Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Book Review for Leveled by Jay Crownover.....

We all need a hero...let the Saints of Denver begin....
Orlando Frederick knows what it is to be leveled by pain. Instead of focusing on his own, he’s made it his mission to help others: sports stars, wounded war vets, survivors of all kinds. But when Dom, a rugged, damaged, sinfully attractive cop, makes his way into Lando’s physical therapy practice, he might be the biggest challenge yet. Lando loved one stubborn man before and barely survived the fallout. He’s not sure he can do it again.
Dominic Voss is a protector. The police badge he wears is not only his job, it’s his identity, so when he’s sidelined because of an injury, the only thing he cares about is getting back on the force. He expects Lando to mend his body, he just doesn’t realize the trainer will also have him working toward a hell of a lot more. As attraction simmers and flares, Dom sees that Lando needs repair of his own...if only the man will let him close enough to mend what's broken.


As the first installment in the Saints of Denver series, Leveled is the perfect bridge between Ms. Crownover's past and her future as characters from her Marked Men series interact with characters from this new world in an intensely emotional read.  Fans of the m/m genre will find themselves drawn to Dominic and Orlando's relationship and their rocky road to HEA that's based on fear and the desire to be acknowledged.  It all adds up to another well-crafted and sensual tale that's a promising start to her new series.

Dominic's still struggling to recover from a work-related injury that's keeping him from returning to the job he loves and that defines him.  His last chance to regain his way of life just might be the sexy and serious-minded Orlando who has a past full of pain that he's still coping with too that has them engaging in an emotional tug of war.  Dom's an outgoing and engaging man who can always be counted on when help is needed.  Fun and flirty and quick to smile too.  After his policeman father died while on the job, Dom became the man of the house which led to a solid bond with his family that added to his sexiness and endeared him to me.  He always knew he wanted to be a cop though and will see it as failure if he can't return to it; for him there's no Plan B.  On many levels he appears to be the opposite of Lando, both economically and personality-wise, but the moment they meet their connection crackles.  Their burgeoning relationship teems with sexual tension and quickly morphs into something more but is constantly on fragile footing as Lando can't move on from the past and Dom's job cast a shadow of fear over their future.  It all adds up to a journey full of angst, steamy interludes, and smiles that I enjoyed every step of the way.

Lando once thought that his high school love and he would always be together but his lover's fear of coming out had Lando walking away on the night tragedy struck and left him mired in guilt ever since.  He no longer believes in love and has no desire to commit to anyone for fear of falling back into the emotional darkness of loss.  He's instead devoted himself to his job of saving others through physical therapy and helping others find their HEA since he knows he'll never have one.  Meeting Dom is a shock to his system and has his heart beating once again, but knowing what he does for a living has his past coming back to haunt him with the knowledge of the fragility of life.  Fear over losing another person he loves puts a strain on their burgeoning relationship and it will take an act of romantic bravery to help them reach their HEA.  Lando is serious-minded but kindhearted and his encounters with Dom brought out a fun and flirty side to him that was enjoyable to see.  His feelings of loss and his fear of the future led to palpable feelings that had me sympathizing with him and made his somewhat unreasonable view of Dom's profession understandable.  Lando and Dom bring out the best in each other and though it was Dom who came for help it was ultimately Lando who was saved.  For so long he let fear rule his heart but with Dom by his side he was finally able to forge his own HEA in this sweet and sensual story.

From start to finish this was an engaging read with a likable cast of characters, both primary and secondary.  The romance was sweet yet sexy and pulled at your heartstrings while turning up the heat.  The differences between Dom and Lando were very apparent but those differences had them making the perfect couple as they brought to their coupling what the other lacked.  Being together made them stronger and helped bring about their HEA after much angst.  Amidst all the angst were numerous steamy encounters that made Ms. Crownover's first foray into the m/m genre so successful as sweet and tender moments were beautifully balanced with steamy and erotic encounters.  Though this book can be read on its own reading the previous Marked Men books will give readers the strong sense of family permeating all of these series.  On a whole this was an immensely satisfying goodbye to Ms. Crownover's previous series while giving a heartfelt welcome to her new one and I recommend all of her works as each story and character is as entertaining and romantic as the last!

My rating for this is an A-

*I bought this book with my own money for my personal bookshelf.

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