Noah Everett shed his rent boy existence for a bar and helping young men get a second chance at life. Haunted by those he couldn’t save, he keeps others at bay until his self-imposed loneliness is shattered by ambitious but homeless Jeremy Kincaid.
Aged out of the foster system, Jeremy’s the perfect target for a ruthless pimp like Willie Carnell. He wants no part of any future that includes working for Willie, but without a strong ally, he may not have a choice.
Noah knows exactly what Willie’s capable of, and if he’ll fight for strangers, he’ll fight harder for Jeremy.
Even if it takes confronting his own past.
This book opens the reader's eyes to one of the most under-reported social issues - aging out of the foster care system. Most states in the US end all support upon the child's 18th birthday, and offers very little in ways of support or education to help them find their footing.
Jeremy is one of those forgotten children. Kicked out of his most recent foster home, when the checks stopped coming, he is still struggling to go to school even though he's now homeless. He knows that his only saving grace comes in the form of a full scholarship to college, and he knows he has to graduate high school with the best possible grades.
Winter is coming, and not only is Jeremy in danger of freezing, but he's also being hunted by Trent, his former boyfriend who wants to recruit him for the stable of one Willie Carnell, the ex-boyfriend's pimp. Jeremy is not interested - he's not yet at the stage where he's willing to sell his body, sell himself, to survive the streets.
Noah is in his late 20s and owns the 12th Street Bar, as well as the laundromat next door, in an area rife with prostitution, drugs, and violent crime. Despite this, he's managed to turn the bar into a well-performing business. He's single, not interested in finding a partner, and still carries the scars (physical and psychological) from his time on the streets. A former prostitute himself, he's familiar with Willie and the pimp's ruthless pursuit of fresh meat. When he stumbles upon Jeremy at the laundromat, he can immediately see the young man's plight.
See, Noah has made it his life's mission to save the ones he can save from the streets. He knows what it's like to work under people like Willie, and he had the good fortune to be able to walk away with the help of Doc. For the last ten years, he and Doc have helped numerous kids find their way home.
Eden Winters paints a realistic picture of not only what it means to lose your social net when aging out of the foster care system, but also gives insights in the plight of runaways and young men who are kicked out of their homes, simply for being who they are, simply for not conforming to their parents' expectations of being straight. They are kicked into the streets by the very people who are supposed to love them unconditionally, without means to support themselves, and are thus primed for falling into the hands of ruthless people who will use them for their own monetary gain. Drugs follow the sex for hire, and many of them end up dead before they have really lived.
This isn't a fluffy romance novel. While Jeremy and Noah do end up in a relationship, this book isn't merely about their slow-burn romance, it's about the fight to help as many kids as Noah can, to give them a chance at the life they should have, to bring down the likes of Trent and Willie.
It's well-written, the language crisp and direct, avoiding anything approaching purple, and the anguish, grief, and sorrow Noah relays in his thoughts and in his actions are evident. Noah's history, and the pain from that history, play a huge role in his actions, and for a while he doesn't believe that Jeremy expresses interest for anything other than gratitude. He fights his own attraction to the young man, and it's a real pleasure to watch their interactions.
Jeremy may be young, but he's not stupid. He's more mature than his years, and he is not deterred by Noah's denials. Aspiring to go to business school, he offers Noah a deal.
In some areas, the book was possibly a bit over the top, especially the plot to dethrone Willie, but it worked within the remaining plot lines, and created a full picture of Noah's past, and the reasons behind his actions.
I liked that he got some closure in the end, and that he also realized that Jeremy wasn't just some stupid kid. And I really liked that Noah got to see the people he saved stand up for him - that scene made me tear up a bit.
I'm definitely interested in reading the 2nd book.
** I received a free copy of this book from its author via Pride Promotions. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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