Erryn reviews Troubled Waters (Pine Cove Book 2) by H.J. Welch (Published by the author on August 3, 2019, 284 pages). The audiobook was released on October 15, 2019, was narrated by Nick J. Russo and is 7hr and 58mins.
Scout Duffy doesn’t know what’s worse. The fact that his scorching one-night stand is his bratty new client, or the fact that he doesn’t even remember Scout. But beneath all the bravado, Scout can see Emery is terrified, and he’ll do anything to protect him from his attacker. If only he would lower his walls and let Scout into his heart as easily as he lets him dominate in the bedroom…
Being out and proud his whole life means Emery Klein has never been safe. But now, his charity work and social media fame have put a target on his back from bigots, and his friends force him to hire a private bodyguard. Emery doesn’t need to be judged by some straight former boxer, but his attraction to the gorgeous hunk is insatiable. When Emery finally recognizes Scout, they can’t keep their damn hands off one another, if only for as long as Scout’s in town.
There’s a reason Emery never looks too closely at the men he sleeps with, just like there’s a reason Scout lives out of a suitcase in motel rooms. Will two men hiding from hurt realize the love that could heal them both is right in front of them? Or will Emery’s attacker take everything before they have the chance?
Troubled Waters is a steamy, stand-alone gay romance novel with a guaranteed HEA and absolutely no cliff-hanger.
Emery Klein is quite a character. He’s out, proud, and loud. He wears his queerness on his sleeve and isn’t afraid to show himself. For all to see, he’s happy and joyous. He’s also a social media influencer – something I admittedly know very little about. In that sense, this book was a huge revelation for me. I had always seen these people through the lens of the Kardashians. That an influencer could use their position for good? That they could use their ability to reach out to the vulnerable and give them hope? Mind blown. I probably should have seen it, but now I’ll view things differently. Oh, to be sure there are vapid and selfish people who want the adulation, but apparently there are people out there who use their celebrity for good.
Like I said, Emery does this and it endeared him to me. Of course so did the hedgehog Sonic. Anyone who can love such an…interesting…creature must be a good person, right? His one fault? The inability to connect with people he has sex with. He has close friends and chosen family (many of whom I met in the first book and it was nice to have them back!). What he lacks is the desire to have more than what amounts to one-night stands. From the start I could see the toll it takes on him. Heck, the opening scene was…interesting (okay, and also kind of explosive – I’ll never look at guppies the same way). But while the encounter meant everything to his partner, Emery let it blend into all the others.
Or so he tells himself. He might not remember faces, but he does remember someone who dominates him. He’ll do just about anything to repeat that particular experience.
Scout Duffy is also a man who runs from his feelings. He’s had a few one-night stands as well, but his job keeps him on the move, going for assignment to assignment. Town to town. When he agrees to be the bodyguard of some gay social media influencer, it’s not the gay part that bothers him. He’s convinced Emery is just another guy whose whole focus is taking a good picture of his food – or of himself. Scout immediately recognizes Emery as the guy he banged (so to speak), but Emery’s lack of recognition hurts. More than he’s willing to admit.
But the threat to Emery is very real and Scout figures he can tuck away the lust and focus on the job. Until Emery finally recognizes him and then all bets are off the table. Hot times ensue. Ethics are pesky things, though, and Scout must, he believes, choose between protecting Emery or making hot damn love with him. As a boxer, Scout was all brute strength and very much in the closet. He’s out now, but certainly doesn’t advertise the fact. Being with Emery means changing that. For the better? Hard to say.
There is a lot of drama in this book. More so even than in the last book. The sleepy town of Pine Cove isn’t as dull as it might seem. The eventual standoff scene uncovers how deep hate can really run. Suddenly Emery’s safety is jeopardized and Scout realizes the depth of his feelings for the man.
I enjoyed this book. There was a lot to take in and it worked. Watching the men connect was fun but the deeper emotions came much later. Of course a happy ending is guaranteed, but I still wondered how it would all come together with Emery attached to Pine Cove and Scout living an itinerant life.
Nick J. Russo is a great narrator and he’s perfect to helm this series. He always delivers a solid performance and this book was no exception. If you enjoy snarky twinks and the dominant men who love them then this is the right book for you.
10/10 Points of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
HJ Welch is a contemporary MM romance author living in London with her husband and two balls of fluff that occasionally pretend to be cats. She began writing at an early age, later honing her craft online in the world of fanfiction on sites like Wattpad. Fifteen years and over a million words later, she sought out original MM novels to read. She never thought she would be any good at romance, but once she turned her hand to it she discovered she in fact adored it. By the end of 2016 she had written her first book of her own, and in 2017 she fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a fulltime author.
She also writes contemporary British MM romance as Helen Juliet.