Review: Leveled by Jay Crownover (Saints of Denver #0.5)

It was a flurry of pumping hands, weeping tips, and bucking hips. Our bodies moved together and against each other kind of like they had been doing so for years instead of minutes, and again I wondered how something so rash, so sudden and unexpected could feel so necessary, so vital.

Dominic Voss has known all his life that he wanted to be a cop. He wanted to follow in his late father's footsteps and make him proud while making a difference in the lives of the city he served. But when he's sidelined by an injury that could have cost him more than a shattered leg and an injured shoulder, he's desperately hoping the physical therapist that comes to him highly recommended will take him on as a client. He's considered one of the best therapists around, but one look at the man and Dom finds himself distracted by how gorgeous he is and Dom can't but wonder if the attraction is as mutual as he thinks it is.

Orlando Frederick has only loved once in his life and it wasn't enough. Not enough to save him from his first love giving him his first heartbreak and from still having to deal with his first loss. Now, Lando uses his skills, not to bring his clients back to the lives they once had but to learn to live with their new normal, something he's continuing to learn even years after he lost Remy Archer. No one's ever come close to making him feel the way Remy did, but his new client is sparking within him something completely different. He's tempted but he's not ready to risk losing someone again, not when that someone was a cop.

Leveled is the prequel novella to bestselling author Jay Crownover's newest series, Saints of Denver, which is a spin-off of her highly successful and much-loved Marked Men series of books, fans of which will be familiar with both Orlando Frederick and Dominic Voss. Lando was a supporting character in Rule and Rome, having been the boyfriend of Remy Archer, who was killed in a car accident and was twin brother to Rule and younger brother to Rome, and was mentioned briefly in Asa. On the other hand, Dom was a supporting character in Asa as best friend and cop partner to Royal Hastings, Asa Cross's girlfriend. 

A lot of what happens in this novella takes place at the same time as some of the events in the final Marked Men book, Asa. There's an instant attraction between Lando and Dom, but with Lando being Dom's physical therapist, there are boundaries that both men are aware shouldn't be crossed. However, there's just this nearly palpable connection and awareness that goes on when they're together, so it's almost inevitable that they do act on their undeniable chemistry. But they've got two huge stumbling blocks to hurdle on their way to happily-ever-after: Lando's past with Remy and his aversion to Dom's job as a cop.

Lando has yet to truly let go of Remy, and what happened right before Remy's accidental death continues to weigh on him. Then you have Dom's career choice, which is obviously one that is fraught with danger but is so ingrained in the man that separating himself from it would be like taking away a limb. Lando's love for Remy and the course their couplehood took and Dom's being a policeman may not initially prevent the two men from becoming intimate and engage in a potential relationship, but they are hot-button issues that cling to both men and that neither is really willing to totally separate themselves from.

This was a beautifully written story about two men who are on the precipice of something life-changing for both of them, but fear is what stops them from truly becoming more than what they are and going beyond what they're accustomed to. It's a love story that highlights the importance of acceptance--accepting what's happened in the past but also letting it go and learning from it; accepting that life and love is full of risks and it's a matter of realizing that some people and things are worth taking that leap. I honestly didn't know what to expect going into Leveled, but I do know what I got out of it: a five-plus-starred worthwhile read. ♥

Date Read: 19 November 2015

Learn more about Jay Crownover.

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