Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Iggy Toma
Length: 9 hours, 48 minutes
It’s not easy growing up as the son of the President. It’s twenty-four hour security and surveillance; every awkward moment of puberty captured on every television set, tabloid, and gossip column; and having to always be the perfect son at every political fundraiser. But this is the last year Rafa will have to endure it. His father’s terms are over and, come January, they’ll be out of the White House and Rafa will be able to start living his own life. He’ll be starting college, learning to surf, and coming out to his parents. His very Republican parents.
Shane is a member of the Secret Service who has been assigned to “Valor’s” protection. It’s an easy job since the kid is quiet and responsible. No wacky parties, no sneaking out or sneaking drinks. So when Shane hears a crash on the third floor, his mind jumps to the most likely situation and he goes in, gun drawn, ready to do his duty for his country … only to find a broken casserole dish, a mess of spilled food, and a very embarrassed Rafa.
This wasn’t the way Rafa wanted to meet the very, very, very hot Secret Service agent he’s had a crush on for some time. But he’s quick to take advantage of the situation, guilting the man into coming back the next night to try the dish Rafa had been trying to cook before it ended up on the floor. Then there are the late night conversations, the movie theater… Is this a date? Is it possible Shane, the much older, much more mature, much more gloriously handsome man might actually be attracted to him?
Rafa is 19. And a virgin. And the man he wants to kiss kissed him back. Every day brings him a day closer to being able to live as his true self, and he can barely keep still from the excitement and joy bubbling under his skin. Until a chance comment from one of his brothers brings his world crashing down. His family knows, or at least suspects, that Rafa is gay. And even knowing this, knowing or guessing that his son might be gay, his father still voted for a despicable and vile homophobic bill that would have drawn a line between what was considered a ‘constitutional marriage’ — the union between a man and woman — and whatever it was the other sorts of people called their unions.
And it breaks his heart. Lashing out, Rafa makes a stupid mistake that nearly costs him his own safety and well-being, and almost costs him Shane.
Valor on the Move is the first book in the Valor series covering the romance between a Secret Service agent and the President’s son, and it’s both charming and surprisingly action packed. There’s a minor kidnapping attempt, gunshots, death, an explosion or two, and a very sweet May/December romance growing in the middle of all the story. I appreciated the modest touches, such as the asides as to why agents wear sunglasses, why they use the radios they do, talks about gun safety and protocol, as they added a sense of reality to the story, while also showcasing how good Shane is at his job.
Shane is getting closer and closer to the big 40, and he’s lived a life of discipline and control and has an uncanny ability to judge a situation. He’s also a little more attracted to the first son than he might otherwise admit, knowing that his duty to Rafa’s safety comes first. The power imbalance between the two of them — older man to younger, bodyguard to asset — is something they’re both aware of, and Shane is determined to remain as impartial as he can.
The writing in this story is pleasant and the characters are well developed, but, for me, the two stars of this book are the pacing and the narrator. This story goes from a slow, deliberate building of friendship and romance into an action-packed “will they live through this” moment to the emotional confrontations and resolutions so smoothly that I didn’t notice the length of the book at all. My attention was held the whole way through with the plotting, the world building, and the smooth transitions between mood shifts.
This is all brilliantly showcased by Iggy Toma’s beautiful delivery. While most of the background characters felt very similar, with only two main standouts, his voice for Shane was perfect. Both the confusion and the mini-panic attack when he realized he’d kissed the President’s son — while on duty — and the grim, driven ruthlessness with which he went into protective mode were so well done. The Rafa moments wavered a bit, here and there, and felt a bit wobbly at times, but Rafa is a kid.
This is a fun book, and the audiobook is well worth the purchase. I am very much looking forward to the next chapter in their story.