Four Bears Construction: Hardwood – K.M. Neuhold
I’ve spent forty-four years of my life telling the world I’m a carpet man. Is it too late to admit to myself and everyone else that deep down I’m really all about the Hardwood?
It took me over thirty-five years to admit to myself that I’m gay, another seven to find the courage to say it out loud to anyone else, and exactly thirty seconds to develop a massive crush on my daughter’s music teacher. It’s really not my fault, have you even seen those cute bowties he wears?
After everything it’s taken to get here, am I going to work up the nerve to come out to my ex-wife and my best friends? Am I ready to shake up my comfortable, simple life and take a chance on Watson? Or am I going to throw a wrench in my own chance for happily ever after?
***Hardwood is a steamy, seriously so much delicious tension, single-dad, gay awakening, low angst story, which happens to be the third in the Four Bears Construction Series. It CAN be read as a stand alone. There are NO shifters in this series, only the OTHER kind of bears.***
I’m super eager to get to poor Ollie’s story but first, Ev gets his happily ever after.
Everett is known as the only straight guy among the Four Bears. He’s a divorced single dad who adores his daughter, Livi. Unknown to all his friends and family, Everett has been struggling to come out for years but couldn’t find the courage to do so. He has long resigned himself to a life of solo Thanksgiving dinners. It took one fabulous and cuddly music teacher with a penchant for cute bow ties to make him realize, he could have so much more. If only he could embrace his true self.
I’m not particularly fond of in-the-closet stories because they usually involved a lot of lies and cover ups. Everett had to constantly do it to his friends and ex-wife, Val. As a result, it felt a lot like he was cheating. And him dragging his ass dragged the story down too, especially at the middle part.
The group banter was missing for most of the story, which I think was another reason why it felt kind of meh. Also, I know they were meant to be funny but the awkward situations Ev got himself into in his alone time were more cringey than amusing.
These sad vibes aside, I think the coming out part was handled pretty well. I keep expecting the caught-in the act plot twist but yay! we were spared such cliches. And sure, it took a looong time for Everett to do it and it hurt his boyfriend to be treated like a dirty secret but I appreciated how the story emphasized that coming out should be on one’s own time. It was also important that Ev and Wats were honest with each other from the start.
I expected the Bears’s and Val’s reactions to be anti-climactic, like they would say, they already know. I enjoyed how the plot surprised me on this point too. Most especially, I loved how supportive and understanding Watson was, hurts and all. He was the best character here!
Four Bears Construction is notable for featuring mature MCs. Ev is 44. He could have easily become a Daddy for a much younger love interest so I’m happy that Wats is 40. All too often, characters above 40 end up in age-gap romance. Good job to the author for taking a different route.
The story picked up after there were more interactions with the other Bears. Ev was spurred into action and roped the guys in to help him bust a move. Damn right, because after what he had been through, Wats deserved some major wooing.
Hardwood was mix of highs and lows but ended on a strong note. The book certainly held true to its promise of delicious tension. The chemistry between Everett and Watson was fantastic from the get go! Their journey together was not easy but it was worth the fight. Wats went from flirty friend to first boyfriend, all the while holding Ev’s hand as he went through his awakening. Ev gifted him with his many firsts, something Wats will always treasure. He gets the forevers too.
Four Bears Constructions is a series full of winning characters you couldn’t help but root for. While the books can be read as standalones, I recommend meeting all the Bears properly by reading the books in order. Read reviews of the other books here.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
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Single Dads: Promise – R.J. Scott
Leo Byrne is a cop, Jason Banks is an ex-con. Even after one stolen kiss, something has to give before Leo can convince Jason that falling in love is even an option.
Adopted at a young age, Leo is part of the sprawling Byrnes family. With his dog Cap, three siblings and a whole mess of nieces and nephews, he is never lonely, and his life is full. Love is the last item on his to-do list, but seeing his best friends Sean and Eric happy and making new families makes him want things he doesn’t think is possible. Kissing Jason at an event to honor his bravery was one thing, but anything other than that is off limits. Until Jason has no one left to turn to, and it’s Leo who helps him at his lowest. Taking Jason and his daughter into his home is one thing, but falling for the ex-con is something else altogether.
Jason made a deal to keep his daughter safe and spent years behind bars as a result. Volunteering as a convict firefighter was as much about helping the community as saving his sanity, but now that he’s out, he doesn’t even have that. He’s lost his future, his self-respect, and has no friends or a place to call home. Worst of all, even after rescuing his daughter he still can’t keep her safe from the man who wants to use her as a bargaining chip for money. Meeting Leo might give Jason a way to keep Daisy safe, but falling for the stubborn cop means the truth has to be revealed, and he could lose everything all over again.
Prepare for a chockful of ex-con+cop tension and sweet father-daughter moments in this moving contemporary romance by R.J. Scott.
Promise is the third book of Single Dads, a series featuring three best friends who work as emergency responders and the men who came into their lives. I started this series with Today, the second book about Brady and Eric, the firefighter and one of Leo’s bestfriends.
Jason was introduced as the convict working alongside the firefighters in a big forest fire incident where he saved Eric’s life. Eric and his friends promised they would do everything to help shorten his sentence.
Jason immediately piqued my interest. My gut told me he was a good guy who was dealt a bad hand. I knew there’s some big story behind his imprisonment that’s worth checking out.
Fast forward to the present time, Jason is out of prison and on the run with his 3 year old daughter, Daisy, in tow. Daisy’s mother, who came from a rich but shady family, was involved with an abusive boyfriend who was demanding money and threatening their lives. The man is wanted by the FBI. Jason and Daisy aren’t safe until he was caught.
Leo found Jason and Daisy outside his doorstep. His protective cop mode immediately kicked into high gear. He didn’t hesitate to take them in.
Jason’s backstory was indeed interesting. There were mob connections, drug overdoses, stint in bands, hacking and so on. However, most of these were told rather than shown. I wanted to see more of Jason’s life before he showed up at Leo’s house.
Leo and Jason had a history of sharing a kiss neither of them forgot. When they saw each other again, the attraction was still there. I liked that the story took time to build the trust and connection between the characters before things got physical. For sure, there were a lot of internal angstyings and things left unsaid. It would have saved them the agony if only they talked. But it took a while to gain Jason’s trust.
The book focused primarily in developing the romance, establishing the bonds between Jason, Leo and Daisy, and helping Jason and Daisy heal from their ordeal. There were plenty hurt/comfort to warm the heart.
And we also have Daisy lighting up the story by being her adorable self. Also lovable doggie antics courtesy of Cap, Leo’s black Labrador.
Narrator Sean Crisden hit the right emotional notes and I generally enjoyed his narrations. My only niggle with his speaking style is that when he reads, the words kind of run together, like he’s reading them a notch too fast. They’re not as enunciated as other narrators. I mentioned this too in my review of his other audiobooks. This could be a me problem since I’m not a native English speaker.
IMHO, pure contemporary romance of the heartwarming variety could get pretty sappy sometimes. Promise has a good balance between the emotional elements of the story. It’s the book to read for tales of angsty men with trouble on their heels, conflicted cops falling for ex-cons and precocious toddlers ready to save their dads.
Thank You to Signal Boost Promotions and Audible UK for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love