Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Assistant high school principal Blake Barnes has everything he wants—a chance to help troubled students and an outlet for his passion for theater. Well, almost everything—he still goes home to an empty apartment. Then his high school crush explodes back into his life, the unexpected guardian of two boys in Blake’s care.
Thane Dalton has always been a bad boy through and through. Not much has changed, including his mistrust of authority figures, and no amount of institutional bureaucracy will keep him from protecting his nephews from the bullies terrorizing them. If that means butting heads with Blake, so be it.
Blake and Thane have lessons to learn: that they both have the boys’ best interests at heart, that the tension between them isn’t just confrontational, and that sparks can fly when opposites come together.
Stage Two by Ariel Tachna was just an excellent all around story, that it happened to include a romance was a definite plus as well. It was as much about two young teenagers adjusting to the loss of their mother, making a new home with their uncle, dealing with, frankly, a very scary bullying situation in their new school as it is about Blake and Thane finding each other. That it all happens under stressful conditions realistically portrayed here by the author is one of this story’s strengths. Everyone becomes more grounded and believable when faced with the situations and relationship dynamics dealt with within this story. And it’s a guarantee for us to connect with them all. I deny anyone not to feel the pain and loss that these boys are going through. Its comes pouring out so vividly here that you want to comfort them yourselves. In tandem with those boys grief is their uncle’s confusion, bewilderment and anger. Thane too has lost his sister, he’s trying to deal with being a guardian to two boys in mourning in a new situation and unsure he can handle it all. That his go to method of dealing is anger and all too often his fists to settle situations? Well, I think we have all met people like Thane as well.
Blake is a joy of discovery, for the reader and all the main characters within the novel. I’m including the boys in with their uncle Thane since they are so much a part of this story. New facets of Blake’s personality unfold to the delight of the reader, Thane and the boys as the narrative moves forward and all the characters find themselves in different situations inside and outside of school. I found myself eager to know what new side of Blake was going to come forward and show itself. And each time it did, the author managed to make it happen in such a way that I should have seen it all along. So should have Thane.
This is a story of long ago attractions that come rushing back, but no real instant love. Everything else is handled in a way that feels adult, responsible and yet, doesn’t rule out passion and romance. And the fact that there’s two young men counting on both Blake and Thane.
As much as I adored the first two stories in the Lexington Lovers series, this is by far my favorite. I recommend the entire series but they can all be read as stand alone tales so pick this up first.
Cover Artist: Bree Archer. I really like this cover, from the background with the curtain to the model, just so well done. Warm and inviting.
ebook, Dreamspun Desires #33, 224 pages
Expected publication: May 1st 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331498 (ISBN13: 9781635331493)
Series Lexington Lovers