Author: Z.A. Maxfield
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 324 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Dare Buckley has come home—or at least, he’s come back to Palladian, the small town he left as a teenager. After a major lapse in judgment forced him to resign from the Seattle PD, Palladian is the only place that’ll hire him. There’s one benefit to hitting rock bottom, though: the chance to investigate the mystery of his father’s suicide.
Dare also gets to reacquaint himself with Finn Fowler, whose childhood hero worship ended in uncomfortable silence when Dare moved away. But Finn isn’t the same little kid Dare once protected. He’s grown into an attractive, enigmatic stranger who neither wants nor needs what Dare has to offer.
In fact, Dare soon realizes that Finn’s keeping secrets—his own and the town’s. And he doesn’t seem to care that Dare needs answers. The atmosphere in Palladian, like its namesake river, appears placid, but dark currents churn underneath. When danger closes in, Dare must pit his ingenuity against his heart, and find his way home the hard way.
Review: I’ve read several books by this author and thoroughly enjoyed every single one. This was no exception. ZA Maxfield does it again.
At first glance this is a friends-to-lovers story. While that may be true in a sense, it becomes clear that it’s so much more. The author gives us a murder mystery, some BDSM, and romantic suspense set in the small town of Palladian, Oregon. A town in which some dark secrets are kept. Secrets that were never to see the light of day.
From the first page to the last, I was captivated by this story. As we know from the blurb, Dare is coming back to his hometown in disgrace. After an incident forces him to resign as a Seattle Detective, his only job offer is in the town he left many years ago. I really felt the author did a great job of getting the emotional turmoil the two main characters were going through down on page. I felt the anguish, confusion, and despair from both of them.
When Finn and Dare knew each other as children, they didn’t have the easiest time. Finn was bullied relentlessly in school, and lost his mother in a horrible accident. Dare dealt with his father’s suicide at a young age and had to move away from the only home he knew. These earth shattering events rounded out who they became as adults. I loved the way the author gave us little snippets of their time together when they were younger. These flashbacks made me understand their adult relationship and the pull they had towards one another. It was interesting to watch them in roles they weren’t used to playing, one going from the protector to the submissive, the other going from the victim to the one in control. The author portrays these characters realistically and very likably. While their renewed relationship isn’t 100% sexual, we see them beginning to gain each other’s trust and reevaluate what they mean to each other.
The pacing and flow of this story was smooth. Just when the author has you wondering what’s going to happen next, another layer is peeled back and the answer is revealed. The mystery element to this story was genius. While reading this, I never knew who was responsible for the mayhem running amok around the town. I believe the author did a fantastic job laying out the clues and hints to give the reader just enough to wet their palate and wanting more, and boy, does this author give us what we need. With twists and turns as only a good mystery can have, the conclusion to the “whodunit” question is just perfect. I’m not going to give anything away, but it was a person I least expected. Kudos to the author for not making it obvious.
The secondary characters definitely added some flavor to this tale being told. From Finn’s dying aunt to Dare’s co workers and the people we meet along the way, they were all very interesting and added a little something to an already wonderful read.
Overall, I enjoyed this very book very much. I highly recommend Home the Hard Way to those who love a good mystery with a nontraditional love story and a little BDSM on the side.
You can buy Home the Hard Way here: