Carter Winter is still recovering from a bad breakup when his best friend convinces him to find a guy for some no strings sex. Carter’s date is hot, and the hookup is great, but when the man makes a rude slur about Carter’s deafness, Carter can’t get out of there fast enough. Six months later, Carter gets a dream job at a company that is making a difference. He is starting as the PA to the boss, but Carter hopes there will be a chance to move into a project management role. To Carter’s shock, when he meets his new boss, however, it is none other than his former date. Even worse, despite their first meeting having such an impact on Carter, Rhys doesn’t even seem to remember Carter. But with the chance to get a foot in the door of a company that is really doing some good, Carter decides to move forward with the job anyway.
Rhys London grew up in a wealthy home with unloving parents. He has always longed to really make a difference, to take his wealth and turn it into something good. With his father gone, Rhys has had a chance to turn London Enterprise around into the company he wants it to be. But dealing with a difficult board doesn’t make things easy. Even worse, Rhys’ twin brother, Jordan, seems determined to repeat all the sins of their father, and Rhys is forced to spend time and money cleaning up after his brother. Rhys also lost his husband, and while things weren’t great between them, he is still emotionally drained from Viggo’s passing and trying to move forward. Rhys’ best friend and business partner is always there for him, but Rhys is so used to shutting himself off and is just overwhelmed and beaten down.
When Rhys meets Carter, there is an immediate connection between the men. In Carter, Rhys finds someone who brings him joy and happiness, someone who helps to break that wall Rhys has been putting up. For his part, Carter is initially wary given his past date with Rhys, but Rhys also feels like a different man. He is kind and gentle and seems to genuinely care about others. He is considerate about Carter’s deafness, without making it a focus. The two men really share a bond and start to fall fast and hard for one another. But their past is still a stumbling block between them, making it hard for Carter to fully trust Rhys. However, if the men can finally work through their past, they could be on their way to true happiness together.
Without a Doubt is the first book in E.M. Lindsey’s new Love Starts Here series. It is a sweet and super romantic contemporary, with a little less angst than some of Lindsey’s other works. The conflict is still there, but the focus here is mostly on Carter and Rhys falling for one another and watching as they both find a happiness together that has long eluded both of them.
I find Lindsey to be so good at character-driven stories and this one is no exception. Both Carter and Rhys have a lot of things holding them back emotionally. Poor Rhys is so sweet and kind, yet feels so beaten down. He is surviving, but not thriving, and Lindsey really lets us feel his weariness. His father left a horrible legacy behind, his brother is a disaster and Rhys is constantly cleaning up his mess, and Rhys struggles to use his wealth and position to help people the way he really wants. Carter is like this spark in his life, someone who helps bring that light that Rhys needs. Rhys is such a good man that I couldn’t help but root for him and loved to see how Carter brings him back to life. While Carter is definitely the more lively of the pair in personality, he has his own struggles, particularly surrounding growing up neither feeling a part of the Deaf or hearing communities. His last relationship left him with some self doubts and he is still not fully back to himself. So these men are just so good together and bring one another so much happiness. I loved their dynamic and how even when they struggled, there is such an underlying sense of caring between them.
The main conflict here really comes from the baggage of the bad date and how that impacts the men going forward. I won’t go into detail on how things ultimately resolve, though I will say I guessed how it would all play out pretty early on (as will most readers, I think). So this is less about figuring out what happened than seeing the men find a way to sort through things. While they have some rocky patches, Carter and Rhys find a way forward and really work through things together.
There are some fun secondary characters here, particularly Henrik, Rhys’ best friend. He is a good friend to Rhys, but he also adores Carter, so he serves as sort of their relationship sounding board. He and Carter also add some comic relief as they are a lot of fun together. We also meet the MCs for the next book here and I am definitely intrigued for how their story will come together.
My only complaint here is that things seem to end sort of abruptly. I found myself expecting more to sort of round things out at the end, especially because the story finishes a bit before the end of the Kindle page count. So I feel like an epilogue, or even just a little more closure would have helped. That said, I assume we will see more of Rhys and Carter as the series goes on, since it seems like the books take place within a small circle.
Overall, I found this a great start to a new series. I loved the connection between Rhys and Carter and found them very sweet and endearing. There is a fun side cast and this one gives a great set up for the upcoming books.