adverse conditions coverRating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novel


Xavier has moved back to his hometown of Cooper Springs, Washington. He is a real estate agent and Xavier hopes to help revitalize the small and fading town. It is an adjustment for him, after a busier city life, but Xavier is settling back into town. The only complication is his neighbor, Vincent Barone, with whom Xavier has a tense relationship. The guys knew one another in high school and haven’t been friends since Vincent ratted Xavier out for a school prank. Now, Vincent is a real estate appraiser whose by-the-book attitude keeps making things tough for Xavier’s sales.

Vincent is a single dad raising a teen daughter and working two jobs to get by. He knows people get annoyed with him for his appraisal work, but he also is determined to be honest and do the best job he can. Xavier drives Vincent crazy, with his flashy car and city clothes. But Vincent can also admit that he finds Xavier attractive.

Things are tense for the men for a while, but eventually they end up slowly becoming friends. Despite Vincent being a total rule follower and Xavier more of a free spirit, the guys really connect and find themselves to be a good fit. In fact, they begin to fall for one another. Xavier usually shies away from relationships, but being with Vincent makes him want to take a chance on more. But Vincent’s first priority is always going to be his daughter, and when the danger ramps up in town, his fears may get the best of him. Now, Vincent and Xavier have to decide if they can find a way to take their fling and turn it into something lasting.

Adverse Conditions by Elle Keaton is the first book in the new Reclaimed Hearts series. The book has a great sense of place in the small town of Cooper Springs and the surrounding area of western Washington state. Keaton really brings it all to life and I could get such a great sense of the town, the area, and the type of people who would live there, which made a great backdrop to the relationship between Xavier and Vincent. There is light enemies-to-lovers vibe here in that the two are sort of mildly feuding neighbors, though it doesn’t take long for them to start building a friendship. The men are very different, but there is a nice connection between them. I appreciated a story featuring two men who are older and more established, and Xavier and Vincent make a nice opposites attract pairing. I also think the story nicely balances Vincent’s role as a father to a teen with the romance side, giving it some realism without taking focus away from his relationship with Xavier. Things did end a little abruptly for me, however, with the guys going from just starting to date at the end of the book, and then skipping way ahead in the epilogue. So the pacing was a bit off there for me and I wanted to see a little more of the later romantic development on page.

As I said, Keaton brings the town of Cooper Springs to life and I enjoyed meeting some of the locals. As this starts a new series, we meet a lot of characters who I assume will play a role in future books. This is a somewhat quirky cast, but not over the top. I found myself intrigued by various characters and looking forward to spending more time with them.

While I really enjoyed the relationship between Vincent and Xavier, I think there were several areas where things just didn’t feel fully developed across the story. The big one is with the murder mystery aspect. The prologue of the book has a young teen encountering someone dangerous who chases him down the mountain. We then learn there is a missing girl from another town, bones are found near Cooper Springs, and then a body. The police are investigating, the town is gossiping, and people are scared. We also have these bits of foreshadowing, or hints of danger the characters encounter at various points. So we have this whole set up for a mystery, but then nothing really happens with it. I kept waiting for things to come around to the prologue and learn who was after the boy, or to learn the identity of the bones found, or for the mystery to heat up, or something. I am guessing this will play out across the series, but this just felt like a lot of set up for nothing to actually happen here in this book and it felt like a hole in the story. There are other smaller areas where I also felt like we get set up and no follow through. For example, we learn Xavier’s father had a second family no one knew about, and Xavier’s twin is going to meet them, while Xavier wants nothing to do with them. This is brought up multiple times, we hear about how his brother is traveling to see them, etc, but then we don’t get any real closure. Or we see Xavier’s ex come into town and make trouble with one of his real estate deals and <spoiler>

Spoiler title
it seems like something is going to come of it, and I kept waiting for the fallout, and again, nothing
<end spoiler>. My guess is that in some cases, we are going to see things play out in later books (maybe Xavier’s brother gets his own story?). But here in this book, it seems like a lot of plot threads are started without ever really seeing them through and I was left waiting for resolution that never came.

Despite these issues, I really did enjoy this one. I found Keaton to have a nice style and loved getting to know the people of Cooper Springs. I will be definitely looking forward to continuing on with the series (the next MCs look particularly interesting) and seeing what is to come for this small town.

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