Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Atlanta football legend Kebow Trainer is in big trouble and needs help now. For four years Trainer has been blackmailed and has paid up. But now he is about to negotiate a huge new contract and the blackmailer’s demand has risen to outrageous proportions. So now Trainer wants it stopped and figures Archer and Zachary are the men to do it. But this case brings up more than just a blackmailer filled with hate, it reminds Zachary of a part of his past that fills him with pain and regret.
It has been two months since Jeremiah was abused by a Dom with a grudge against Archer and Zachary and he has yet to heal emotionally. So while Zachary worries about Jeremiah and his ability to move past his recent trauma, Jeremiah and Archer are overwhelmed with concern for Zachary and the future of their relationship.
For all involved, this case has enormous consequences for their relationships and their futures. Will the triple threat of Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah be enough to solve the case and save their relationship?
Defiance is the third book in the Triple Threat series from L.E. Harner and it moves the reader into Zachary’s past and his involvement with Wick Templeton (from Wicked’s Ways series). I really loved this element. Harner has been doling out bits of information about Zachary’s past like a miser does money, in tiny amounts here and there. Now we start to understand that the loss of his sub and closeted lover was a deeper, more involved event that has had repercussions on Zachary’s life and relationships ever since. So many layers here to peal back, such an amazing depth of characterization. I just love Zachary. His is a character and voice that just resonates with a reader. Wry, knowing, sarcastic, this person has seen it all, the best and mostly the worst humanity has to offer and is still standing. Like Wick Templeton with whom he has a past and is close friends with, Zachary lives and works on the outskirts of what passes as normal in society. He is both Dom and sub in his relationships, although sub to only one man…Archer. He is brutal, funny, intelligent and physical. Trust me when I say this complex personality will stay with you a long time.
Harner has created an emotionally explosive case for a trio of men already destabilized by recent events. Nothing is ever simple in this series, no case without ramifications for all who become involved. Jeremiah is still reeling from his abuse and uncertain future, Zachary is dealing with his past and Jeremiah, and Archer has to come to terms with the fact that he destabilized his own 15 year relationship with Zachary in his arrogance and the repercussions of the addition of Jeremiah. Then you add the case of a blackmailed gay football player and watch the situation ignite. Here is a taste:
The bottle of Don Pilar was already on the table, two glasses poured, two waters on the side. The plate of limes and salt sat in the middle of the glasses, where they would likely remain untouched. They usually did.
“Thanks.” I tossed back the first glass before I even sat down. Sliding into the black leather bench of the dark booth, I poured a second glass and tossed it back, too. It suddenly seemed like a great idea to get completely shitfaced.
“Never necessary. And you know that’s sipping tequila.” We smiled at each other. It was the look of longtime friends with hundreds of favorite lines from past conversations.
“You might have said that before. This needing each other shit is becoming a habit,” I said. It had only been a few days since I’d shown up to pick him up from jail. Wick hadn’t technically needed a ride from me—but a little bird let me know he was being released and I thought a surprise was in order. Not that he’d actually done anything wrong—it’d been part of a case he’d been working—but that got me thinking about the fed. “So, hear anything from that guy? What was his name? Fred? Ked? You know, the one you left standing there with his heart on his sleeve and a bone in his pants?”
Wick threw his head back and laughed. When he finished he took a long sip of his drink, eyeing me over the rim of his glass before responding. “You’re such an ass. His name is Ned. And no, I haven’t heard from him. I think he might’ve taken offense to the lip lock you planted on me when I got in your car. I probably should take offense too, except I love dancing with your tongue.”
I grinned. “Yeah. That one might’ve gotten a little away from me. Still, it was nice.”
“It always was.” We stared at each other for a long moment, old memories suddenly fresh.
So much is revealed by the single scene alone. The easy, casual nature of the conversation, the lack of emotional and personal barriers between Wick and Zachary that just speaks volumes about their relationship as old friends and ex lovers. It is terrific and a perfect example of the narrative of the entire series.
The reveal of the identity of the blackmailer is an emotionally explosive event as anything that preceded it. It is gut wrenching and so painful in that one secondary relationship that you have come to care about is left in tatters, the future of it and the couple involved uncertain. It is a totally realistic and heartbreaking element in this story and I don’t see how Harner could have handled it any other way without losing the credibility built up in the series to date. But I would love to see a sentence or two somewhere down the line to let the readers know how it all eventually resolved for the men involved.
Defiance is an amazing read, especially considering it is only 83 pages in length. As I have said before, this book and all the books in the series seem to have the feel and scope of stories much longer in length because of all the emotions and story plots involved. Great narrative, smooth writing style, compelling characters and a singular voice in the pov. Those unfamiliar with BDSM and D/s or those who usually don’t read books with that element will still enjoy this book and series. That aspect of this story and the m/m/m relationships are beautifully done and Harner makes it accessible to all readers, not only those who like a little kink in the sex but those who prefer their sexual relationship on the vanilla side.
I highly recommend not only this book but the entire series. But start at the beginning. It’s the only way to understand the characters and events that follow. You will find yourself as hooked as I am.
Books in the Triple Threat series to date and in the order they were written and should be read are: