Author: Sloane Kennedy
Publisher: Self published
Narrator: Joel Leslie
Ex Special Forces soldier Michael “Hawke” Hawkins has spent every day of the last ten years waiting for the moment he would get to watch the life fade from the eyes of the men who brutally murdered his wife, but when he finally gets the break he’s been waiting for, the trail leads him to someone he wasn’t expecting.
After nearly two years of running, 24-year-old Tate Travers has become an expert at hiding…until the day a dangerous stranger shows up looking for vengeance and threatens to destroy the fragile life Tate has managed to build for himself and his five-year-old son. Except the life Tate has been struggling to hold on to started unraveling long before Hawke showed up looking for the same men Tate has been running from…his own father and older brother.
Retribution – it’s all Hawke has wanted since the day he held his wife’s hand as she took her last breath. And he won’t give that up for anything or anyone…not even the tormented young man trying to give his little boy a better life. Because Tate is the only one who can lead Hawke to the men he’s been searching for. And if it means forcing the young man to confront the past that nearly destroyed him, then so be it.
Only the last thing Hawke expects to feel is something besides the hatred that has driven him. And he definitely never expected to feel it for a man.
But when it comes down to choosing between the unwanted feelings Tate stirs in him and the revenge he’s finally close enough to taste, will Hawke be able to give up the one thing that has kept him going for a second chance at a future he gave up on ever having?
I love this series! My introduction to it was with book one, Absolution, narrated by the outstanding Joel Leslie. I was so impressed I immediately read the next two books, but I was dying to get my hands on the audiobooks as well, because Joel Leslie does an amazing job of bringing characters to life. As it turns out, he blew me away with how beautifully he portrayed the heartbreakingly realistic tragedy that takes place in this book—from revisiting Hawke’s wife’s death and his subsequent grief—to Tate’s trauma over his son Matty’s illness. And the voice he gave Matty was priceless! I can’t even begin to describe how impressed I was with that voice—it was remarkably realistic—so much so that I often found myself picturing the little boy playing the part! I have a note to self to be sure I mention the scene in which little Matty is Skyping with his father and Hawke, and as the session ends, Matty’s little voice shouting his goodbyes was so wonderful that I replayed that segment a few times before I could get my smile to begin to fade.
On to the story—I love a big alpha guy like Hawke, totally badass, and yet so painfully grief-stricken. His awakening to his attraction to Tate and then his wholehearted acceptance of that attraction, and later love, were beautiful to witness. Yes, I know I read a story, but because of the audio, the characters came alive, and I could easily have been sitting in a movie theater. In Hawke, Sloane Kennedy created the perfect kind of man I like for this type of drama, and Hawke was very definitely also the perfect man for Tate—a sweetheart of a young man, who took the little boy that he later learned was his stepbrother and ran from his abusive, murdering father and brother to give the child a safe haven. He raised him as if he were his own child, and he was smart, brave, and kind—in fact, the perfect mate for a damaged man like Hawke who needed Tate’s strength to heal his broken heart.
There was a lot of angst and heartbreak in this book, but also lots of smokin’ hot sex—the first time for our big alpha hero, in fact. A word of caution on that scene, however. It smacked of dub con. Though later, Tate speaks of his willingness, at the time that wasn’t apparent, and Hawke was forceful—almost brutal in his need for the young man who he was attracted to—despite his still present love for his dead wife. It was very well-written and performed in that the turmoil came through loud and clear, but in all fairness, it needs to be mentioned in case it triggers someone.
The story is complex, with plenty of plot, danger, adventure, illness, sadness, humor, and hope and yes, there is a very satisfying conclusion. And one last note to myself—I need to remember to mention that I didn’t cry when I read the ending in the e-book version, but I sobbed when I heard it on audio, so I most definitely recommend the audio version of this story to all lovers of MM romance. This can be read/listened to as a standalone, however, with the return of the characters from book two and the integral part they play, I’d recommend reading at least that book first. But really? The series is superb and I’d be surprised if it disappointed anyone. Don’t miss a chance to pick this one up.