Kai’s life was all about mountain rescue until a traumatic experience left him on shaky ground with PTSD. When his friend, Tanner, offers him a job renovating the kitchen at V&V, they both know it’s the lifeline Kai needs. With an apartment above the bar to live in, it should be perfect for Kai, but everything is either too much or not enough for Kai and he’s balanced right on the edge. When Joss appears as the new chef for the restaurant, as well as becoming Kai’s new roommate, Kai has some more rearranging to do as Joss, with his beautiful golden hair and snarky mouth, is everything Kai never knew he needed.
Joss has made his way around the globe from England to Vermont with many stops in between. His ADHD and non-verbal Tourette’s make him one of a kind. His skills in the kitchen are legendary and when he sees Kai renovating the kitchen that will be his, things get more heated than Joss counted on. Joss knows he’s a handful, and he’s managing his symptoms with medication, but he is who he is and makes few apologies for what he can’t control. But everything starts to look better with Kai in his life, except Joss doesn’t think Kai is interested in him or in men. But the pair are crushing hard on each other and Kai wants everything Joss has to offer. Joss doesn’t stay in one place for too long, but their hearts may become too intertwined to be apart.
This book launches a second phase of the Vino and Veritas collection, which is a set of multi-author stories set in the larger World of True North universe. The books are designed to be standalone stories that can be read in any order and feature the Vino and Veritas wine bar and bookstore. Garret Leigh offered Heartscape in that first phase of the series and Tanner and Jax from that book are seen here, although this book does stand alone.
This book has a lot of weight to it as both Kai and Joss have difficult issues. Kai lost his way after a traumatic work experience and Joss with ADHD and non-verbal Tourette’s has health conditions to manage. Leigh often writes difficult conditions well, and I while I cannot attest to the validity of each symptom, the characters’ struggles felt entirely real. It was sometimes stressful reading their interactions as their minds would move to a new thought or they would get distracted or get lost down a black hole in the middle of another task and I constantly wanted to get them back on track.
Joss is immediately attracted to Kai—like lightning bolt attraction. Kai has never been attracted to a man before, but Joss is so beautiful to him and he wants to absorb all of Joss’ extra energy. Their attraction is heated and heartfelt and Kai has no issues being with a man—he just wants Joss all the time in all the ways and they just work so well together.
The story mostly takes place in the restaurant kitchen and Joss and Kai’s apartment and it allowed for some great character and relationship development. There are a lot of recognizable traits of Leigh’s writing in this book and while I liked almost all of it for that reason, some of the beats of the storyline felt too similar to her other books.
It was fun to be back at V&V and catch up with the Vermont town and Tanner and Jax, who both have connections to Kai and Joss. Wildfire is a great way to revisit Vermont, along with characters with great chemistry and Leigh’s signature style.