banger coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Kevin is thrilled that his best friend, Lukas, is marrying the love of his life, but Kevin also can’t help but feeling a bit sad that he hasn’t found his own happily ever after yet. He is also feeling a little raw after taking a chance on a hookup who never called him again, or even acknowledged their hot encounter. The fact that the hookup was with Lukas’ ex boyfriend, Hank, makes it even worse. After Hank treated Lukas so poorly, Kevin wanted nothing to do with him, even if in his deepest heart he finds the man incredibly hot. While Lukas has long forgiven Hank, Kevin still can’t bring himself to let it go. So when Hank doesn’t ever call him after their hookup, it just reinforces Kevin’s negative feelings.

Hank has been hot for Kevin for a while now, so it’s been hard that Kevin so clearly doesn’t like him. Hank knows he behaved badly with Lukas and he has grown a lot since then. But he realizes that Kevin isn’t going to be so quick to forgive him. Hank is determined to show Kevin that he can be the right man for him. It may take some careful wooing and a lot of patience, but Hank knows that Kevin is worth it. The men can barely keep their eyes off each other, but even more, they are a perfect fit together. Now, Kevin just needs to decide if he can trust that Hank has changed and believe that they can have a real future together.

Banger is the second novel in Kiki Clark’s Blue Collar Hearts series. The first book, Laying Pipe, features Lukas finding love with his dad’s best friend, John. While this story focuses on a new couple in Hank and Kevin, I do think you will get more from this story if you read them in order. Hank incites a lot of the conflict in that first book, as not only does he let Lukas down in his time of need, but he also becomes relentless in pursuing him in attempt to win Lukas back. A lot of this story focuses on the aftermath of that for both Kevin and Hank. Kevin is still angry at the way Hank acted toward Lukas and, despite the fact that Lukas and John are long over it, Kevin isn’t sure he is ready to move on. Kevin has a lot of trust issues centering largely around his alcoholic father, so he isn’t so quick to want to forgive Hank’s bad behavior. For his part, Hank has grown and learned from his mistake in letting Lukas down and is determined to make things different with Kevin. All that means that while the backstory is explained, having read the first book will really give you the foundation for this story that follows up on many of those issues.

Clark notes at the start of the book that this series is meant to be fluffy and I think it delivers in that this is a high-heat, low-angst story. It takes a while for the guys to work their way together, mostly because Kevin is wary about trusting Hank. But Hank is all in from the start and, once Kevin realizes that Hank is not going to hurt him, the guys settle into a relationship very quickly. From then on it is lots of sex and cuddling and adoration of one another, with Kevin as the more domestic partner and Hank enjoying being the caretaker. Things move fast once they ultimately get together, but I think there is enough foundation to their relationship to make it work.

I did have some minor struggles with some of the conflict here. First off, Kevin is really mad that after their hookup, Hank doesn’t call him or acknowledge what happened. However, it doesn’t appear that Kevin calls Hank or acknowledges their hookup either. I am not clear why this all falls in Hank’s lap, when they are equally guilty of the exact same behavior. I also found Hank’s relentless pursuit of Kevin to be a little awkward considering what happens in the first book. Aside from bailing on Lukas when he needed him, Hank wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept calling Lukas over and over, long after Lukas was clear he was no longer interested. Hank even showed up at Lukas’ place of work to bug him. Hank’s past behavior is clearly supposed to be very problematic and the idea is that by the time this book starts, he has grown a lot. Yet, when Kevin seems to want nothing to do with Hank, Hank continues to pursue him. It is never crossing a line, but it just seemed like his actions weren’t showing the growth we were supposed to see from him and not really ideal given his past. That said, Hank never pushes too far and is very careful to take things slowly and at Kevin’s pace. He is very sweet and doting here and makes Kevin feel cherished in a way he has really been wanting for so long.

I found this a nice installment in this series and it is an enjoyable follow up to the first book. We get to meet the leads for the next story here and I am looking forward to more in this series.

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