up asking for help for a stray and wounded dog, Rain jumps at the chance. And then makes it his mission to get Garrick to agree to at least foster the dog, whom Garrick calls Cookie. Rain makes himself available to help Garrick with the dog, even as he tries to figure out what to do with his own life.
With every interaction that passes, Rain and Garrick grow closer. The attraction between them is instant, but Garrick worries he’s too old for Rain and that Rain won’t stick around. Rain, for his part, isn’t hung up on their age, and doesn’t even bat an eye at Garrick’s physical limitations. In fact, he’s a sincere support for Garrick in whatever Garrick needs, and encourages Garrick to get additional help. The more they get to know each other, the closer they become. The physical side of the relationship grows as well.
However, both men have hang ups that keep them from fully committing to each other. And when things get really serious, they both fall back on their own misconceptions and listening to others. But it quickly becomes apparent that the men truly want to be together, and it’ll take some real communication for them to get back to a good place with their relationship.
This second book in Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series is, in my opinion, better than the first. Garrick and Rain are both some interesting characters, and I really loved the way their personalities really meshed well together. While I definitely wished there was better communication about certain aspects, I thought Albert did a good job of making both these guys believable and relatable.
Rain is straight up full of sunshine, and a really big hearted guy. On the surface, he almost seems too good to be true. But it actually works. Part of that is his unconventional upbringing, but he’s truly just a wholly accepting and wonderfully supportive person. Garrick is so well drawn as well. I really liked him, and how he accepts his injury and his recovery, even as he hopes and strives for more. He’s also just a genuinely accepting person, and loves taking care of others, especially Rain. I loved their relationship, and loved the way it progressed. It felt organic and real, especially with how supportive they were of each other.
Which is why, I think, the miscommunication between them rankled a little more than normal. It’s not my favorite black moment in a romance anyway, but here it was frustrating. I will say that the baggage Albert gave the MCs made their issues make sense, so I have to give the author credit there. However, Garrick and Rain’s relationship was relatively easy in the best possible way, and they were good about talking about a lot of things. So for this one thing to be a roadblock—throughout the book, but especially in the final quarter—definitely got under my skin. I so badly wanted these guys to talk things through instead of having time apart. I wanted them to talk to each other instead of listening to others. And I really wanted them to lay their feelings and concerns on the line with each other instead of pushing each other away.
But it was great to see Garrick’s story, and I thought Rain was his perfect counterpart. These guys have a beautiful relationship, and I was on board with them from the start. I’m a fan of Albert’s writing, and her narrative style and character creation definitely works for me. I’m looking forward to see what else she has in store for the series.