Ex-soldier Ryan Jones likes precisely two things—his kitchen and the music his father taught him to love.
After spending too many years running from his past, he’s found something like peace. Working all day as a short-order cook in a dying town, then drinking himself to sleep at night isn’t much of a life but he thinks it’s all he needs, until the day he notices the kid.
Lucas is quiet, barely twenty, sporting a shy smile beneath his frightened eyes, and bruises that Ryan can relate to all too well. Torn between wanting to help Lucas and simply wanting him, Ryan’s resolve to keep the kid at arm’s length slowly wears away.
Until Lucas disappears.
Ryan’s not the sort of man to be anyone’s white knight. But as it turns out, what Ryan is capable of, is exactly what Lucas needs.
This is a really short book, but it definitely packs a punch.
Ryan is an ex-soldier, working in a diner in a small town, keeping to himself. He stays mostly in the kitchen, and when he's not working, he's in his camper behind the diner, keeping the nightmares at bay with alcohol.
Lucas is barely twenty, quiet and shy, a regular at the diner who's caught Ryan's eye - mostly because Ryan recognizes something in the young man, primarily in the haunted eyes and the bruises on his skin.
Both men are damaged, though not beyond repair. Their relationship builds slowly, so slowly, and trust doesn't come easy, but it comes.
The story is dark, by design, and rather angsty. The author cleverly peels back Ryan's layers one at a time, and it's not immediately clear why Ryan reacts so strongly to Lucas' plight.
The diner's owner knows of Ryan's back story, and she realizes that Lucas is in some danger, but both she and Ryan also know that they cannot step in unless Lucas asks for help. Which is why boss lady encourages Ryan to befriend Lucas to build a level of trust. She has another motive which is clear to both Ryan and this reader.
Initially, this book reads as a regular hurt/comfort kind of story, but then it takes a really dark turn with an unexpected twist. I was a bit surprised at Lucas' reaction, but I also understood that he might react that way. Yeah, I know this is vague. Deal with it by reading the book.
I didn't like the ending. Well, let me rephrase that - I liked that Ryan and Lucas got their HEA. What I didn't like is that Ryan thinks this thing (which I'm not going to spoil here), and it sounded as if that was his reason for proposing, and if that's the case, WTF?
I enjoyed this overall, even if the ending left me scratching my head a bit and definitely sort of ruined their HEA for me. YMMV.
** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **
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About the author:
After spending far too long creating stories in her head, Alex finally plucked up the courage to write them down and realized it was quite fun seeing them on the page after all. Free from aspirations of literary greatness, Alex simply hopes to entertain by spinning a good yarn of love and life, wrapped up with a happy ending. Although, if her characters have to go through Hell to get there, she’s a-okay with that.
With only a dysfunctional taste in music and a one-eyed dog to otherwise fill her days, Alex writes and walks on the South Coast of England—even when her heart and spellcheck are in New York.
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