After the ending of the final Cut & Run series story that falls chronologically right before this one, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about another segment of the Sidewinder story. They burned up the world and survived devastating secrets revealed so how can that be followed up on. I was concerned that the author would try to top that story with more of the same or produce a mild toss away story that would have demeaned it, but thankfully, this one did neither. It went a very different direction. On the surface, it seems an odd choice, but once I started reading, I realized that this was exactly what was needed. This wasn’t a story; it was a journey- and a palpable, gut-wrenching healing one at that. If I hadn’t worked it out before, this is the one that showed just how very much the author knows her characters inside and out.
I mentioned this one chronologically follows the final Cut & Run series’ book, Crash & Burn. This is true. The Sidewinder series is a spin-off of sorts. It’s not a true spin-off in that it breaks away to go a new direction. It really is a series that weaves in between and around the older series both because of the shared characters, the time line, and- well, everything. So that being said, this one is directly connected to Crash & Burn and really can’t be read out of order or as a standalone.
The story opens with Nick still recovering from his near fatal injuries incurred from Sidewinder’s part in Miami. The dust has settled from all that and everyone on the team are trying to get on with their lives. Nick is frustrated with the slowness of his recovery and the tentative nature of the relationship he shares with Kelly. He knows Kelly has a right to feel betrayed and angry over Nick’s secrets and what went down and then there is the fact that Kelly seems to only see him as his patient and not his boyfriend. Into this situation, Nick has to deal with his dad’s death and how he hated the man and for the first time in years, he pulls out the box of things that his friend and fellow Sidewinder, Elias Sanchez, left him on his death.
Kelly observes with growing concern as Nick struggles to recover his health, but is changed after all he has been through of late. There is a gulf growing between them. Partly, he realizes it is because he has been treating Nick only like his patient and partly it is because he is very angry with Nick for all he hid from Kelly knowing that Kelly trusted him. Nick almost died and Kelly is still recovering from that scare, but it is the fear that what they had between them has died that is worse. Nick is determined to bring together Sidewinder to fulfill the final mission that their old buddy, Sanchez, left them through a series of letters.
So, Sidewinder is brought together to follow the directions of a ghost that has been haunting them all and somewhere along the way, the last of the secrets and a whole lot of healing, restoration, and forgiveness needs to take place.
Alright, as I noted earlier, the author didn’t try to ‘top that’ with thrills and action and she didn’t go for a simple and mellow follow up story. No, this was something more. This one wasn’t full of intrigue and danger of the active and physical sort; it chose to head down the path of danger within their hearts and minds. These guys have been through so much and yet, there is more to come before they can fulfill Elias Sanchez’s last wish of healing the Sidewinder brotherhood. Along the way, Nick and Kelly’s relationship will either break or finally become something deeper and meaningful.
I loved this ‘last ride’ of Sidewinder scenario. All the guys are brought together and must follow the actions set out before them. But being the guys, there are incidents, new memories, laughter, old memories, snarling, and yes, they get the job done. Some of the final secrets are some real lulus.
While this was a group gathering including Ty and Zane and there were shared narrators, this does have Nick and Kelly at the center. I love that the author isn’t afraid to take her characters into raw and darker, grittier places and nothing is easy or simple. I didn’t realize this was needed until I was reading and realized that, yes, there was actually a lot of unresolved stuff that needed dealing with.
Amidst all the great camaraderie, there are the steamy moments. I loved how all their lives including Owen and Digger were brought into the spotlight. And of course, more Ty and Zane was like a delicious dessert. But to see Nick and Kelly come into their own was definitely the piece de resistance.
And, woohoo, there was an additional short story after the acknowledgements to follow up on Brick & Mortar with Ty and Zane. Too fun to be missed.
So, this was a bit of something different and felt like one big epilogue. I can hope there might be more peek-ins and particularly a couple of little dangling threads left there like the commission Owen takes on or a bit more about Nick and his revealed connections. But if not, this was vastly satisfying. This is a ‘can’t miss’ for fans and let me put the plug in here that for folks who haven’t read the books from the Sidewinder world that this is a fantastic M/M Romantic Suspense series.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.