fine line coverRating: 4 stars
Buy Links: 
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Length: Novel


Ben runs a hotel in Key Largo, Florida, that he took over from his parents. Ben grew up there with his brother, but had moved on to a career of his own. But when his brother died, and his parents were ready to retire, they asked Ben to take over the place. Managing a fairly run down hotel filled with tourists isn’t really Ben’s dream, but he is muddling along and keeping it afloat. What Ben would really like is to find someone to share it all with, someone to love and spend a life together. But most men his age aren’t looking for more than hook ups, and so Ben’s primary sexual outlet is his friend, Theo. Theo is also deaf, so it is nice for Ben to be able to take out his implants and relax with someone who speaks the same language.

Paris has come from California to Key Largo with his brother, Max, to start a job at the new tattoo shop, Irons and Works. Paris is living in a hotel while he gets settled in the new job and finds a place to live. He isn’t thrilled when his hot neighbor keeps him up all night with sex noises through their paper thin walls. Paris is about to give Ben a piece of his mind the next day, when he realizes Ben is deaf and has no idea how loud he was, and Paris feels all kinds of awkward. Paris and Max had an abusive childhood, so Paris is not a guy who is really comfortable interacting with others and tends to keep to himself. So he has no idea quite how to handle the situation. Fortunately, the guys have some mutual connections from the tattoo shop and, after some uncomfortable interactions, they are able to move forward to get to know one another.

Paris and Ben find a fast friendship and a heated attraction. Things move quickly, as the men having feelings that are growing fast between them. But Paris is struggling with having a relationship, or even a real connection with anyone other than his brother. Paris grew up believing no one would ever care for him besides Max. So accepting that Ben not only likes him, but wants Paris to be a real part of his life, is difficult. And when Paris misreads a situation, it almost ruins everything. But Ben is patient and Paris is determined to make himself vulnerable and open, even if it is difficult. And when Ben faces his own crisis, Paris is ready to be there for him. With a little work and a lot of communication, the men may just have a chance for a real future together.

Fine Line is the first book in E.M. Lindsey’s Irons and Works: Key Largo series, a spin off of their popular and really engaging Irons and Works series. The original shop is in Colorado and now they are opening up a second location in Key Largo. The final book in the original series, Snakebites, serves as a transition story and begins introducing some of the new characters. We also get cameos from some of the original cast here, with indications that others will be dropping by the Florida shop. So having some familiarity with this world will definitely make things richer here, but I do think this story stands alone just fine and you could begin with this series if you want.

While the set up of the new shop is a key theme here, this story is largely focused on the developing relationship between Ben and Paris. Both men have interesting backstories that affect their characters, but Paris’ is probably the most profound. He grew up with a spineless father and a truly wicked stepmother who neglected Paris and Max in favor of her own children to an abusive degree. He lived essentially in a void where he and Max were all but ignored and had none of the usual childhood experiences or interactions with other kids — no playdates, no sleepovers, no birthdays or gifts, no holiday celebrations, nothing but the bare minimum to survive. So as an adult, not only does he have no real experience with friendships or personal interaction, Paris also has no belief that anyone would ever want him or care about him.

Ben has his own issues from his past, including parents who never made an effort to help him be part of the Deaf community or bothered to learn to sign. He also still is mourning his brother’s death and took over running the hotel to preserve his parents’ dream, not because it is what he wants. But even though Ben grew up isolated at times due to his deafness, he has more experience interacting with others than Paris, and he is willing to be there for Paris as he gets himself figured out.

There is a sweet and sexy dynamic between the men, particularly as Ben tries to re-create some of Paris’ missed childhood experiences. I liked how patient Ben is with Paris and there is a nice balance of heat and tenderness. However, there were times when I did wonder if Paris needed more than just Ben’s support; this is a man with a deeply emotionally abusive childhood that left big scars and I feel like he really needed professional help that there was no indication he was getting. Ben is a patient and understanding man, but I had to wonder at times if Paris was really ready for their relationship. I also wished we got more resolution on the hotel and Ben. I guess I wanted some sense that he was either finding his happiness there, or moving on, or something other than this stagnant state he felt like he was in. So I feel like a few things weren’t totally resolved as cleanly as I would have liked at the end, but I did really enjoy the dynamic between Paris and Ben.

One of the things I love about the main Irons and Works books is the found family aspect and that is definitely something I can already see building here as well. I enjoyed getting to meet some of the tattoo artists, as well as assorted Key Largo locals who will presumably be playing a role as the series continues. I found myself with a sense of excitement as we start to get to know folks here and looking forward to seeing how their stories play out over the series. If you are a fan of the original Irons and Works, I think you are going to really enjoy following things to Key Largo. And if you are new to the series, this is a nice example of Lindsey’s style and excellent character development — and if you like this one, definitely check out the original books.

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