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REVIEW: Real Risk by Elle Keaton

West Coast Forensics: Real Risk – Elle Keaton

It’s possible they’re a match but first the two men will have to survive trial by fire.

Chief Flynn is fighting smoke and flames, tirelessly protecting the lives and property of his fellow islanders from yet another spate of fires.

Arson or accident?

When injury puts him on the sidelines, West Coast Forensics Arson Investigator Kimball Frye offers his assistance. Frye is The Most Irritating Man in the World, a condescending know-it-all who rubs Devon the wrong way.

Or does he?

Decades ago an arsonist stole his family from him since then Frye has devoted his life to putting them behind bars. At forty-nine, he doesn’t believe in permanent relationships, instead preferring the company of interchangeable younger men.

Is the arsonist trying to shift the blame onto Devon, or trying to kill him? If it’s the latter it just might work.

Feeling the pull of attraction to Devon as the firebug grows bolder is inconvenient. Will Kimball listen to his heart or his head? The younger men he’s always preferred are nothing like the solid, stalwart Fire Chief.

Real Risk is the third in the West Coast Forensics series and can be read as a standalone but may be enjoyed more if you read the Real Trouble and Real Danger first. It is dual POV following Devon Flynn and Kimball Frye as they bicker and fumble their way to their happily ever after.

After a rather disappointing visit in Book 2, I’ve yet to give up on Piedras Island. We’re back for another stay with Real Risk, the 3rd installment of West Coast Forensics, a series following the private detectives of the firm as they solve crime and find their persons in the little island town.

My interest was greatly piqued by the case because most mystery novels are about murders, and this one’s about arson. It stars overworked fire chief Devon Flynn and Kimball Frye, the co-owner of WCF. I’ve met these two characters in several of the author’s works, and I’m pleasantly surprise, she paired them.

Devon is an island native who practically raised his younger sister, Birdy, now the sheriff’s deputy. The siblings are half Lummi. Kimball is a former ATF agent who established WCF with his friend, Leo. His specialty is arson investigations. He tends to date men half his age, something his friends and Devon loves to point out. The two sorta frenemies were forced to work together to solve a series of fires popping all over Piedras.

There is an enemies-to-lovers, sunshine/grumpy dynamics here. One nice little twist is that the younger man, 40-year-old Devon, is the grumpy one, while 49-year-old Kimball is the sunshiny high-handed one. I wasn’t too keen on how Devon seems to go out of his way to point out Kimball likes to date twinks. I felt he sounded too bitter, sour grape-y, and nosy. Who Kimball dates is none of his business.

That aside, the romance was wonderfully slow-burn. Devon and Kimball’s chemistry worked fabulously! I loved that they are two mature men set in ways who found their equal. Two guys declaring they’re not into relationships finding the other worthy enough to try. I want to see more of them in future books. And more mature couples, please. I’m tired of men over 40 always pigeon-holed in age-gap romances.

But I was really more interested in the case. I always found the WCF investigations fun because they take us around Piedras Island. The island is part of the real-life San Juan archipelago in the Pacific Northwest.

The mystery itself had no big surprises because the bad guys are a given. I would have also preferred a more nitty gritty approach to the investigation. The case was suddenly solved just like that. Also, Devon’s plan was too hare brain a scheme to actually work.

Although, I liked how this case connects to the events in the previous books. They even go way back to those in the Veiled Intentions series and Elle Keaton‘s other books. So it’s best to read WCF books in order for maximum enjoyment.

Even with the less than solid mystery, Real Risk is an enjoyable addition to WCF. I love tagging along with the detectives, feeling the pulse of small-town life that’s so different yet similar to my small town, catching up with old characters, and meeting new ones. Characters who feel like old friends you always want to stay in touch with. These are why I always go back to Piedras Island.

3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

Soundtrack: Fire In The Horizon
Artist: Stick Figure
Album: Set In Stone

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