REVIEW: Home the hard way by ZA Maxfield
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.
Dear ZA Maxfield,
The reviews for this book intrigued me. Several reviewers complained about a surprising BDSM theme in the relationship, which is a theme I often enjoy, but equally often I am unhappy with the execution of this theme in m/m romances. However the presence of BDSM is not in itself grounds for me to stay away from the book.
Some reviewers also complained about inconsistent characterization of the main character and that more than anything else caused me to not purchase the book, but when I found it on Scribd recently I decided that I would give it a try.
If I were to grade only the first third of the book, I would have given it a B or even a B+. The guy returning to the small town and reconnecting with somebody he left behind is not a new premise, but I thought it was executed really well in this story. Dare and Finn had been childhood friends, Dare was several years older and he appointed himself Finn’s protector – Finn worshipped him and Dare loved him as little brother. Dare and his mother left town when his dad committed suicide, which was soon after Finn’s mother drowned.
Years later Dare returns after making a huge mistake at his job as a policeman in Seattle, but the Palladian police department gives him another chance for the sake of old times. Dare meets Finn again and all the old feelings and a lot of new ones come back, but everything is just so very complicated. There is also the matter of a client dying while waiting in Finn’s aunt’s hair salon, as well as Dare wanting to know the reasons behind his father’s suicide. And of course there are so many secrets and some of them are not what I would have expected to find out at all.
Finn changed and if Dare expected to find that Finn still hero worships him, he is in for a rude awakening. Finn has built huge walls around himself and he is determined to never be a victim again (he was horribly bullied in high school and there was no Dare to protect him).
I thought that the bleak atmosphere of the small town was extremely well done in the beginning of the book. I was not sure how the mystery would play out and I can honestly say that I was surprised – not so much by the resolution of the reasons behind Dare’s father’s suicide, but the way it all connected with the deaths of several other people. Basically the main villain was an unexpected reveal to me, and I thought it was well crafted.
I thought the tentative, hesitant way Finn and Dare tried to reconnect was very believable, it made sense to me how cautious they would be around each other and how much they would try to guard their hearts. It also made sense that Finn “does not do boyfriends, he just fucks people”, that he would want to be in control because he could control almost nothing when he was growing up, be it his mother or the way other boys bullied him. It all made sense until it did not. I will talk under a SPOILER cut about my reasons for lowering the grade that much, but I can tell you that it has mostly to do with BDSM. If you want to read further, click on spoiler, but beware that it is very spoilerish. I do not talk about mystery at all though.
I liked that there is a lot of uncertainty between Finn and Dare at the end and their relationship is very much work in progress, but what I discussed under the cut caused the grade to drop a lot.