Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Kirt Graves
Length: 8 hours, 38 minutes
Cash Erwin is a newly retired, 38-year old, former Navy SEAL. He is at loose ends, since he hadn’t been expecting the Navy to cut him loose. Cash has no ties to his dysfunctional family, so his only true contacts are his old crew mates. He’s crashing with his former lieutenant, Duncan Lubov, who’s also separated from the SEALs. Duncan has started up A-List Security, a private protection firm, with the help of another ex-SEAL, Harley. They want Cash to join them protecting Hollywood stars and movie sets, but Cash feels like a pretender and is not really interested. He does take on the personal favor Duncan requests just before he jets off to a security gig: to watch out for Duncan’s younger half-brother, Daniel, a former child TV star and former addict, who might have a stalker.
Twenty-five-year-old Daniel Lubov, aka “Danny Love,” hated the fame of TV stardom. He hated acting, and he hated the spectacle his mother made of his life. Since coming out, and coming of age, he’s sued to get his freedom to just…be. He’s been clean of drugs and alcohol for several months now, living alone and practicing yoga, while keeping a very low profile. That’s why the threatening letters he’s been receiving from a “fan” are all the more disturbing. In fact, when Cash shows up at his home, Daniel’s freaked out that Cash is there to kill him. It would be a shame to die by such a sexy man’s hand, but Daniel’s even more surprised to discover that Cash is a SEAL friend of Duncan’s. Though Daniel is weary of high-handed actions of family trying to “handle” him, he’s definitely grateful for Cash’s steadying presence during police reports, and later, in beefing up the security around his home. When they learn the stalker’s invaded the house, Cash takes Daniel on a top-secret escape, hoping to give the police time to draw the stalker out.
This is a sweet OFY romance as Daniel and Cash spend days isolated in a Hartley’s serviceable mountain cabin. They connect over shared vulnerability, and Cash’s continued appreciation for Daniel’s growth as a person. He’s a far cry from the wild boy of his youth. Cash’s own demons with addicts give him a unique perspective, and he supports Daniel in ways neither predicted. I will go so far as to say these guys have a little bit of a Daddy-boy dynamic, without the kink. Cash is big, decisive, and in charge, often doting on/indulging Daniel while helping him manage his day-to-day struggles with ADHD, indecision, and self-esteem. Daniel is a person who could have a whole entourage, yet he’s living a monk-like existence, doing the hard work of staying clean and redeeming himself in his own eyes—even if no one else is watching. Cash deeply admires Daniels commitment; his own parents and older siblings have addiction issues, and this made for a lonely and difficult childhood that he joined the Navy to escape.
The audiobook clocks in at just over 8.5 hours, and is told in alternating POV. The narration is emotive and engaging, with plenty of difference between Cash and Daniel’s voices to make it easy to discern who’s head we are in at any point. I really enjoyed the story, and have listened to it multiple times. It’s clear that this is the beginning of a series, as we get a good look at three of Cash’s former SEAL comrades. This story is firmly centered on Daniel and Cash and their dynamic, though. Cash has never been with a man, but he’s hardly been with women. It’s possible that he’s buried his sexual feelings due to overt homophobia in his abusive/neglected childhood, and he does explore deeply his growing feelings for Daniel, both in his own mind, and through frank discussion with Daniel. Daniel is definitely counting his blessings that Cash came into his life, but he’s also wary that Cash is only a temporary connection, as so many of his friends and family have been. I fell hard for both MCs in this book. Their struggles and emotions felt so palpable through the narration that I really couldn’t stop listening.
If you enjoy romances that have an odd couple dynamic, veteran warriors, themes of overcoming addiction, and dealing with stalkers, this is a good one. The angst is low, and the stalker storyline doesn’t become too traumatic. Expect Daniel to be the cutest ex-child star ever, living out his own missing childhood experiences with the help of his trusty SEAL. Also, homely rescue dogs and lopsided birthday cakes. I found it all to be delicious.