Rating: 4.5 stars
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Max has moved to Key Largo from California with his brother, Paris. The two of them are tattoo artists and have come to work at a new shop. Max and Paris had a deeply traumatic childhood, so Max is thrilled that his brother has recently found love and happiness with a local hotel owner. But it is also hard for Max when he doesn’t see the same hope for his own future. Max knows he has a tendency to be a people pleaser, to work too hard to keep people around, to be just too much. So he doesn’t expect people to stick around in his life. When Max meets a gorgeous stranger in the single rider line at Disney World, the two men hit it off. Max and Jeremiah get to talking in the long line and it turns out they both live in Key Largo. An attraction simmers between them and it is enough to spark a hot night together. Both Max and Jeremiah find things clicking with one another in unexpected ways, but in the morning, Jeremiah is gone.
Now, it is eight months later and the guys have been avoiding one another back at home. Jeremiah knows he shouldn’t have left that morning, but he felt like his life was in too much disarray to take things further with Max. Jeremiah has been losing his vision for years and it has reached the point where he can barely see at all. The doctors don’t know how far it will progress or when, and it has left Jeremiah feeling out of sorts and in denial that this is something he must face. So he left Max without a word and has been avoiding him in town. It’s not exactly easy for the guys to stay apart, however, as Jeremiah’s restaurant is only a few doors down from where Max works. The guys also not only live on the same street, but Max’s brother, Paris, has become friends with Jeremiah. However, neither Max nor Jeremiah has told anyone about what happened between them and neither one is brave enough to reach out. But finally, the men can no longer avoid each other. When they get to talking, both men realize that the spark is still there between them and agree to a friends-with-benefits relationship, as neither man feels ready for more.
The chemistry and connection between Max and Jeremiah is intense and the sex is amazing. They also prove to be a great support for one another, particularly as Jeremiah is dealing with a difficult neighbor. Both men share a fear that a relationship can’t work out for them. Max can’t help but feel he is too much for people and assumes it is only a matter of time before Jeremiah ends things. The fact that Jeremiah seems to want only a friendship just reinforces Max’s fears. And Jeremiah is still dealing with his own stress about his vision and how that is going to affect him in the future. But while things between them may have started as just friendship and sex, Max and Jeremiah have fallen hard for each other. Now they have to take a chance and be honest about their feelings, and the men may find a way to a happy ending together.
Heavy Hand is the second book is E.M. Lindsey’s Irons and Works: Key Largo series. The books spin off the author’s original Irons and Works series set in Colorado. I think Lindsey has done a great job setting up this series and the books have very much the same tone and strong found family element as the original series. We also get to see some of the OG Iron’s and Works folks come to Key Largo for short tattoo stints, which gives a nice connection to the other books and characters, without letting those men take over the stories. This series appears to follow the original in that there is a strong group element and characters appear in each other’s books. That said, if you are ok without always knowing the backstories on various folks who appear as side characters, I think the main series works fine to jump in and out (which is what I did, as I started later in the series). I think this series will likely work the same, but these first two books are a little trickier in that Max and Paris, who is featured in Fine Line, share the same severe childhood trauma. We learn about it detail in the first book, but while it is explained here, it is not as in depth. So I think you can read this one as a starting point, but just be aware that the full extent of what the brothers went through isn’t covered in as much depth as in the first book.
This story is steamy and with amazing chemistry between Max and Jeremiah. The two men meet and hit it off so quickly, they end up ditching the folks they came to Disney World with and heading for a hot night together. The men do make the connection that they live in the same town, but they never really get to the point of next steps before Jeremiah takes off and they spend months avoiding each other. Lindsey does a great job here both setting up this intense early connection, as well as making it believable that the guys would avoid each other for so long. Max just assumes he has screwed things up, that Jeremiah couldn’t possibly want him. And Jeremiah ran scared knowing his life was overwhelming and not feeling ready for anything more. He regrets his actions, knowing there was a better way to handle it, but he can’t quite work up the nerve to do anything about it.
Once the men reconnect (which happens fairly early on, never fear), the connection they felt first night came roaring back. Jeremiah is all intense dominance and Max loves that feeling of being overwhelmed and controlled. This isn’t a kink or BDSM story, but there is a definite vibe between the men that is intense and things just spark between them. I loved watching these guys fall hard for each other despite their early intentions, and while they had planned this to be nothing more than friends-with-benefits, they are on a serious trajectory almost from the start. Of course, it is not all easy. Jeremiah has been avoiding facing the fact that his eyesight is getting worse and he needs to take some serious and more active steps to deal with it. His most recent relationship was also a bad one and he has been left feeling alone in the aftermath, particularly as he realized that many of his old friends are jerks and not worth his time. For Max, he grew up with extreme neglect and it has made him both doubt his own worth, as well as overcompensate by trying to please everyone. I found it particularly interesting here how Max and Paris have each coped with their pasts in different ways; where Max has become a people pleaser, Paris was a virtual recluse. So Max and Jeremiah have some issues of their own to work through to make it out the other side together, and I just really loved them as a couple.
There is a side conflict here with regard to Jeremiah’s jerk of a neighbor. The guy keeps letting his friends park in Jeremiah’s driveway and it is dangerous because Jeremiah can’t see the vehicles are there. The situation escalates to the guy becoming more and more aggressive and Jeremiah is overwhelmed and frustrated. It leads to some nice moments, as we see Jeremiah has a lot of people in his corner and it helps him to realize that even though he has let go of some poor relationships from the past, he has found people who care about him and support him. My only quibble here is I found the tone somewhat off. Jeremiah’s neighbor’s actions range from irritating to incredibly dangerous, even life threatening at one point, and Jeremiah definitely sees himself as at real risk. But at the same time, the situation is played a bit like a caper, as the guys all come up with ways to retaliate that seem more like pranks (put shaving cream on his car) when compared to the real and dangerous threats Jeremiah faces. Like I said, I get the idea of showing Jeremiah has people in his corner, it just felt a little unbalanced in tone.
Overall, I really adored this story and am so excited that Lindsey has decided to expand this world with the spin-off series. We have already met some really interesting side characters and I am so looking forward to their stories. This is a great time to jump into this series and this really amazing world Lindsey has created. I am excited for more to come.