Title: After the Fire (Through Hell & Back #2)
Author Name: Felice Stevens
Publication Date & Length: February 24, 2015 — 253 pgs
A single bullet destroyed the dreams of Dr. Jordan Peterson. With his lover dead, Jordan descends into an endless spiral of self-destruction that nearly costs him his friends, his career and his life. When Jordan finds himself working closely with the aloof Lucas Conover, the investment banker’s mysterious past and unexpected kindness shocks him back into a life and emotions he’d thought lost forever.
The betrayal by the foster brother he’d worshiped, taught Lucas Conover never to trust or believe in anyone. Living a solitary life couldn’t free him of the nightmare of his former life; it reinforced his belief that he would never fall in love. When the death of one of his clients forces him to work closely with Dr. Jordan Peterson, he meets a person whose suffering exceeds his own. Though Jordan rejects his effort to help, something within Luke pushes him discover more about the first man to ever get under his skin.
As Luke lets down his guard and Jordan lets go of his pain, desire takes control. Each man must come to terms with past struggles if they are to create a future together. And learning to trust in themselves and love again after tragedy and a lifetime of pain, may be the only thing that saves them in the end.
This is a long-anticipated return to Stevens’ gritty world of beautiful, damaged men and their self-less philanthropic projects. The wonderfully diverse cast from ‘A Walk through Fire’ is back but this time the focus is on bereaved surgeon Jordan and troubled financier Lucas.
Jordan was not a very likeable character in the first book. When the second book starts, he has become even more difficult as he wallows in his grief. Jordan meets his match in Lucas, Keith’s estate manager. When Lucas sets ultimatums, Jordan must either fight his demons or risk dishonouring Keith’s legacy.
Lucas, Ash’s foster brother, is still struggling with many of the same issues we watched Ash work through in the first novel. As much as this is a romance, it is also the story of the two brothers’ reunion.
Stevens’ writing is gritty and emotionally powerful. She tackles big issues like child abuse, gang crime and addictions with empathy and sensitivity.
This book felt even darker than the first. There were fewer light moments with Drew’s family, and if it’s even possible, more emotional angst betweeen the two male leads.
This is by no means a gentle romance, but if you want gritty realism and a turbulent emotional ride, this is the perfect book.
Amazon CA: http://goo.gl/lfsS1q
Amazon UK: http://goo.gl/rrVfDb
Amazon AU: http://goo.gl/8Gqz9N
“Damn, you look like shit.” Ash’s sharp gaze raked him up and down. “Ow.” He rubbed his arm when Drew elbowed him. “Don’t get mad at me, baby. You know he does. Look at him.”
“Can we come in, Jordy?” Drew’s kind smile strangely made him feel worse, not better.
He said nothing and pulled the front door wider for his friends, leaving them to trail behind him back through the house and into the spacious kitchen. Sunlight poured onto the terra-cotta floors and glinted off the glass-fronted maple cabinets. The kitchen was his pride and joy, and when he and Keith bought the brownstone, it had been the only room he cared about decorating. Jordan had always loved staring out of the large bay window as he relaxed with his cup of coffee in the morning.
“Did you have a party?” Drew tipped his head to the table, still cluttered with vodka bottles.
“Party of one, more likely.”
Jordan heard Ash’s muttered remark, and despite a throbbing head and a roiling stomach, he lashed out.
“Shut up, Davis.” He and Ash had never had the easiest of relationships, and even though Jordan knew how happy Drew was, the man still irritated the hell out of him.
“Why, Jordan? The truth hurts?” Ash’s voice, oddly enough, neither condemned nor derided him. Instead, it held an overall note of sadness, mixed with empathy that pulled Jordan up short. “You sit here, night after night, refusing our dinner invitations, as well as any social contact with Rachel, Mike, or even Esther. Don’t think we don’t know what you’re doing and why.”
Jordan winced. Shit. A kindhearted, sympathetic Ash Davis was almost worse than the usual sarcastic attitude he dished out to everyone. “I’m not in the mood for company; that’s all.”
“And I call bullshit on that. You’re still mourning Keith, and I get that, but that doesn’t mean you don’t go on living. When your only company since he died has been vodka or whiskey, you’re heading for disaster.”
“Jordy.” Drew slung an arm around his shoulder. “I’m worried about you. You’ve lost weight, skipped days at the hospital, and I was told that during surgery last week—”
“Are you checking up on me?” He pulled away from Drew, shaking with anger. “What the fuck, man? You’re not my goddamn keeper.” Humiliation, shame, and a sense of despair tore through him as he turned away from his two friends to go back and sit at the kitchen table. He ran his hands over the battered wood of the long farmhouse table. He remembered how happy he and Keith had been to find it in the small Pennsylvania town they’d stumbled upon oneSaturday. Making love on top of it after lugging it up the stairs of the brownstone was a memory etched forever in his mind. He gripped the edge of the table to steady himself.
A few deep breaths settled him, yet he couldn’t face his friends.
For over thirty years he and Drew had been friends; the man knew him better than anyone else. People might think Drew Klein was sweet and easygoing, but Jordan knew the core of steel within his friend. Drew refused to back down if he thought he could help. True to form, Drew dropped into the chair right next to him, challenging and direct.
“Jordan. Look at me.”
It took an effort to tear his gaze away from the tabletop, but he inhaled a deep breath and smiled into Drew’s face. “What is it?”
Drew seemed taken aback that Jordan was smiling and not lashing out with his usual anger. “I’m not checking up on you. It’s common knowledge that you showed up to your first surgery since Keith died and had to wait an extra hour to start because you had the shakes.” Drew’s mouth thinned to a hard line. “Are you crazy showing up drunk for surgery? You could lose your fucking license, for God’s sake.”
“I wasn’t drunk. I was overtired and hadn’t eaten since lunchtime the day before.”
Behind him he heard Ash snort with laughter. “Are you fucking kidding me, Jordan? You can come up with a better one than that.”
“Fuck off, Ash,” he shot back. “I couldn’t care less about your opinion.”
“Do you care about mine, Jordy? Don’t lie to me.” Drew’s stare remained unflinching, his eyes soft and knowing. “I know you’re still having a hard time moving on from Keith’s death, but it’s going to be a year soon.”
“It’s only been nine months. God almighty, did you expect me to forget him already?” Horrified, Jordan swept his hand across the table, sending the empty bottles and food containers crashing to the floor. “Could you forget Ash so quickly? Keith and I were together for almost four years. Stop pressuring me to move on with my life. It’s over for me. There will never be anyone else.”
I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. I started reading traditional historical romances when I was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that my interest in romance novels became renewed.
But somewhere along the way, my tastes shifted. While I still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, I began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. Once I picked up her first, I became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, I knew I wanted to write my own.
I live in New York City with my husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of my own. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.
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