Dana and Erryn review ‘How Not to Break (Lovestrong #4)’ by Susan Hawke. The ebook was published March 9, 2019 and 239 pages. The audiobook version of this story was narrated by Michael Pauley, released on March 25, 2019, and is 6 hrs and 32 mins long. A copy was provided for an honest review.
Why Erryn read this book: I am in love with this series!
Why Dana read this book: I really do love the series, plus I have been looking for dad’s best friend books.
Take one former SEAL with a healthy dose of regret….
Nick St. Cloud is living with shame from the one time he let his lust override his sense of honor. He’s haunted by the memory of when he made love to his best friend’s 18-year-old son. The tragic accident that happened that same night has only compounded his guilt. A decade later, he’s doing his best to be there for Charlie’s son, but anything more than that just wouldn’t be right…would it?
Plus, the younger guy who he’s tried to forget….
It’s been 10 years. Ten long years. Does Shaw Michaelson feel bad about having seduced his dad’s best friend? Umm, maybe? Although he could’ve done things differently, Shaw can’t find it within himself to be sorry for the hottest night of his life with the one man he’s never been able to forget. The man he’s patterned every subsequent relationship after…yeah, Shaw totally has a type.
Equals a pair of men who deserve a second chance at a first time.
The two men are living in an uneasy peace within the same small town and circle of friends, being careful not to let the other get close enough to open old wounds. All their walls fall when a stalker begins terrorizing Shaw, sending him running to the one man he knows will keep him safe.
Of all the Lovestrong books, I think this was my favourite. Although there are times when I’m just looking for a bit of fluff, there are times when I’m looking for a bit of angst. Add in a good dash of snarky dialogue. With great secondary characters and cameos from the main characters in previous books, this story had everything I could’ve asked for in a good story.
There’s Shaw. He became orphaned ten years ago and that, coupled with making love to his parents’ best friend at the same time, has left him conflicted. He’d seen Nick St. Cloud as a safe bet for someone who’d take care of him while having sex for the first time, but he hadn’t bargained on the morning after regrets Nick would feel. So for ten years Nick has watched from afar, leaving Shaw unsettled and unsatisfied. He’s dated other men and even been serious with one or two of them, but the relationships never amounted to anything because the other men weren’t Nick. The other men couldn’t compare to a compassionate and frankly sexy as hell ex-Navy SEAL.
I loved Shaw. His ineptitude at certain things (cooking) mixed with his aptitude with others (running a business) lent him a sweet disposition that made me want to wrap him up and take care of him. In some ways he’s a mature twenty-eight and in others he’s still naïve in the ways of the world. I understood Nick standing by, ready to step in when things go sideways, but otherwise keeping his hands literally to himself.
The stalking elements of the story were creepy and well done. I felt Shaw’s anguish at having his whole life upended and no longer feeling safe. That Nick was there to save him felt good, but I liked that Shaw insisted on maintaining some autonomy. He was willing to accept help and protection from Nick, but he still kept some agency. I also liked the little glimpses into his life and all the good things he was quietly doing for the community around him. He understands how lucky he is and wants to give back.
I want to take a quick moment to shout out to the secondary characters. I loved how they all rallied around Shaw, especially Becca. I loved her sassy attitude and great friendship with Shaw. I also liked how it was Dana, Nick’s former sister-in-law, who was such a champion of the men getting together.
Like I said, I really enjoyed this book and hope there are still more to come. Ranger Rick deserves his own happy ending, right?
Finally, Michael Pauley. He’s narrated the entire series and has done a brilliant job. He keeps a separate voice for each character and given the sheer volume of hot men, that’s quite a feat. He also has fantastic voices for the female characters, which I always appreciate. Overall, a great listen.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
So there seem to be a lot of best friend’s dad books in the market and while I enjoy those, I wanted to see the complicated relationship between a son and his dad’s best friend. I feel like it might be more of a risk. For the older character, how would his best friend feel knowing that he had a relationship with his kid? How does it resolve? I love emotional and tense situations. And while this book does involve one mc seducing his parent’s friend into bed one night, the conflict that I wanted to see occur didn’t happen. Finding out the same night they slept together that Shaw’s parents (and Nick’s best friends) died in a crash put a halt to it all and left Nick feeling doubly guilty.
A few years later and all that exists between Shaw and Nick is Nick’s protective attitude and a bunch of awkward tension. For some reason, Shaw seems to inspire the protective instinct in the men around him. Nick is just one of the “icky boys” watching over Shaw. Rick is an ex of Shaw’s and he does play a fairly large part of this story. He and Nick sort of have a rivalry over Shaw. Rick was looking for a bit more of a submissive in his life than Shaw is capable of, so they didn’t last, but he gets involved when Shaw starts getting scary letters and flowers delivered to his shop.
Shaw is a sweet character. He holds a candle for Nick, though part of him resents how easily Nick walked away. I feel like it is hard for him to have Nick in his life in any way, if it’s not all the way. Still he maintains a friendly attitude, and he cares about everyone in his life. Nick and Rick are sweet, but it’s time to stop listing them together, only one can ever have Shaw’s heart. I do appreciate the friendship all three men later have and hope that Rick will get a story of his own. When Nick discovers all that is happening to Shaw, he lets down his walls in order to be close to the younger man to keep him safe. It is a scary time, but slowly trust forms again, and Shaw even gains a little bit of understanding of why Nick closed himself off.
The mystery of the book does get solved, but there are several suspicious characters in this book. I honestly didn’t know who the stalker was. I loved the supporting characters in this book, especially Rick. (Did I mention him enough?) I love the other residents of Rockford Bluff. Nick’s ex sister-in-law Dana and her daughter Becca are good characters and they help break up the mostly male cast. And as for the narration, Michael Pauley did an excellent job as usual. I can’t wait for more of this series and I definitely recommend it.
9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
Susan Hawke is more widely known for her mpreg writings as Susi Hawke; this new name is a departure from that. Whether written by Susan or Susi, the books are filled with that all-important love, laughter, and family; the only difference is that this name has no male pregnancy.