free me coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Blake is the workaholic owner of a publishing company who puts all he has into his job. Things have been particularly stressful lately with a problem author, and Blake is emotionally and physically drained. He does manage some fun when he has a hot (and uncharacteristic) hookup at a club, but even that it isn’t enough to keep him from eventually ending up in the emergency room due to stress. Blake’s stepmother recommends some therapy to help him deal with his stress levels, so he hires someone to come to teach him stretching and mediation exercises and hopefully help him find some work/life balance.

Stef is happy with their life, but they also can’t help but feel a little wistful as they watch their friends partner up. Stef knows they are a lot for most people to take, both in their outgoing, vivacious personality, and also that they are gender fluid. Even guys who seem accepting eventually seem to end up tiring of Stef. A hot hook up at a club helps bring Stef a little fun, but when they realize the man is their new client, it looks like trouble. Since Stef was identifying and dressing as female that night at the club, they aren’t even sure Blake recognizes them, but Stef knows they need to come clean about who they are with their new client.

As it turns out, it doesn’t take long for Blake to put two and two together about Stef’s identity. They decide to continue working together, but the biggest issue is the chemistry between them has not died down one bit. Stef and Blake are so drawn to one another, working together is torture. They decide that they both want to explore the connection between them, but will hold off until after Blake’s therapy is done. That is easier said than done, however, as Stef and Blake are fiercely drawn to one another. But even as things are going great between them, Stef still can’t help their fears that eventually they will be too much for Blake. But Blake has fallen for Stef with his whole heart; now he just has to convince Stef that they are the perfect person for Blake.

Free Me is the fourth book in Beck Grey’s Love in the Pacific Northwest series. This is a strong ensemble series with characters connected as both birth and found families. As the stories continue, the connections among the books are growing stronger and this one has a lot of interconnections. Stef is Erik’s best friend and Jules’ older brother from Choose Me. Blake works with Erik’s sister, Astrid, and the group’s single friend, Jocelin (whose book is coming next). Blake is also stepbrother to Tadhg from Embrace Me. The whole gang does interact at various points in the story, and this reading experience will be richer if you have some familiarity with other books. But I think as long as you are ok not knowing everyone’s backstory, this book would still work as a standalone.

Free Me is sweet, sexy, and without a lot of angst. There is a little conflict early on as Stef realizes Blake was their hookup and then the pair must figure out how to fight their intense longing for each other while they are client/patient. But once they move past this initial struggle and give in to their desire for one another, both of them are pretty much all in right away. Most of the story is watching the two of them fall hard, fast, and intensely for one another. Sometimes a lack of much conflict like this can make a story feel slow or boring, but I actually found myself just sinking into things and enjoying the developing romance. Which is not to say that there is no conflict at all here. Stef struggles with some insecurities regarding being accepted for who they are. Not that Stef has any intention of living as anything other than the out, proud, flamboyant, and gender-fluid person that they are. But they are also wary of whether at some point they will be too much for Blake. I think it would have helped here to have a little more context on Stef’s past relationships, as they are obviously affecting their fear of how things might play out with Blake. However, I just found it really rewarding to see how affirming and supportive Blake is toward Stef and he makes it clear that he loves and cares for them exactly how they are.

Overall, I enjoyed this one a lot. It is sweet and very sexy and Blake and Stef are a really likable couple. If you are looking for a low-angst story you can sink into, this one is a nice choice.

Note: Stef is gender fluid and changes pronouns depending on how they are feeling each day. Since they use “they/them” pronouns primarily in the book, that is what is what I chose to use here as well.

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