I liked this book. It was my first read of Willow Dixon’s work and there were several things that were a bit challenging about this book but it was an overall positive read for me.
1. They were stepbrothers in name only, but would randomly think things like “Omg I’m kissing my stepbrother” that would otherwise make lovers of the trope otherwise giddy. But those moments didn’t really hit because they were only stepbrothers by name, in that they didn’t spend time together growing up or have any sort of relationship, beyond misunderstandings and awkward dinners. Had they had a relationship as youth it would be different. But it felt like the MCs were just conveniently stepbrothers to hit that trope checklist. I didn’t find it added to the story very much at all.
2. The backstory of Gray is very over the top, including the evil that is his father. I understand some people have lives that traumatic, and dads who really are that abusive and horrible, but it seems that authors sometimes write an overly dark backstory to add to a character’s mystique without having to do an appropriate amount of character development. Gray’s emotional baggage is evident from his traumatic upbringing but everything about it seems too unbelievable, the characters surrounding the evil abusive father aren’t realistic or well explained and the whole thing lacked development into a fully fleshed out backstory that made sense. The father character is just too black and white villainous to be a believable character.
Also how does Gray’s mother not even know who Caleb is like she meets him for the first time and there’s not any flicker of recognition or anything. Gray knew Caleb was his stepbrother somehow, Eli knew about him, and there was mention of them having awkward dinners together in their youth, so SURELY Gray’s mother would know of Caleb’s existence. Just… maybe I’m nitpicky but that doesn’t seem logical.
3. And now of course we get to the events surrounding his arrest. It was in no way realistic that such a thing could happen and everything in his life would be ruined and he would be able to forgive the other guy after a brief conversation, especially after it’s clear there was a whole other book with that character in it and him getting with Gray’s brother. Just.. people don’t act like that in real life and I had a very hard time suspending my disbelief around that whole set up. Again, it seemed like it was written to be as dramatic as possible to show how unfair life had treated Gray but it was not realistic or fully developed. It just seemed soap opera-y.
4. SO MANY CHARACTER INTERACTIONS. Who are all these people and why do I need to read about them? I generally like when authors have whole series and have books for different characters in a shared universe but it was character overload and I never got a full idea WHY the author was devoting paragraphs to interactions with people who I hadn’t been introduced to properly and how they all intermingle was confusing.
ALL that being said, the sex was HOT and I liked the development of the MCs from reluctantly interacting to fucking to catching feelings. Those parts of the book were great and I wish the author had spent more time developing the events around the smut to make it all fall into place more logically.
3/5 I will read more of the author’s work because sometimes my first foray into an author’s work isn’t easy for me and once I get used to the style and way the author develops a story I can go with the flow and enjoy things that I might otherwise have stopped and asked questions about.