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Doran Callaghan doesn’t know when to fold ’em. His gambling has landed him in debt and in jail, and now it’s got him stuck in the sticks in a reintegration program. He wants to turn his life around, but old habits come knocking, and some creditors are harder to shake than others.
Xavier Wagner cares more about the National Park he works in than the people around it, until a stranger awakens desires he didn’t know he had. Doran’s natural submissiveness turns Xavier’s ideas of how to treat a lover upside down. But Doran doesn’t seem to know about boundaries — or even to have any — and Xavier’s not sure that Doran will say no if he needs to. Which means someone’s going to get hurt.
While Xavier struggles with his principles, Doran’s past comes calling. Trusting each other is suddenly a matter of life or death, but Doran has to decide whether counting on Xavier — or himself — is a gamble he’s willing to take.
I had the pleasure of reading this book with my friend Gaby. (Hello beautiful!) It’s fun reading a book with a friend, and in the case, even better because the first time Gaby and I read a book together, it was another one by GB Gordon, The Other Side of Winter. What a grand time we had! This time around was no different and it’s nice to have someone to bounce thoughts off of. So let us tell you how we felt…
K: I need to be honest and say this was not my favorite of this series, and really, I think I was expecting more…. something. I just don’t know what. Your thoughts?
G: Well, in my case this was the first book I read of the series, so I really don’t have a point to compare. I liked it. I even think I might have liked a bit more than you did. I understand what you mean about the something bit. Because, yes, if there is something I feel about this book is that there was a thing that was missing for me. Funnily I can’t tell what it was either.
This kind of confuses me because I really, really, liked Xavier a lot, for so many reasons, and I found Doran somewhat endearing.
K: I really liked Xavier. So much. He’s a strong person, kind and just right, you know? And Doran is so sweet. He needs someone to love him and make him feel loved and cared for, something he’s really lacked in his life. Both MCs were likable and I wanted to see them do well together. I feel like I understood their connection, and I believed in it.
G: One of the things that stood out for me about this book was exactly that: their connection and their dynamic. The word I would use to describe it would be: refreshing. Their relationship is so different from many of the ones in other books I’ve read. I think their personalities also fit perfectly well together. Each one provided the other with something that the other needed. Doran provided Xavier a balance, and a vote of confidence that he needed. Xavier provided Doran with a certain control that Doran needed.
K: Yes! You’ve totally nailed what they do for eachother. The D/s stuff came out of nowhere for me. I was not expecting it at all but feels right in their relationship. The D/s elements were nicely done. I like that the sex scenes were not overt and showing everything. The intimacy was really nice.
G: I enjoyed the D/s plot a lot. I think it was one of the few times where the flow in it was so natural, and I wonder if it was partly because in a way they got to know each other through that dynamic, while at the same time realizing that the roles came natural to them. It was part of who they were. I liked that there wasn’t any need of.. whips, and chains, and other stuff to prove it. It just reads through the pages.
K: I agree…. But honestly, I started to skim a lot.
Where I had the most trouble was the story itself. The gambling addiction was a good change of pace, but I also felt like he was kicking it too easily. I don’t know… It just didn’t come together for me.
G: I have to agree on the addiction part. I, too, felt like it was being kicked to easily. I wonder if it was maybe because we didn’t get to see the whole process? I mean when the book started Doran was half way through the GA Program, so I wonder if maybe seeing a bit more of it would have helped us to understand him better.
I know gamblers, and the things they do sometimes are… Well, not pretty. I also know that kicking the addiction is damn difficult. A damn bingo game can start it all over. I know this cuz I’ve seen it happening.
K: And the added scare with the guy after Doran really didn’t help the story. I felt it was an easy way to add tension that maybe wasn’t needed. Xavier already has trust issues with Doran and that could have been enough. The story on the mountain, all the snow and mud, freezing temps… well, it made the whole situation really unbelievable for me. I don’t want to spoil anything but let me just say that there is no way I could believe that. Two guys in suits, without proper footwear and gear, all night on a mountain. Nope. It was fine until they went up that mountain.
G: I didn’t mind the scare guy. I think this is possible because, again, I’ve seen this happening. I do agree on the mountain bit, though.
K: Honestly, I’m not surprised at how the book turned out, generally speaking. This series has a lot of books that have this same feel. The same kind of formula, I guess? I think that’s what bugged me a lot. Having read The Other Side of Winter with you, I kind of had an expectation that this book would be as great as that was. As thought provoking. I’d hoped it would really grab me like that one did, just because of who wrote it. And it’s not the writing that was the issue for me, just the story and where the subplot went.
G: Like I said, this is my first book in the series, so the element of surprise was there for me. Maybe it wasn’t as marked as I would have expected, but yes.
There is something I liked a lot though, and I can’t go on without saying it. Xavier is a diverse character, and I loved that. I loved that a POC was included in this book, and this is because I don’t think that there are nearly enough diverse characters in this genre, so kudos for that. I also loved to read about Xavier’s family. It was heartwarming, in a way, because it was written very sweetly.
It was interesting to see the contrast in their families. How different they were and how that brought them to be the men they are now.
K: I absolutely agree with you on that point. I also liked that yes, Xaiver mentions issues he’s had throughout his life, but that the story does not go so far into it that it takes away from everything else. I think that if we’d had more about him being a person of color, and being gay and how that impacted him, his family, and the challenges he faced in town, it would have made the story quite different. Not in a bad way, but it could have taken away from the relationship. Sometimes I think that there is too much focus on things that don’t need to be. They’re an interracial couple, and they’re gay. I say, so what? Like yeah, that’s a good thing… give me more fun and love. Do I make sense? Sometimes I think I’m not sensitive enough.
I also loved Xavier’s family. They’re wonderful! His father especially, what a great person and he gave sound advice. You could feel the respect Xavier has for his dad.
G: Yes, and it was so lovely to read. Honestly, overall I think this was a good book. I did struggle a bit, but still enjoyed it. The characters were whole and strong. Their dynamic was interesting and deep, and the prose was GB Gordon brilliant.
K: Agreed. Thank you so much Gabby, for reading this with me. As always, I enjoyed our discussion.
G: Not at all, honey! Thank you so much for having me! :)
Both Gaby and I rated this at 3.5 stars.