They never give up…
Author: John Wiltshire
Publisher: MLR Press
Cover Artist: Deana C. Jamroz
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Ben Rider and Nikolas Mikkelsen learn that danger comes in all shapes and sizes and often in places you least expect it.
Nikolas’s dark past calls to him, inexorably dragging him back into its seductive embrace. While he goes on an errand of mercy to Russia, Ben travels to Denmark to learn Nikolas’s language. Convinced Russia’s vastness will swallow Nikolas, Ben doesn’t see the enemy much closer to home. Thinking he has lost Nikolas, Ben then makes a terrible decision that threatens to destroy everything they have together. Focused on this very personal horror, bound by a new level of commitment, they have no idea that a greater threat is coming. And when it arrives, it changes everything—even the definition of commitment.
This story pretty much picks up right there Love is a Stranger left things off. Nik is feeling vulnerable (ha, that’s an understatement) and determined, and Ben is sarcastic, dramatic and also determined – to keep Nik alive and with him, which is exactly where Nik wants to be. Now, to figure out how to get there… together.
So, I’m in chapter two and my connection to Ben and Nik, the connection twixt them to which I’d been attempting to make in Love is a Stranger, came piercing through my heart like a harpoon. In a story like this, with stakes like this, it would have been so easy to have fallen into the trap of Nik and Ben entering into a pattern of pulling away from each other, suffering miscommunication, getting back together, rinse and repeat. Not here. Despite their life histories up to this point, they’re compelled to reach for each other, to continue strengthening that connection, building their belief in it. What did that mean for me? My stakes were now reaching levels worthy of the fluffy cloud-filled sky. I can’t ask for more than that.
Actually, what it meant for me was that I had to admit that these two endeared themselves to me. Yes. Endeared. You read that right. Amidst the horribly serious circumstances, their pain-filled pasts and questionable future (is it, though?), these two wormed their not so little wriggly selves right into my heart and set up shop. Done and done.
”You need a heart to want someone, and I gave mine to you, Benjamin. Or did you forget?”
That’s Nik, to Ben (obvs), and in that single sentiment we know that Nik loves him, Ben loves Nik, they are incredibly serious about that love (even if they haven’t articulated it in words yet) and also have a mighty healthy sense of humor about themselves and each other. What a giddy mix of characteristics to foist upon these two for my enjoyment, for our enjoyment. Oh, how I enjoyed. That’s a pretty clever trick, getting me to care so much about these two decidedly not at all angelic characters.
Ben continues to demonstrate his unwavering faith in Nik. It’s a conduit through which Ben has shown that they can and do deserve each other, their life together, this love. Nik is still struggling to reciprocate but he keeps trying. Never give up, even in the moments where it appears one of them just might do that, they don’t.
The more Ben and Nik share with each other, with us, the more their humor reveals itself. They each definitely know the ways to disarm each other, teasing and poking, smirking and cajoling. It allows Nik’s insecurity to shine through at the same time he is winding Ben up, feigning exasperation. And around and around they go.
This is a romance. No matter which way you slice and dice, no matter the setting, no matter the cover of crime and adventure under which it’s found, this is a romance. Nik and Ben struggle and then succeed, doubt and then overcome. Nik has it right when he tells Ben he’s done wrong in trying to protect him from Nik’s past, all of the bad, horrible things recorded in it. He’s right. As strong and inclination many of us have to “protect” people we love from the parts of our past we wish to hide, the real power is in sharing, in reminding and rewarding trust with naked truth and vulnerability. Incredibly difficult to achieve but so true.
Here’s the bottom line – one of several, probably, but true nonetheless – which I knew before I even finished reading this book: Wiltshire, with these particular words and these two characters, found the shortest, most direct route to the swoon-loving part of my heart. Do not pass go, do not collect that measly two hundred bucks, I went right to the Swoony Pokey, where I remained, swooned for all eternity when it comes to Nik and Ben.
As I said, neither of these guys are angels. They never really had a chance given their starts in life. There are dark times in this story. I don’t mean violence, though it’s definitely here, but old and new demons doing their best to take hold. It’s all immediate and real, it left me breathless more than once. By the same token, that intimacy is evident in every tender, pointed gesture, in every kiss, in every sizzling moment between these two. They both carry old, deep scars, and they show up, desirous for the wreaking of havoc.
Also? They make me smile. They make me cringe, and stop and think. They make me hot. They make me hopeful. They make me sigh in contentment.
For all of the sex, flirting and very personal moments, none of it feels gratuitous. Every scene is relevant to the story and, more importantly, very relevant to the progress of these two characters. Delicious and meaningful.
I’ll end with this: have book three, The Bridge of Silver Wings, ready to read when you’re done with this book. Not because there’s a specific cliffhanger but because you’ll feel a great need to find out what comes next for Nik and Ben. Enthralling. A thrilling ending written so very well. It had my heart pounding.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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