scratcher coverRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Micah is a tattoo artist who has maybe found a place to belong with the fellow artists at Irons and Works. It is hard for Micah to really let himself believe the guys have accepted him. Micah knows that his BPD and bipolar condition make his brain often spiral into thinking the worst, but he has also been abused and abandoned enough to have trouble feeling confident he is wanted. Micah has worked hard to manage his condition, including regular therapy, but his brain doesn’t always work the way he wants. The worst came years ago when Micah’s troubled relationship led to him making a rash choice that ultimately required an amputation of his lower leg in order to save his life.

Ryan is a single father raising his five-year-old daughter, Violet. One day, Ryan’s one-night stand showed up on his doorstep with a sick baby and abandoned her to Ryan. It was a long and difficult journey to diagnose Violet, only to learn she has Cystic Fibrosis and will always face some severe health challenges. Ryan’s entire life revolves around caring for Violet and he will always put her needs first. But one night a week, Ryan’s sister watches Violet so he can have an evening to himself.

One Thursday night, Ryan meets Micah in a bar and the attraction between them is fierce. Neither man feels like he is in a place for anything more than a hookup, and typically neither wants more than one night. But the men find a surprisingly strong connection and decide to continue with some Thursday night meet ups, though they want to keep things casual. The reality, however, is both men would love something more, but both feel they have far too much baggage for a relationship. Ryan has to make Violet a priority and his time is not his own. Her needs frequently mean changing schedules and last minute cancellations, something that is hard for Micah. With his mental health conditions, Micah can’t help but see it as a rejection, even as the other part of him understands and supports Ryan’s reasoning. The men are falling hard for one another, but neither are sure if there is a way to make their lives work together. But if they can have some patience, good communication, and a little faith, Micah and Ryan may find their way to a happily ever after.

Scratcher is the seventh book in E.M. Lindsey’s great Irons and Works series. This one was a bit of a surprise to me, as I thought the series was complete when the 6th book came out back in 2019. So I was really excited to learn that Lindsey was picking the series back up (and in fact, it looks like three more books are planned after this). This story has a natural conflict in that both Ryan and Micah have a lot happening in their lives and neither believe that they are in place where they can make a relationship work. Ryan is fiercely committed to his daughter, and she requires constant care. While he has some help from his sister, Ryan has trouble letting many other people in. He has resisted relationships for fear of getting hurt, doubting that anyone will stick around once they see the reality of his life with Violet. In Micah’s case, he controls his mental health as best he can, but there are times when his brain just betrays him. Like Ryan, he feels like he has too much baggage for anyone to want him for more than a hookup.

For both of these men, any relationship would be challenging. But the two of them together have these sort of clashing issues, as Violet’s health means Ryan can’t be reliable in his plans with Micah, and Micah’s mental health issues mean he is particularly sensitive to being abandoned and can’t help but assume Ryan isn’t interested. So these guys really need to decide whether or not the relationship is worth the complications. It is all so well developed and, as always with Lindsey, the character development is so well done. I love the way they make clear that their characters are worthy of love not in spite of any challenges they may face, but because of exactly who they are.

The Irons and Works series has such a wonderful found family dynamic, which is one of my favorite aspects of these books. It comes into play a lot here as Micah needs that place to belong and he is finally feeling like he fits in. But he also needs the support, and occasional tough love, of his friends as he struggles to work through the relationship challenges. This group is so warm and loving and will do anything for each other. I am so excited to that Lindsey is continuing this series and the details we get on the upcoming books have me so eager for their release (all three are noted at the end of this book).

So this was another great installment in a really engaging series. While these guys do appear in each other’s books, I have jumped around a bit here and not had any trouble following along, so you could start here. But these are some great books, particularly if you enjoy found family and troubled men finding their happily ever afters, so I encourage you to give the series a try.

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Joyfully Jay