Title: Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, M/M, Romance, BDSM, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 374 pages/Word Count: 94,100
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher
Dare Buckley has come home—or at least, he’s come back to Palladian, the small town he left as a teenager. After a major lapse in judgment forced him to resign from the Seattle PD, Palladian is the only place that’ll hire him. There’s one benefit to hitting rock bottom, though: the chance to investigate the mystery of his father’s suicide.
Dare also gets to reacquaint himself with Finn Fowler, whose childhood hero worship ended in uncomfortable silence when Dare moved away. But Finn isn’t the same little kid Dare once protected. He’s grown into an attractive, enigmatic stranger who neither wants nor needs what Dare has to offer.
In fact, Dare soon realizes that Finn’s keeping secrets—his own and the town’s. And he doesn’t seem to care that Dare needs answers. The atmosphere in Palladian, like its namesake river, appears placid, but dark currents churn underneath. When danger closes in, Dare must pit his ingenuity against his heart, and find his way home the hard way.
Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield is an intriguing and suspense filled mystery that is full of unexpected twists and turns. After a colossal error in judgment costs him his job with the Seattle PD, Dare Buckley returns to his small hometown of Palladian. Dare’s homecoming is quickly complicated by his friendship with Finn Fowler, a suspicious death and his father’s long ago suicide.
Dare and Finn lost touch when Dare left town fifteen years earlier and a lot has changed for both of them in the intervening years. Finn’s life currently centers around taking care of his Aunt Lyddie who is dying from cancer. Between his nursing duties, two jobs and his leather making business, Finn does not have time for any type of social life but he welcomes the chance to reconnect with Dare. Dare is not happy with his disgraced return to Palladian and some of the demons that led to his downfall are still plaguing him. His transition to the local police department is anything but smooth as he is faced with resentment from his fellow officers and the animosity from an old childhood nemesis. His reunion with Finn is uneasy and shrouded with unspoken secrets from their shared past. A surprising attraction flares to life between them but a relationship seems unlikely amid all of the chaos swirling around them.
As children, Dare and Finn shared a unique but close friendship. Dare was a popular, well-liked athlete from a well-respected local family. Finn, on the other hand, was different from everyone else in just about every way. He and his mother were the target of small-town gossip and speculation and he had a difficult time living down his mother’s rather loose reputation. As the older of the two boys, Dare took on a protective role with Finn and kept him from being bullied by the other kids. Both of their childhoods were marred by the untimely deaths of Finn’s mom and Dare’s father and their friendship ended when Dare and his mother left town after his dad inexplicably committed suicide.
Now meeting on equal footing, both men have been shaped and changed by events in the intervening years. Dare is cynical, world-weary and his shining armor has definitely been tarnished by his poor decisions. Finn maintains tight control over everything around him and he keeps himself at a distance from everyone but his aunt. When Dare stumbles across Finn in a very shocking situation, the balance of their relationship is irrevocably changed. Dare is filled with numerous doubts about their future as a couple and when the case he has been working on breaks wide open, Dare realizes how little he and Finn really know one another.
Home the Hard Way is a compelling novel and Z.A. Maxfield does an excellent job keeping readers on their toes with quite a few startling plot twists. There are two separate mysteries that need unraveling and I was completely surprised by how these storylines were eventually solved. The one thing I really did not see coming is the direction that Dare and Finn’s relationship takes and while I confess to a few doubts about how they would resolve their differences, I was satisfied by how things turned out between them. All in all, it is another fabulous read by the extremely talented Z.A. Maxfield.