Author: ZA Maxfield
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Healey Holly is battered, depressed, and looking to go to ground in his childhood home. He wants to rent the garage apartment, but it’s Diego Luz’s place now, and the last thing Diego wants is to share it.
Diego is recovering too—from the accident that put him in a wheelchair and the death of his mother shortly after. The garage apartment is where he’s keeping his mother’s things, and as long as they’re up those stairs and he’s down on the ground, there’s no way he can deal with his loss. And that’s just how he likes it.
Healey believes in science. Diego believes in luck. It will take a blend of both, and some prayer thrown in besides, for these two to learn that it’s the journey and the destination that matters.
Nash Holly’s genius twin brother, Healey, is finally finished with his doctorate in physics, but instead of taking a position in industry or academia, he’s come home to heal—physically, spiritually, and emotionally. He was a passenger in a high-speed collision with his long-term college boyfriend, Ford, and the mystery surrounding the crash comes home with him. Ford’s wealthy family has managed to secure a gag order on all concerned with the accident, which according to news reports involved road rage. Ford suffers from Bipolar Disorder and only Healey knows just how bad he’s been lately in complying with his meds.
Healey comes back to the place he always called home—his brother’s and dad’s garage and apartment (Hell on Wheels), but it’s now owned by a new guy—a paraplegic with an attitude. When Healey tries to buy his way into renting the upstairs apartment with a ridiculously large lump sum of cash, the guy can’t resist. But the apartment his twin brother always called home is filled with boxes from the landlord’s recently deceased mother, and in Healey’s exhausted and injured condition he’s happy to collapse among them, using his backpack as a pillow. Needless to say, this doesn’t last long and Healey ends up at the Burnt Toast B&B (Bluewater Bay #5) where Nash eventually finds him.
What he can’t get past, besides the injury and emotional loss of Ford, is his crazy attraction for Diego, the guy who now owns the garage, so he goes back again and again, making attempts to befriend the sexy guy, and when that doesn’t work, his attempts turn to pleas for being friends with benefits. Yes, Diego can have sex, but it involves prep and can’t be spur of the moment as many relationships are, so he had despaired of ever having anything long term. But he’s willing to try with Healey, and the two have an amazing night together, though Diego doesn’t allow Healey to spend the full night in his bed. Over time, though, the two begin to know each other as no one else can, and without even realizing it’s happening, they both begin to heal from their past emotional damage.
I liked the premise of this story, but it was difficult to warm to either character until the second half. Healey was sweet but at times he didn’t seem real. When I read Hell on Wheels, Nash’s story, I identified much faster with Nash, and though Healey was mentioned, he didn’t really appear in that one, so this book is the first time we get to really meet him. He was a bit too flaky and couldn’t seem to make up his mind if he wanted a relationship with Diego or if it was too soon after Ford. Then he spent time spinning about how he might still feel about Ford. Add to that the fact that Diego wasn’t sure he wanted, or could even have, a relationship with Healey, and his gruffness and bad attitude made it difficult for readers to get close to him. As I said, it wasn’t until the latter part of the book that readers could establish that yes indeed they were together and they were now apparently willing to commit to being together for more than a casual fling.
I did, however, appreciate the research that went into the medical issues surrounding Diego’s SCI and the psych issues related to Healey’s ex-boyfriend, Ford. Neither issue was glossed over and both issues were treated respectfully.
Another character I really liked more in this story than in the first was Healey’s dad. He was much more endearing and was very supportive of Healey, whereas my impression of him from the first book was that he was somewhat of a scatterbrain and absent-minded professor. Diego’s habit of comparing both Healey and his dad to American Staffordshire Terriers was an excellent descriptor and really helped me picture the characters more clearly.
And last, but not least, I loved their well-earned and well-deserved HEA when it finally came, though the scenes with Ford were spooky and felt unfinished. Maybe he’ll show up in a future story? I honestly hope so.
I love this series, and even though the authors change with each book, there’s still an underlying common theme and some might sweet MM romance. I highly recommend this one. It’s definitely got some very interesting MCs and very nice-to-see-again secondary characters as well.