Officer Noel Carlson isn’t out to anyone in small-town Stratton, Pennsylvania, only to distant friends and family, so a relationship is out of the question. That doesn’t stop him from wanting one, though.
When a night-shift call brings him face to thonged butt with a hired stripper whose girl-party gig went terribly wrong, Noel takes pity on the guy and lets him go. But he can’t get the encounter out of his mind.
Shane has big-time debts to repay, especially to the brother who sacrificed nearly everything for him. His two jobs, in a deli and as a stripper, leave him no time for a social life. But a non-date of hot sex and takeout food with Noel? He can squeeze that in.
The bond they form is stronger than either expected or wanted. Especially since the step Shane’s about to take to put his brother—and his soul—back in the black isn’t quite legal. And he never calculated just how much his determination to make things right will cost him in the end.
Noel, a cop, and Shane (Jody McShane), who works in a deli and dances/strips on the side, meet in unusual circumstances. Noel finds Shane in a thong tied to a bed. Shane is not happy about his predicament but won't tell Noel what happened.
The two begin dating, or, more precisely, fucking. There is plenty of smex in this novel, and it starts immediately. Forget the slow burn or tension. Both men are hot for each other, and neither has many prospects in the small Pennsylvania town where they live.
The chemistry between Noel and Shane was explosive and the sex deliciously rough and uninhibited.
Both men carry some heavy-duty baggage. As is typical of an A.M. Arthur book, the angst comes hard and fast.
Noel has a close friend from college, Tristan, who was seriously injured in a gay-bashing incident and now lives in an assisted living facility because he has no short-term memory. Noel was hurt along with Tristan, but his physical scars have healed; Tristan's remain.
I cared about Tristan as a character and would love his story. Much sadness permeates the notebooks he carries around to jot down notes so he can stay grounded in the present. I have a feeling Tony/Gabe, one of Shane's "colleagues," might be another MC. Whether he's paired with Tristan, only the author knows.
Another secondary character who plays a major role in the plot is Shane's brother, Jason, who's eight years older than Shane. Jason is Shane's rock, and Shane feels responsible for how hard Jason works to keep them afloat financially.
The major conflict in the book is the amount of debt the McShane brothers have accrued due to Shane's past medical bills.
Hell, we all know America's healthcare system is broken and the biggest FAIL in the world. That being said, there ARE some financial assistance programs for people who can't pay their medical bills. Hospitals will often reduce the bill due to poverty, and if all else fails, there's bankruptcy. I had a hard time believing that almost a decade after the fact, the men still owed 35K of high-interest debt.
After Jason collapses at work and is diagnosed with a heart condition, Shane begins to do porn. I dislike sex-for-pay in stories, particularly porn which is forever, and in this one Shane lies to both his brother and his boyfriend about his gigs.
Shane agrees to be Noel's boyfriend but won't promise to be exclusive because of the porn. Thankfully, the majority of the porn sex is OFF PAGE. Shane hates the job and the deception, but wants to pay off the debt and take care of Jason.
Overall, Shane is not a sympathetic character. He has a terrible temper and keeps breaking up with Noel and pushing him away. Granted, Shane had a rough childhood with a horrible stepfather. He's so used to keeping secrets, he doesn't know how to be in a relationship.
Noel is patient and supportive. I liked Noel and felt he probably deserved better than Shane. But Noel loves Shane, and his love isn't negotiable.
There is a HEA, and I was happy that there was no major melodrama. However, more sadness and heartbreak arrive toward the end of the book after things are settled between Noel and Shane. I hated that the plot went there. Why throw more angst into an already dark story?
I read an ARC of this book and found quite a few typos, including this doozy: "He wasn't lying in their dying while I was..." I hope the copy is cleaned up before official publication date.
Overall, the story kept me engaged and the sex was hot. I wanted things to work out for Shane and Noel, and I will definitely read the next book in this series.