Review: Kelly Jensen – Block and Strike

51D3K4iZxeLAuthor: Kelly Jensen
Reviewer: Diane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Summary:

Jacob Kendricks is three months out of prison, estranged from his daughter, and ready to get his life on track. Taking care of the bum curled up on his doorstep isn’t part of the plan. When he realizes the man has been assaulted, Jake takes him to the hospital, where he learns that Max is his downstairs neighbor… and that he could really use a friend. Keeping Max in the friend-zone would be easier if he wasn’t so damned cute.

Maxwell Wilson has been bullied for years, and the only person who ever cared lives too far away to come to his rescue. Now his upstairs neighbor is offering support. Max remains cautious, suspecting he is little more than a project for the handsome Jake. When he learns Jake has had boyfriends as well as girlfriends, Max has to reevaluate his priorities—and muster the courage to take a chance at love.

Just when a happy future is within their grasp, life knocks them back down. A devastating blow leaves Max lower than ever and Jake wrestling with regret. They both have to find the strength to stand on their own before they can stand together.

Review:

Jacob (Jake) Kendricks and Max Wilson are neighbors in a Philadelphia apartment complex who are both in need of a new start! Jake has been out of prison for three months and is working to get his life on track so he can get to see his daughter again. Max has been bullied for most of his life and hoped moving from his childhood town would be a new start – only for him to land in a heap outside the apartment door and be found by Jake on his way home. It’s an usual way to meet your neighbor, but it does start them on the road of new friends, which they both could use, and maybe something more.
The story is told from Jake and Max’s alternating point of view.

First review of the year is a book that is already on my 2017 favorites list! This is a new author for me, but I will definitely be looking for and watching out for other books based on this one alone! If you like survivor stories, characters that appear to be opposites and just find a way to get under your skin, you will likely enjoy this story!

Jake appears to be the strong one, since he has the size and muscle, he’s been to prison and has some anger issues. However, the author manages to not write him as a stereotype but someone who has vulnerability as well – and I would say his kryptonite would be caring about people, even if he does not want anyone to know that. Subsequently, Max appears to be the character who needs work, since he has gotten beaten up quite frequently in his life to the point that he does not fight back physically since bullies stop quicker when you don’t. As you get to know him, you realize what inner strength he has, as most people who survive abuse and bullying do, but Jake sees that spark and wants to help him develop it more.

I loved these characters! Of course you want to wrap Max up in a hug when you read the synopsis of the book, but I would say Jake needs one just as much. Coming to terms with his mistakes, things he needs to let go so he does not repeat them, making amends. And for Max, finding that he is stronger than he thinks, he can handle more than he thought he could, and there are people who will like him just for being him. I think by the time I got to chapter 4, I could hardly put the book down since I wanted to know what happened next! There is a great pace, well written supporting characters of Jake’s bestfriend Eric, and his family are wonderful on so many levels!

The hot scenes are not overly graphic, however, readers should know that bullying and violence are part of the story and Max’s past. For me, this was a wonderfully written relationship story that includes not only the relationship of the two main characters, but the dynamic with the other people in their lives, how those relationships are at the start and how the relationships and characters evolve through the book.. It is not all smooth sailing and not everything is wrapped up neat and tidy, but for me, it worked for these characters and this story and yes, it made me cry too! As I have often said, if a book makes me cry, or when I get to the end, I don’t want it to end, then the author has done their job well of getting the reader invested, which definitely happened for me here!.

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