Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
This is an expanded edition of a short story being turned into a series. The relationship dynamic between the three lead characters is clear from the first scene, which is a phone call about a fatal car crash. The alternating of all three points of view throughout the story is vital to help piece together the different personalities, as well as softening the reader’s perception of what are three strong masculine characters. There are moments of insecurity and jealousy on Scott’s end, but it was Scott who decided they needed a third–someone nearby for Casey while he was on the road during hockey season, to be there for him with the horrors of his job as Sheriff. After adding Will, they have all been together three years. The author does a great job of capturing the tensions of the triad needing each other, but not being out–of not being able to touch each other in public, of everything happening behind locked doors, of living in fear of discovery. This relationship works really well because Scott is the glue that holds it all together–I knew it, but it was good to hear the guys say it too, that they know. These characters feel real. There is intimacy in everything they do, so while the sex is satisfying, it’s not the reason for the book; it’s well integrated into their relationship and the plot.
Due to them being closeted, there is a bubble they live in. Other characters are mentioned, but they don’t let anyone else into their lives. Casey’s family is cringeworthy. People can disagree on the politics of war, but they are very disrespectful towards Casey’s military service and job as a sherrif. Past hurts and pride are too much for Casey to overcome at one point, but that is as much a part of his character as anything else. Casey’s job takes center stage when it looks like the Slaters’ death wasn’t an accident. The Slaters were really Will’s only friends/family so with them dead, the ranch becomes the character that shows the most about who Will is as he struggles with his self worth, grief, and his place in the world. Even though he’s the oldest and in charge of the ranch, he rarely takes the lead in his personal life. Scott’s family is highlighted, but not focused on in this book. I like that the reader gets to see Scott’s POV when he is out of town in Canada, so that his profession isn’t given less weight as this plot mostly revolves around the ranch and Casey trying to solve the crime right before the election.
Even though I knew it was coming, parts of this are sad and disheartening. Kudos to the author for getting me so invested in these characters and their happiness, in what they wanted for themselves, that I forgot that sometimes when things don’t work out the way you want them to, things are actually better in the end. I liked all three characters enough to root for them as they make difficult choices. Life changes for each of them and they choose to grow together, using their relationship as a touchstone when all their careers are in transition. I would have rated this higher, but I wanted all the characters to feel as real as the triad. I wanted the epilogue to have been more nuanced rather than such a big slash. Still, those are small things since this is a book I can read enjoyably over and over.
The cover art is by Karrie Jax Cover Design (karriejax.com). I have to admit I didn’t love it at first as it’s a bit jarring, but that works well with the title and plot. The pictures show a lot about the book. Even the color choices are appropriate. It’s growing on me the more I look at it because the words also match each picture.
Sales Links: Amazon