Title: Home the Hard Way
Author: Z.A. Maxfield
Genre: Mystery/Thriller, MM Romance
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Publication Date: July 28th 2014
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.
When Dare and Finn were kids, Finn used to follow Dare around with hero worship in his eyes. Finn was an outcast even as a child, as the newcomer to a small close knit town, and also as the son of the town prostitute. One day on the playground, Dare defends Finn from a bully and they were inseparable from that moment on. When Dare's father shocks the town and commits suicide, his mother moves them away and he cuts all ties with Finn and doesn't respond to any of his letters or phone calls. Years later Dare comes back into town with his tail between his legs because he messed up at his job in the city and now his old home town is the only place he can find work. He faces a lot of animosity inside the department because he didn't move up the ranks like the other officers. He avoids Finn in town but ends up finally seeing him at a crime scene in Finn's aunt's salon. He tries to reconnect with him and pick up their friendship where it left off but Finn is a different person than the boy he left all those years ago. He has secrets and he's much more closed off.
I really expected to love this one way more than I did. It started off great and I was really enjoying it then all of a sudden there was a BIG change in one of the characters and I felt blindsided. It was really hard for me to get back into the story after that. I thought I was really going to love Finn because I love rooting for the character that always had feelings, but Finn was so "blah". He had little to no emotion in the entire book. I feel like some of it was a defense mechanism but I wanted more out of him, and we never really got it.
Dare is the typical fallen hero type. He left his last job in disgrace, and I wanted him to find redemption in his home town. What we end up seeing from him is him repeatedly drinking himself into a stupor and ignoring everyone's pleas for him to get help, which he never does by the way! I really wanted to see him grovel a bit to Finn. The guy was Finn's hero when they were kids and he cut him off without ever answering his letters/calls, even when he knows how Finn is going to be isolated and bullied when he goes?? Not cool. And Finn doesn't even really hold it against him!
While I didn't "get" the romance between the two of them, I was actually surprised when we find out what was going on with all the secrets and when we find out who "the bad guy" is. I definitely didn't see any of that coming.
I was left wanting a bit more out of the ending. The mystery was wrapped up tight but I thought there was more that need to be said/done in Finn and Dare's relationship. I think it would have been more satisfying if there was an epilogue included that showed them working thru some of their issues for a more HEA ending. I would call this one HFN at best.
* I received a copy of this title via Riptide Publishing in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. *
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