Doran Callaghan doesn’t know when to fold ’em. His gambling has landed him in debt and in jail, and now it’s got him stuck in the sticks in a reintegration program. He wants to turn his life around, but old habits come knocking, and some creditors are harder to shake than others.
Xavier Wagner cares more about the National Park he works in than the people around it, until a stranger awakens desires he didn’t know he had. Doran’s natural submissiveness turns Xavier’s ideas of how to treat a lover upside down. But Doran doesn’t seem to know about boundaries — or even to have any — and Xavier’s not sure that Doran will say no if he needs to. Which means someone’s going to get hurt.
While Xavier struggles with his principles, Doran’s past comes calling. Trusting each other is suddenly a matter of life or death, but Doran has to decide whether counting on Xavier — or himself — is a gamble he’s willing to take.
It is no secret that I am a HUGE fan of the Bluewater Bay series. There hasn’t been a book in the series yet that I haven’t loved and When to Hold Them is no exception when it comes to my enjoyment. However, unlike the previous installments in the series (excluding book eight which I haven’t read yet), I could not put this book down. It was not a matter of simply enjoying the story or being enamored by the characters or being caught up in their unfolding romance. No. I was, for lack of a better word, addicted to this book and it took every bit of self-restraint I had to put it down for a few hours to attend to prior obligations before I was snatching my Kindle back up and reading into the wee hours of the night to finish the other half. And it was so worth the lost hours of sleep.
As I neared the halfway point I finally realized why I couldn’t put this book down – Gordon had literally seduced me with Doran and Xavier’s relationship. I connected with Doran without actually realizing it because what I had in common with his character was not an obvious trait and it was this connection that led to my seduction. Doran is sexually submissive – he craves a strong partner to care for him and take control of his pleasure. Ashamed of his actions that led to him being on probation, he has avoided a romantic relationship because he feels unworthy of love. Yet this doesn’t keep him from fantasizing about the park ranger who fills up at the gas station across the street every week. When he finally works up the courage to cross the street one Sunday so he can talk to the ranger, Doran chickens out when it comes time to speak to him. Unbeknownst to Doran (and the reader at the time), he makes an impression on Xavier and when their paths cross again Xavier takes the initiative to chat with Doran. Although Xavier is relieved when he learns that the age difference is not at large as Doran’s youthful appearance would suggest, he still feels that five years is a tad too much so when Doran flees he doesn’t pursue him. Until their paths cross again. And this is where my seduction began, because as Xavier began to respond to Doran’s signals and needs, I found myself falling under his spell right along with Doran. Xavier’s dominance is subtle and this is likely due in part to it being in response to Doran as well as his personal need to temper his desires because he’s not comfortable with them. But once Xavier came to terms with his needs, I was done for – the sensual domination and submission that occurred between the couple made for a perfect reading experience for me.
I feel I should note that while both characters are quite introspective, their personalities balance out in such a way that it wasn’t overdone angst. Doran is an addict (gambling) and he’s only twenty-two, so his inner thoughts are a tad chaotic between his guilt over what he did, shame for how his behaviors affected his aunt and uncle, resentment about the religious nature of the program he’s been ordered to attend, and fear of being found by the people he owes money to. While this is tempered by his attraction to Xavier, the sense of calmness he experiences in Xavier’s presence, and occasional bursts of joy when good things happen, the positives are quickly overshadowed by his negative thinking. This all made Doran’s character feel so real to me just as Xavier’s self-evaluation did the same for his character. What was truly impressive was that as the author is creating layers upon layers to the two characters and developing their relationship, Gordon also includes a realistic romantic suspense angle that plays out when Doran’s past shows up in Bluewater Bay to collect on his debt. Fortunately Xavier’s knowledge of the area and Doran’s throwing arm meant that the worst-case scenario was not realized. When to Hold Them was an absolute pleasure to read and an excellent addition to the Bluewater Bay series. While it is my first Gordon novel, I plan to check out more of the author’s work in hopes of being seduced again.
G.B. Gordon worked as a packer, landscaper, waiter, and coach before going back to school to major in linguistics and, at 35, switch to less backbreaking monetary pursuits like translating, editing, and writing.
Having lived in various parts of the world, Gordon is now happily ensconced in suburban Ontario with the best of all husbands. Santuario is G.B. Gordon’s first published work, but many more stories are just waiting to hit the keyboard.
Website and blog: gordon.kontext.ca
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