Erryn and Dana review ‘Pride & Protection (Southern Boys Book 2)’ by K.C. Wells. This book was released by the author on June 18, 2019, and is 259 pgs long. The audiobook version of this story was narrated by John Solo. It was released on June 19, 2019, and is 8 hrs and 20 mins long. A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book (Erryn): I loved Truth & Betrayal so grabbing book 2 was a no-brainer.
Why I read this book (Dana): I listened to Truth & Betrayal and I definitely wanted to see how Taylor’s HEA would happen, and to learn more about the owner of the bike shop.
What happens when an out-and-proud bear moves to a small Tennessee town, and takes a shine to the closeted cop? Fireworks, that’s what.
When Del Walters agrees to go into business with his brother, he has one condition. Since he’s putting up the lion’s share, they’ll run the bike shop his way – and that means he gets to choose the name. And in a small Tennessee town, a business called Rainbow Racers, complete with a not-so-subtle sign, was always going to attract attention. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong kind of attention, and after a few incidents, Del is forced to call on the local police to deal with the culprits.
When Officer Taylor Cox walks into his shop, Del thinks Christmas has come early. An earlier encounter with the younger man left Del with a growing desire to know more about him. There’s only one problem – Taylor is in the closet, and there’s no way Del is going back into his.
When Taylor lays eyes on the sexy bear who owns the bike shop, he knows he’s walking into trouble. Not that he’s about to let Del know he’s interested: His view from the closet is just fine, thank you very much, and besides, that ship has already sailed, thanks to their first meeting. Now all he wants to do is forget Del even exists. But as time goes by, Taylor realizes how badly he is torn between protecting the persona he’s created, and giving in to his desires. And Del making it obvious that he wants Taylor isn’t helping matters.
Between an out-and-proud bear and a firmly closeted cop, something has to give. Problem is, it might be their hearts.
Pride and Protection is the second book in the Southern Boys series and I loved it. The first book was very angsty and although the homophobia was central, there were also strong racial undertones (or overt, depending on the scene). This book has less angst but is no less powerful.
Taylor Cox is a police officer and he played an important role in the first book. He was a confidante for young Jake who was dealing with the grief of losing his brother and the guilt of being not just a gay man but a gay man in love with his brother’s former lover. I liked Taylor most of the time but he was by no means a perfect friend. He is a man dealing with his own homosexuality in the only way he knows how – staying as far in the closet as he can get.
Del Walters is a man who knows who he is an makes no apologies for it. He’s come to this backwater Tennessee town to help his brother launch a business. He’s going to make certain the business is viable and sustainable and then he’s heading back to the west/left coast where he can be out and proud without fear of discrimination. He agrees not to hoist a rainbow flag in the window of the shop but he does pick the name – Rainbow Rides. If people infer the pride rainbow as opposed to just a plain rainbow, he’s okay with that. To his brother’s consternation, he refuses to hide who he is. A chance encounter with a much younger man has him salivating and aching for a taste. He’s unsure if he’ll ever see the man again and so is quite surprised when the police officer at his door is none other than that attractive man.
This book is a slow burn. Taylor likes Del but is terrified of expressing that attraction. He has a mother he adores and a job he loves. He fears losing both if it becomes known he’s gay. I had a lot of sympathy for Taylor – yearning to be able to be his true self but believing he won’t be accepted. I also understood Del’s perspective – he refuses to go back in the closet, not for anyone. Needless to say the conflict is clear but the path to a happy ending was a bumpy one for sure.
There are a number of strong secondary characters including the chief of police, his daughter, Taylor’s partner, his mother, as well as Del’s brother. Sometimes secondary characters get short shrift but they played pivotal roles in this book and they were fully-fleshed characters who helped the two men move toward happiness.
I really liked this book. The contrast of the older bear, comfortable with himself, and the naïve younger man who has never expressed himself openly. The juxtaposition of the living out and proud lifestyle and being stuck so far in the closet you’re bound to find Narnia. I found myself rooting for these men to get their happy ending.
John Solo is narrating this series and he’s doing a great job. He can handle the southern accent with authenticity but not making it too strong so as not to be easily understood. I always enjoy his performances and this one ranks up with one of my favorites. I highly recommend this great listen.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
I just experienced listening to the first book of this series about a month ago, and I was so excited when this book became available on audio so soon after. We first met Taylor when he delivered some bad news to Jake, one of the main characters in Truth & Betrayal. Taylor kept appearing in the book to offer friendship and advice to the closeted younger man, but there were never any sparks between them. Taylor’s interests center around older men. This book overlaps the ending of the first book and Jake’s new relationship only makes Taylor feel more alone in their small town.
LaFolette is appears to be a pretty backwards southern town. There is this feel that the people living there are prejudiced and bigoted towards people of color and LGBTQ+ folks. The theory doesn’t seem to be tested all that much since no one would dream of coming out there and you can count the non-white people on one hand. A lot of controversy is sparked when two men with the same last name open a bike shop called Rainbow Riders, and the Love is Love sign that hung in the window for only a day or two. The two owners are brothers, not a couple, but it still doesn’t end the hate letters and graffiti that ends up on the building as the shop opens.
I was curious about the owner/owners in the first book when the shop was a bit of hope for Jake, and I have to say I really like Del. He is a 40-something bear, and while he wants the shop to do well, especially for his brother, he doesn’t take the harassment lying down. He even steps in when a young black man has his car damaged by some racist townspeople. Del is immediately attracted to Taylor who finds Del’s graying hair and beard a real turn on. But the fact that they live in the same town where Taylor is closeted, puts a halt on his desires to take anything further than looking.
The relationship between the two men starts slowly but then quickly heats up and I feel like some of the feelings that developed between them were skimmed over. It seems to me, the stories of Del and Taylor’s individual experiences with the town are the main feature of this book. As Del adjusts to fit back into small town life after living in San Francisco for years, and how Taylor must decide if his own happiness is worth seeing how open-minded the people who live in LaFolette are. And while the story shows there are definitely some homophobic racists living there, it seems like there are less of them than originally feared. Some people surprise the two men with their support.
I really loved this story and thought it was less angsty than the first book which dealt with the death of a loved one. The relationships these characters had with family was sweet. Del’s brother is really cool. He doesn’t appear to be gay but possibly ace. I found myself intrigued by him. Taylor’s mom was a bit surprised by his coming out but she does it right by accepting and loving him for who he is, immediately. I also liked the police chief and his daughter and their support for the couple. Taylor’s partner was cool, and he had his own story to tell about the mistake of not supporting an LGBT family member. (I do have one complaint about his name. Dale sounds an awful like Del, and at times I got confused who Taylor was talking to.) This book also introduced Chaz who gets kicked out of his parents for being gay and Kendis who was brought to the town to play basketball for the high school, but his skin color keeps him from getting hired full time, and he might be gay. I definitely want to see what happens for them individually or together, however the author likes.
John Solo is a great narrator and I have listened to him many times before and will listen to him again in the near future, I’m sure. His voice is a little gravelly, though not unpleasant. It definitely seemed to suit the character Del. His southern accent was also well done.
9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
K.C. Wells started writing in 2012, although the idea of writing a novel had been in her head since she was a child. But after reading that first gay romance in 2009, she was hooked.
She now writes full time, and the line of men in her head, clamouring to tell their story, is getting longer and longer. If the frequent visits by plot bunnies are anything to go by, that’s not about to change anytime soon.