Review: Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield

Posted July 31, 2014 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 9 Comments

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I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield
Home the Hard Way

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Genres: M/M Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Riptide
Released on July 28, 2014
Pages: 374
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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So many elements in a story I love- hero comes home, small town setting, childhood friend turned love interest, a mystery.  I was prepared to get cozy and enjoy, but I wasn’t prepared for just how visceral this book would feel from the moment I started reading.  This book was so atmospheric and tangible.  It just reached out and grabbed me taking me on a ride along beneath the surface of this small town and its characters.  Those who grab up thrillers and horrors would be right at home though in this case its a milder taste of all that I’m sure, but for me the experience was unsettling.  Not because it was bad, but more because I wasn’t expecting it.  Though man, after seeing that cover I should have because that cover definitely captures the tone of this story.

So yes, the story… a disgraced former Seattle Police detective accepts the only job out there for him that just happens to be back in his home town.  Dare Buckley and his mom left town after his dad’s suicide while he was still a teen and he never expected to come back.  He definitely never expected to come back as a screw up that has to start over.  His life is going to pieces and for once he’s not the hero like he wants to be.

Finn Fowler learns of Dare’s return through the town grape vine and it dredges up all sorts of buried things.  Dare had been his best friend and his world until he left and never returned Finn’s calls or letters.  It hurt, but it wasn’t the first or the last pain that Finn suffered by a long shot.  Finn grew up the son of the town whore who died one night and her body was found in the river that runs past his home.  He was physically different so was bullied.  His beloved Aunt Lyddie, the only one left who loved him unconditionally, is dying of cancer.  He quit school to come back and care for her, keep her salon going and work part time at the Costco.  He doesn’t know when he’ll encounter Dare or how it will go until a woman dies at the salon and Dare is the detective on the scene.

The death, or maybe it’s Dare’s return, sparks a series of events that will bring long buried truths into the light.  Finn has no intention of Dare discovering the truths from him and Dare knows that Finn is hiding something.  When things get deadly and Finn is connected each time, Dare has to wonder if he is being played by his old childhood friend.  Finn struggles to hold onto his secrets and his hard-earned control as Dare pushes through for answers.

I kept the summary relatively vague because it is a book full of twists and secrets that each reader should experience on their own.  The plot has multiple threads going on that do eventually tie together.  There are the separate character development pieces involving Dare and Finn who also share alternating narrations, there is the past suicide of Dare’s dad, the present mystery of incidents going on around town and the relationship between Dare and Finn.  The pacing was good and not once did this story drag.

The characters were well drawn even the side characters.  As the book progressed just more and more kept coming out to shine new light into these people.  They were real everyday people who now have me looking around at the everyday people around my small town wondering what goes on beneath the surface.

Dare was this knight in shining armor boyscout type through his growing up years.  He always did the right thing and he was well respected.  He had a friendship with a younger boy who needed a friend and protector badly.  The grown-up Dare is a very tarnished knight who has lost his way.  He is hollow inside and can no longer hold up the facade that kept others from suspecting.  He made a mistake in judgment while drunk and it has left him with no confidence in his skills or his ability to read people.  He still drinks heavily.  Seeing Finn, leaves him confused.  First he struggles to adjust to the grown-up version, then he feels guilt as he discovers the many ways his leaving and cutting the connection with Finn hurt the boy and then he is confused about wanting his friend as a lover.  But through this, he also sees Finn more clearly than Finn sees himself.  Dare knows exactly what they need to be together even if Finn does not.

Finn is nothing like Dare.  His past has made him into a twisted messed up version of himself.  First there was his mother whose wild ways left him ungrounded and needing absolute control.  Then all the bullying he took when Dare wasn’t there to protect him that made him determined never to be afraid or a victim again.  Then the one constant in his life will soon leave him as a result of her sickness.  Finn has rebuilt himself in the years that Dare has been gone.  He hides behind a veneer of disturbing calm that won’t let people in or allow himself to feel.  He gets up to some kink where he holds the Master role, but he will never do relationships or have a boyfriend.  He wants Dare, but he wants him on these terms.  Finn can read what other people need and is a good Master in his care of them physically and emotionally.  He wants others to open up and trust him to give them what they need.  This is safe to him, but he doesn’t want it to be reciprocal.  Dare jars him because Dare will let Finn dominate him and get up to his kinks with Dare, but Dare pushes him to feel, to connect and to take Dare’s caregiving too.  Dare may not stick around if Finn cannot open up and let him in.

The suspense aspect is nicely done.  I had no clue who was behind it all or even how all the incidents were connected beyond some obvious stuff.  I enjoyed not knowing some things until the end.

There was only one thing about this story that left me wanting and that was the ending.  It left a lot unsaid as far as I was concerned.  The story ended leaning in a certain direction, but it didn’t specifically go there.  The mystery was completely solved.  I’m referring to Dare and Finn’s relationship.  I felt that there was still some ground to cover.

Now that being said, I’m still going to put it out there that I thought this was a fab read regardless of my need for more at the end.  This isn’t an easy or light read, but those who enjoy thrillers or atmospheric m/m romantic suspense should pick this one up.

My thanks to Riptide for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for my honest review.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.