My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Okay maybe a couple of days later and I’m ready to review this stunning entry in Jay’s Painted Bay series.
It takes a rare skill to turn an antagonist into a hero but that’s what happens with Leroy, Judah’s brother from book one and someone who is about as true to the grumpy loner archetype as you can find.
However, as this book unfolds, it becomes very clear that Leroy has so much more depth to him, that the Leroy of Off Balance isn’t really his true self and that he’s repressed so much over the years.
When the book starts, he’s still not dealing with the way the mussel farm is struggling, he’s still coming to terms with his mother’s relationship with Martha, his own relationship with his brother Judah is still on shaky ground and – most importantly – he’s buried his attraction to Martha’s son Fox so deep down he’s convinced he hates him.
So finding Fox in his kitchen making a sandwich sparks a whole load of self-protection hyper masculine and quite possibly masochistic deflections that set the tone for a lot of the book.
Fox is hurting from his marriage breaking down after his husband cheated on him. He’s missing his home in the south, his fishing boat, his community. His attraction to Leroy is inconvenient and potentially even more capable of causing him devastating loss than his impending divorce.
There is perhaps a bit too much of the self-introspection from Leroy, although there’s not much, thankfully, of the will they, won’t they back and forth.
Once Leroy admits he’s bisexual and always has been, though he’s buried it down for years after seeing how Judah was treated, he sets his determined head on and is willing to go all in and there’s some gorgeous moments between the two men.
The sexual exploration is some of the best I’ve read, as Leroy determines to embrace everything he feels about Fox and everything he wants to know about being with a man. It’s emotionally charged, vulnerable and smoking hot all at the same time.
Intelligent dialogue as ever, the incredible sense of place that every Jay Hogan book embodies, a superb cast of secondary characters and a sub-plot which keeps the narrative moving outside of the relationship development, make this book an utter triumph.
Now, book three can’t come soon enough because I can’t actually work out who it’s going to be starring other than one of the MCs is likely to be Judah’s choreographer friend he’s inviting along to help with the studio!
But there’s still Kane’s secret to be discovered, and what’s going to happen with Teddy and Hannah, they need someone to love them too!
#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review