It takes all his courage, but Archer Navarro finally makes his escape in the middle of the night, with no plan and barely anything to his name. All Archer knows is that he has to get away from his boyfriend. A turn of events makes the situation even more bleak, until he finally gets a break. With some assistance, Archer ends up at a shelter and safe house for LGBTQIA people in need of help.
There, Archer meets Brooklyn, and there’s something about the other man that draws him in. Their connection is instant and though they perhaps have ulterior motives for their first interactions, friendship quickly blooms. As Archer goes about putting in the work to begin to heal, Brooklyn is right there every step of the way, watching his back and giving support.
Falling in love is almost inevitable, but Archer’s situation isn’t that easy, particularly as he is weighed down by guilt and hoping to make a difference in his sister’s life. Unfortunately, things once again don’t go according to plan and quickly take a turn for the worse. But Brooklyn isn’t going to give up on Archer and facing the demons of his past gives Archer new clarity. It will take work, but both men have already begun the process. Now, they just have to figure out if they love they share is enough to get them through the darkest times.
Hayden Hall is a new-to-me author and the blurb for this one enticed me to give Hall a try. And I was not disappointed. With this book, Hall manages to walk a finely balanced line between heavy, devastating topics and a fluffy, sweet with heat romance. It’s the first book in a new series, but stands alone well, with no cliffhanger.
From the beginning, Hall’s words drew me in. Archer is in a very bad place as the book opens and my heart immediately went out to him. I think the author did a great job really delving into the mind of an abuse survivor, how torn down Archer was, and how desperate he had become in order to finally break free. From the start, I wanted nothing more than for Archer to not only get out, but to make strides in healing. It’s not smooth sailing by any means, and the abuse depicted on page is mostly emotional and mental. Some of that comes from Archer’s own mind, and it shows just how far and deep the abuser’s hooks have gotten into him. This book has quite a lot of conversations surrounding abuse, and so, at times, has a much darker feel. I think the author handled this with a sensitive hand and gave the topic the weight it was due.
In counterpoint to that, the instant connection between Archer and Brooklyn, the easy way they fit together, and the speed at which they fell in love would seem much more fitting for a contemporary rom com. At first glance, it would seem that these two disparate plot points wouldn’t fit. But Hall makes it work. In fact, it’s a much-needed break from the heavier theme of the rest of the book. It gave both the MCs and the reader a sense of hope that was a balm to the more intense plot points of the story.
I would have liked to see a bit more conversation between them MCs, especially in the last quarter of the book where things really picked up. Things seemed a little too easy for me between them, a little too sweet, and having a few in depth conversations would have elevated this book for me.
All in all, though, I really liked this book. It’s an incredibly promising start to the series, and I’m definitely looking forward to way comes next. I’ll also be checking out some of this author’s other work. If you like your sweet with a healthy dollop of heat, and like your heart to break a little while reading, then this is definitely one you should check out.