pretty dogs coverRating: 5 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Dallas and Beck have finally made it out of the trailer park, along with their best friends, Roman and Scout. The four men have a home together, but that doesn’t mean life is easy. The men are still dirt poor and struggling to survive financially. But they have each other and have made it out of most of the immediate danger. Excerpt for Beck, who still can’t break free of the gang life. Beck knows his friends worry for him, knows that everyone else is moving forward while he is still stuck. But he is also terrified of what the future might look like for him, if there is a chance for something more. And so he lets himself get swept back in time and again, rather than take a chance on what could be.

Dallas was kicked out of his home at gunpoint by his mother’s boyfriend after the man realized Dallas was transgender. When Beck found him looking for food in a trashcan, he took Dallas in and the two have been inseparable ever since. Dallas has started to have feelings for Beck, started to think of his best friend as something more, but Dallas doesn’t have enough confidence in himself or his body as a trans man to take a chance on something more with Beck.

When the men meet a boy and his brother who are trouble, Beck and Dallas realize that they each have it in them to help. Their unique life experiences are exactly what is needed. And realizing that they have something to offer helps the men have the courage to open up to each other, to find the confidence to believe they can make it work as a couple. Looking to the future has always been hard for Beck and Dallas with so many challenges in their way. But together, they may just find the strength to move forward.

Pretty Dogs is the second book in Riley Nash’s amazing Dirty Strays series. It follows Bad Dogs, which features Scout and Roman’s story, and which made it onto my Best of 2023 list. I absolutely loved that first book and this story is the perfect follow up. While I think Dallas and Beck’s romantic journey could stand alone, I think these books work best building upon one another. In Bad Dogs, we meet both men, as they are best friends with Scout. While they are not the focus, the foursome is extremely intertwined in each other’s lives (they acknowledge they are co-dependent), and so their journeys all connect. So I think you could jump in here, but will get much more out of it reading the books in order.

These are emotional, intense stories about men who are on the fringe. They are barely hanging on financially, they are looked down upon by many as trash, and they have all suffered immensely in life. The fact that they not only have survived, but that they retain that sense of love and connection to one another, is a testament to their hearts. The men love fiercely, whether it is platonic best friend love or romantic love, and they would kill or die for one another. This isn’t an easy story; both Dallas and Beck have difficult, complicated pasts of violence and abuse. But there is so much heart here, so much true love and caring, and I found it just incredibly heartwarming. I do want to note some potential triggers for transphobia and intentional misgendering, as well as violence and abuse.

This is a best friends to lover story and I just adored these guys together. Beck is all growly claiming, all brute strength with nothing but gentle hands for Dallas, and a man who can be both terrifying and tender in turn. If you like your men possessive and sweet, you are going to love Beck. He got involved in gang life as a young child and never thought he was worth anything more. Here we see Beck’s fears as he watches his friends move forward, his worry that he will be left behind with no idea of what direction his own life can take. Since the moment Beck met Dallas, he has been protective over him and he is determined to take care of Dallas no matter what it takes. Dallas was raised in a comfortable, loving home, until his mother’s boyfriend chased him out of the house and threatened his life if he were to return. Dallas misses his mother painfully, as she loved and supported him throughout his life. Dallas has had top surgery and takes testosterone injections and most people who see him don’t realize he is transgender, but his body dysphoria is still strong. He loves Beck and he wants him, and he believes Beck loves him in return, but Dallas can’t help but be scared about sharing his body, particularly as he is totally sexually inexperienced. Nash is an own voices trans author and he develops Dallas’ character so well. Dallas’ fears and insecurities come through so clearly and feel so real. The guys end up playing a bit with consensual non-consent, as Dallas has fantasies of being chased down and forced into sex. Playing with this taboo helps take Dallas out of his head enough to stop thinking and just enjoy, and it fuels Beck’s more primal side, giving it a safe outlet. There is also a sweet tenderness to their dynamic and the love between them really shines through.

I don’t want to get too much into the specifics, but the group meets a man and his younger brother who are in trouble. Dallas and Beck are both uniquely positioned to help them, and the experience in turn helps them each deal with their own struggles. I loved the way Nash plays with this character parallels and uses the situation to help Dallas and Beck each move forward. It sounds like we meet get a story for the older brother, and I would absolutely love to get more set in this world. Nash brings such deep emotional resonance to these characters, I can’t help but be totally absorbed in their story. This is a great set of books and a wonderful, intense world and I can highly recommend this book and series.

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