A Stella Review: How to Heal (Lovestrong #5) by Susan Hawke

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RATING 3 out of 5 stars

Take one former bully, unable to forgive himself for the sins of his past…
Clark Danvers is a wild twenty-one year old who’s trying to prove he’s an adult. With a two-year degree in hand, he manages the family car dealership and seemingly parties by night. Given the amount of times he’s been pulled over for speeding by Deputy Rick Matthews, public opinion seems to be right. But what people don’t see are the scars he carries both inside and out. Scars from a past he can’t run away from and will never be able to atone for, no matter how many times he beats himself over it.

Add one no-nonsense cop who longs to be a Daddy for the right boy…
Jericho “Rick” Matthews never expects the bratty kid who gets on his last nerve to pull at his heartstrings. When he finds Clark battered and fighting for his life in a motel room, Rick’s Daddy mode is instantly engaged. Before he can think of anything else, he must first comfort this hurting boy.

To equal a pair of men who might just be what the other needs.
The two men who thought they couldn’t stand each other are drawn together after a date gone wrong. While Rick tenderly cares for Clark, he decides what this brat needs is a Daddy… someone to help him break free from the past and embrace the promise of many happy tomorrows.


This is the fifth book in the LOVESTRONG series about finding love and being yourself in a small town. Intended only for 18+ readers, this is an mm romance full of all the sweet feels you’d want from an S. Hawke book.

Note: Possible trigger warning for mentions of self-harm and a scene involving a man who’s consented to having himself tied up. What he didn’t agree to was being left that way for an entire weekend. This highly emotional scene is the catalyst to evoke “Daddy’s” protective mode in a tale filled with themes of hurt and comfort and the struggle of overcoming a difficult past.

I wasn’t sure how to rate How To Heal, at the end I settled with a 3 stars. First I have to say, please read the note at the end of the blurb, that scene was so hard for me to read, it broke my heart. Be aware of the trigger too.

Although a couple of things didn’t work with me, this new installment in the Lovestrong series was very well done, I enjoyed till the last chapter. Both Rick and Clark were men with a past, Clark’s one was a little heavier to accept and the young man so far didn’t make a good job at trying to forgive himself and the mistakes he made when he was fifteen years old. If you read the series and in particular How Not To Blend, you know what I’m talking about. Rick seemed to be the right person to be able to help Clark and build a future together. They were characters well defined, loveable, good at the heart.

That said, let’s talk about what didn’t work for me. Since this is part of a series, as often happens, I already met these characters, I ached for Clark because I saw how much he was abused too. I knew there was going to be some kind of redemption for him and I was happy to see some happy times were coming. I already met Rick too and then when I found him here in this new novel, I had trouble to recognise him, I felt him so different from what I already saw of him, it was almost like reading about a stranger-to-me character. Moreover, although I can understand the dynamic the author wanted to create, I think it was too much, too forced and to me it wasn’t ok at all. Clark was too childish, Rick too overbearing.

Still, I hope there will be more coming soon from Susan Hawke.

The cover art by Ana J Phoenix is simple, I can easily see Clark in the model, I like it.

Sales Links:  Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 277 pages

Published April 14th 2019

ASIN B07QRQFHSQ

Edition Language English

Series Lovestrong #5

A Caryn YA Release Day Review: Driven by MB Mulhall

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I found this book a frustrating combination of a nice spin on the hurt/comfort trope, but with frequent sections that bothered me: long boring inner monologues by the main character, Oliver, and moments of incredible stupidity that literally made me want to DNF the book several times. I persevered because I was reading it for this review, and in the end I was glad I did, but it was close! Oliver is a homeless young man who is brought out of the vicious cycle of his self-recrimination and loathing by the kindness of several people in the community. His love interest, Simon, is actually a rather small part of the group that ultimately makes Oliver believe that he can be loveable, and I thought that was pretty refreshing.

The book starts with a flash forward to a moment when it seems that Oliver is dying. He is thinking of all the people he will miss, and the story truly commences at the time when he first meets the main secondary characters in the book. Two kind old ladies offer him a place in their home on a provisional basis, with the expectation that he help them out around the house. In addition to food and shelter, they offer him respect and kindness, which he has a hard time accepting as he has come to think of himself as the worst kind of criminal. There are hints about an accident, and incarceration, though the details are not revealed (and then only sketchily so) until later in the book. Simon is the boy next door who also befriends the skittish Oliver and encourages him to stay and give the old ladies, and himself, a chance. In the end, of course, Oliver learns to believe in himself and have faith in others, and has a promising future – and that’s not really a spoiler, just the expected resolution of a hurt/comfort romance.

The tragic events in Oliver’s past life were only somewhat vaguely explained, and I didn’t truly follow the path from accident to jail to homelessness. It was all fueled by Oliver’s self-hate, but those endless monologues just made me think he was whiny rather than feeling compassionate for his suffering. He also several times got into situations that he responded to with “too stupid to live” actions that just made no sense, when he was otherwise supposed to be a pretty smart guy. Those seemed like gratuitous drama and angst to me, and completely turned me off. I think different writing could have made me believe that Oliver’s self-hate was justified, but I just didn’t feel it. I didn’t get what his art had to do with anything, it really felt superfluous to his personality and to the story. I never understood what kind of hold Marcus had (the bad guy) had over him. The book was also fairly long for the plot and action that occurred, which I blame on those long monologues, and that made the pace of the book slow, and I found myself putting it down frequently to pursue something more exciting – like doing laundry.

I guess, in the end, the blurb was everything I wanted the story to be, but the execution was kind of a swing and a miss for me.

Cover art by Anna Sikorska was very appropriate for the story, and the empty section of highway was good for the initial somber tone of the story.

Sales Links

Harmony Ink Press

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published March 7th 2017 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1635332796 (ISBN13: 9781635332797)
Edition LanguageEnglish