Review: Adverse Conditions (Reclaimed Hearts Book 1) by Elle Keaton

Rating: 3.5🌈

Adverse Conditions is the first in a new small town mystery romance series by Elle Keaton, a story that’s stacked with elements. There’s a enemies to lovers trope, returning small town son, multiple murder mysteries, heartwarming family with it’s own complicated backstory, bi-coming out, single dad, rescue dogs, conniving ex , and that’s not all.

The small town of Cooper Springs is a focal point too. From the beach to the forests to the bar where all the town hangs out, the preservation of Cooper Springs and how best to save it is front and center. It probably will be a major theme for all the novels.

But as Keaton’s packed such a huge amount of elements into this first book, it’s no surprise that some feel less polished/finished than others.

The need to lay the foundation for the series is obvious, get the background down. Cooper Springs is beautifully rendered. You can see the small town as it was. And as it is now. The ramshackle resort absolutely in need of renovation that a new owner could supply and the revenue it could bring in that the town is counting on, along with the beautiful location. Also the long term familiarity of Cooper Springs’ citizenry feels believable, whether they are on good terms or bad.

Next up, the romance. Vincent Barone is a single dad to daughter Romy, herself a delightful character. He’s holding down two jobs, he’s a shop teacher at the High School, and a part time Real-Estate Appraiser, which brings him clashing back into his old high school nemesis, Xavier, recently returned to town, as a real estate agent. Vincent is a terrific character, stressed out by bills, his jobs, life, and wanting to be the best dad to a great kid. He’s relatable in all his irritable moments.

Xavier could use some more of that depth. It helps base him when we meet Xavier’s mother and brother Max. But Vincent still feels grounded in a way Xavier doesn’t. They have a old sexual tension that’s dealt with a little too quickly but the relationship is a emotional, thoughtful one.

There’s a ex here (Xavier’s) that appears and disappears for no reason to be annoying unless he’s going to be a part of a storyline further down the series. Now he’s a dropped element, one of several that aren’t fully developed for reasons other than perhaps they are part of a larger arc theme. They include the murders, missing wives, and why anyone would want an aggressive antisocial man with known anti development views to be a long term rental resident of a property up for sale. That last sounds more like a author’s needing a dramatic narrative item than something realistic.

Let’s see.

“We need to sell this property. Let’s have an aggressive nutcase with a baseball bat live there and challenge everyone who wants to sell it with threats and promises of bodily harm.”

Um no. And no one does anything about it.

Plus there’s the fact that a person that’s been missing for a while (dead) and no one has been able to find can be found easily.

So I find elements like this problematic.

I realize that murder plots and mysteries here seem to be intended to play out over the series but either we need more mystery or more substance or subtly or something.

The ending comes abruptly, moving Vincent and Xavier’s relationship forward that we miss out on the growth moments. The parts that bring all three, four counting the dog, together as a family.

So while I feel that the story has some wonderfully interesting elements, really promising moments between all parties , and a couple and family I enjoyed, I’m not sure it all came cohesively together in one first book of a series.

The next book is a different couple altogether. Which is odd when this one didn’t feel complete.

I’ll continue on to see how it all flows into the next episode. And what the author intends for the mysteries.

If you’re a fan of Elle Keaton, and contemporary mystery romance, I’m sure that you have already put this on your TBR list. For the rest, it’s a entertaining read.

Reclaimed Hearts:

✓ Adverse Conditions #1

◦ Below Grade #2 – May 25,2023

Buy Link:

Adverse Conditions: Small Town Silver Fox Gay Romance (Reclaimed Hearts Book 1)


The town is worth saving, as long as conspiracy theorists, serial killers, and Vincent Barone all stay out of Xavier’s way.

Xavier swore he’d never move back to the flyspeck of a town he’d grown up in and he kept that promise for over twenty years. Now he’s back for good.

Vincent never left. After earning his teaching certificate, he stayed in town to be close to his elderly parents. These days he’s the single dad of a fifteen-year-old daughter and working two jobs to make ends meet. He’s perfectly happy with his life.

Xavier’s mission is to save Cooper Springs. But his efforts are being hindered by his stodgy, straight-laced, rule-following neighbor, Vincent Barone. Dark-eyed, broad-shouldered, and muscly Vincent, who Xav stealthily ogles when he toils in his yard sans shirt. For a high school shop teacher, Vincent is too sexy. And he has a kid. And he infuriates Xavier. And anyway, love is for suckers.

Vincent doesn’t have time to date. And he certainly wouldn’t date his flashy, arrogant, neighbor who he absolutely did not have a crush on in high school. Who did Xavier think he was, moving back to town and throwing his weight around, causing butterflies in Vincent’s stomach, and making his stupid heart beat faster every time he saw him?

Cooper Springs has changed since they were kids, and maybe two guys can move from hate to love. But are they ready? Will Vincent bend a few of his rules? Will Xavier reign in his chaotic tendencies? Is love in the air?

Then there’s the matter of the grisly discovery in the woods, murder is bad for business.

Welcome to Cooper Springs, home to UFO chasers, Sasquatch believers, conspiracy theorists, chainsaw artists, and regular folk just trying to make a living. And, quite possibly, a killer.

Adverse Conditions is the first in the Reclaimed Hearts series, set in the wilds of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, it is an opposites-attract, older lovers, silver fox, enemies to lovers, small-town romance, with a little murder. HEA guaranteed.

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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