Rating: 4.25 stars
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Nordin Foster followed in his father’s footsteps and has made a career out of grifting ever since he was a child. When he was young, he used it as a way to take care of his brothers. Jaren, Lagan, Hadley, and Nordin chose to be brothers when they met in a group home and have been inseparable ever since. But Nordin doesn’t talk about his “career” with his brothers, so that they can always have plausible deniability and won’t get sucked into his crimes. As Nordin has aged, he has made a point of only going after marks who are bad themselves, and redistributing the wealthy to those in need. He’s a Robin Hood of sorts.
Tavin Donley met Nordin the day they aged out of the system. Tavin captivated Nordin from the start, and throughout the years they’ve stayed in touch. Their connection is unreal, and they can’t stay away from each other — even as Nordin continues the grift and Tavin becomes first a cop and then an FBI agent. They know they can’t be together; it’s impossible with them being on the opposites sides of the law. But even though they know the best thing would never be to speak or see each other again, Tavin and Nordin can’t help themselves.
When Nordin gets into a sticky situation, the only one he can turn to is Tavin. and Tavin can’t turn Nordin away. And then the roles are reversed, and Nordin is the one who helps Tavin out. Despite the years and months between their meetups, they keep coming back together, if only for a few stolen moments. But when a case Tavin is working indirectly involves Nordin, the men have to make a choice that will alter their lives. If they want to be together, they have to change things drastically. But after half a lifetime, will they finally be able to put their love first?
Nicked: Nordin is the final book in Nora Phoenix’s Foster Brothers series, and we finally get to know all of Nordin’s secrets. While this story technically stands on its own, like the other books in the series, it’s best read in order. Unlike the other books in this series, however, the first part takes place from Nordin and Tavin’s first meeting, and then we get to see a great deal of the intervening years as they both grow up and live their lives. As I mentioned, they keep coming back together, if only for a night or two, unable to stay away from each other.
Nordin has been a bit of a mystery throughout the series, but it was clear from the start that he was hiding things. It wasn’t too hard to guess what his secrets were, and they were confirmed for the reader when Nordin had a conversation with Lagan. But here in this book, we get to see why and how he’s made the choices he has and really see how that’s shaped him as a person. What we have always known, and what’s reinforced in this book, is that Nordin has a huge heart and an equal sense of justice. He might go about it in an unconventional way, but he certainly sees that the guilty pay. (If you’ve ever seen the show Leverage, then you know exactly what kind of anit-hero Nordin is.)
Tavin’s life wasn’t all roses, but he worked hard to build a life for himself once he aged out of the foster system. He did everything he could to make a success out of himself. The one thing that he couldn’t and didn’t want to give up is Nordin. So even when Tavin’s association with Nordin was at odds with his chosen career, and he did his best to walk away, he couldn’t help coming back to the man. Tavin’s heart is just as big, and his sense of justice is just as strong.
It’s easy to see the connection between the MCs, and how and why they clicked. I liked watching them throughout the years, the way they cared for each other, and how their chemistry kept growing. It was easy to fall into the romance of it all. But one sticking point I had was that Nordin was never really forthcoming with Tavin, for obvious reasons, and despite the numerous times they kept coming back together, looking out and caring for one another, there wasn’t a lot of depth to their relationship. It was very physical, which was off the charts hot, and Phoenix does a great job of showing just how strong their connection was. But even with that, we never see them really being open and vulnerable with each other, never really having deep conversations, and not a whole lot of honesty. They didn’t lie to one another, but they definitely left things out. And because of that, it was hard for me as a reader to really make that leap to love. Lust and connection and chemistry and possibilities, absolutely yes. But real love? I wasn’t quite there. There’s no doubt in my mind that they could get to that place, but I couldn’t quite make the stretch considering how much of their lives had been cloaked in secrets.
I did enjoy this book. Phoenix’s writing is always tight, the narrative flows well, and the characters full of life and well drawn. This book is no exception to that. But I was looking for a little more openness from the MCs earlier on, because the declarations of love felt a little too easy given the story. While not my favorite in the series, it was a nice addition, and a decent conclusion, especially because the epilogue gave us a very happy ever after for all of the men