Dylan is a 25-year-old gay man with a head full of blonde curls and a heart full of relationship goals. Dylan has just bought a house beside a fire station in Burning Hills, and he’s pretty ticked off that one of the precinct fire captains is the big, bossy older man he’d had a scorching one-nighter with a couple of months back. And this guy now totally ignores Dylan, calling him a “kid.”
Shane is just on the wrong side of 40 and he’s lonely, closeted, and angry that the universe has dropped sexy and sassy Dylan back into his orbit. His one night with Dylan showed Shane everything he would hope for in a partner, if he was ever looking for a partner. But, he’s not, because he doesn’t want to come out. Shane has always felt his military dad was a little homophobic, and the jokes around the firehouse make Shane feel uncomfortable about coming out. Only Shane’s best friend knows that Shane is gay, and he has a bro-crush on Dylan for all his delicious home-baked treats. Lonely or not, Shane doesn’t want to upset any of his relationships, but being with Dylan may just be worth it.
Smoke Signals is the third book in the Perspectives series and features returning characters in supporting roles. Dylan works with Tyler from The B-Side and is dear friends with Rhett from Paper Airplanes. This is an age-gap romance with settled Shane suddenly feeling all unsettled by Dylan’s vivacious personality. Dylan’s definitely not happy about the way Shane brushes him off, and he doesn’t try very hard to win Shane’s favor. Honestly, it’s all Shane’s internal conflict, his overwhelming desire for Dylan battling his internalized homophobia, which forces Shane to act on his desires.
For all that emo behavior, this isn’t a terribly angsty book. Dylan is fun and his friends are so loving. Shane’s best pal is a human puppy-dog, bringing levity on the regular. His unwavering support of Shane is accompanied by a deep need for compassion and cuddles that Shane wholeheartedly gives him, and Dylan does too, once they all get to know one another. Shane’s strength is in his resolution, and once he decides that being apart from Dylan, or keeping him completely on the down-low, actually hurts himself as well as Dylan, he makes big strides to repair the damage. Dylan’s romantic heart beats strong for Shane, and his capacity to love and forgive is inspiring—especially to Shane.
There are lots of steamy moments, including in the bathtub, and it was fun to see Dylan’s sunny personality bring the light into Shane. I liked this one, but I felt like it was best enjoyed after reading the other books, mostly because there is a very full cast and their interactions happen rapid-fire. It’s supposedly the end of the series, but I’d expect a MMF spin-off based on the characters and situations encountered.