Trent Marcus is a young and naïve computer programmer. His day job laid him off, so he built a freelance business to develop and manage client websites. He was doing pretty well at it, until he took a big anonymous commission, unwittingly linking himself with a bad dude, Soren Severson. Soren is known for his criminal activity in and around Milwaukee, and Trent fears the website he’s building is going to be used for human trafficking. He’s rather scared of burly men, after having an abusive partner, but now Trent is seeking a former military security specialist and wounded veteran, Collin Fitzpatrick, to be his live-in bodyguard.
Collin just got out of a seven-year relationship and he’s about to be homeless. His ex sold their apartment, planning to leave the country, and while Collin will get a piece of the sale, he’s still not found a place to live. The job opportunity to live with Trent and guard him from Severson is a windfall—but also because Collin had some run-ins with Severson in the military, before the creep was dishonorably discharged. Now, it seems like Trent is in imminent danger if he turns over the website to Soren and his goons, and might be implicated as a co-conspirator unless Collin can pull in some strings from his military contacts—oh, and keep Severson from killing Trent.
Balancing Act is the second book in the Jocks and Geeks series, but reads fine as a standalone. This was a big departure in the series from the first book, Heavy Lifting. We have some really dark moments that involve pulling cons on super bad guys, while also convincing police that Trent was duped into this terrible situation. Trent is appropriately terrified, and Collin is rock steady. They do a great job of propping each other up, and assure themselves they can make it through this debacle. The attraction is present almost from the start, with Trent having a serious hero worship thing going on, and Collin unsure how to accept his admiration—his ex was really turned off by his prosthesis. It was interesting to see them each deal with their past hurts, while also managing the current stress of thwarting fatal plots of psycho mobsters. Soren and his men will pull that trigger as soon as Trent completes his work, and it’s only through some daring planning and help from friends that a satisfactory resolution is possible.
I liked this one. It had more romantic suspense vibes than a romance, per se, and it was fun to watch these two battered souls find solace and safety with one another. I do expect to see Marti find his love match in a future story, as he was a great secondary player in this book and the first in the series.