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Anthony Carrino loves his big, gregarious Italian-American family, even if his sisters are interfering, and his dad, the local sheriff, knows everything going on in town. He’s happy as a middle school guidance counselor. Despite helping kids and their parents fix their problems, Anthony can’t manage to get his own love life right. If only everyone would stop calling him the “nice” guy.
Dean Pierce doesn’t do relationships. A tough-minded military man, he is dedicated to his job as a Night Stalker, flying Chinook helicopters and not speaking much to anybody. He certainly doesn’t want to deal with a mess of emotions. But when tragedy strikes, Dean finds his hands full with his troubled niece, her irresistible guidance counselor, and a meddlesome family, which includes a rather large puppy.
Dean gets called from active duty in Afghanistan to return to Arizona when his sister is killed to take charge of his 13 year-old niece. He’s totally freaked out because he really doesn’t want to A) leave the military B) raise a teenaged girl C) live in Arizona.
Then he meets Anthony, his niece’s guidance counselor and realizes that he is A) in over his head B) very attracted to Anthony.
Dean doesn’t have many social skills, he’s used to the military and hidden, hard, fast screwing as a means to release and he really doesn’t know how to handle things like “lovemaking”, feelings, or parenthood.
Dean was in foster care as a child, so he decides he can’t abandon his niece to the system and decides to leave the military to raise her. He works with Anthony to make this happen.
Anthony, who was used by his last boyfriend and left hung out to dry, is kind of a mess, but he really, really likes Dean and his niece, so he agrees to form a “no strings” relationship with Dean. He schools Dean both on “slow, tender, the-end-isn’t-important-it’s-the-journey” sex and tips to raise a teenager.
In the end, Anthony thinks he must sacrifice his family for Dean’s career. Dean has to confront his feelings and be willing to “come out” to his niece and accept a new life, without the military. We get a terrifically sweet HEA here and a glimpse of the pair in the future in the sequel!
Dean is sweet, closed off, hard to reach, but in the end very warm. I loved watching Anthony “train” him in the ways of tender lovemaking. I also enjoyed Anthony’s sisters, they were a hoot!
Anthony was the weakest character, but he did provide an interesting contrast in that he was kind of spineless out in the world, but totally owned things in the bedroom. In the end, he was the perfect foil for Dean.
I had originally rated this as a 3.5 when I first read it, but upon re-reading/listening to this, I upgraded it to a 4.5. I don’t know if it was the sequel, wherein everything is far more stable that convinced me, but I really enjoyed this book more knowing what I know about them in the future.
Matt Baca (previously from Into this River I Drown) did a great job. He didn’t do too much with the voices, but Dean had a nice rumbly voice and Anthony wasn’t done in any over-the-top gay-boy voice. The sisters had a vaguely Brooklyn type lilt that suited them well. I enjoyed his narration very much. 4.5 of 5 hearts.
Overall 4.5 hearts