Title: Six Degrees of Lust (By Degrees #1)
Author: Taylor V. Donovan
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: 2nd Jan, 2017
Genre(s): Romance, Crime, Hot, Emotional, FBI
Page Count : 350
Reviewed by: PIU
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
By Degrees is an ensemble character series with multiple points of view.
New York City FBI team leader Samuel Shaughnessy lives for his immediate family and his job. After a marriage gone wrong, he has stuck to a firm rule when it comes to relationships: he doesn’t have them. Sexually active and emotionally unavailable keeps him satisfied, especially now that he is in hot pursuit of a serial killer targeting gay men.
Former firefighter Machlan O’Bannon now manages a successful sports bar in Houston, and after years of waiting, he’s ready to stand up and be the man he always wanted to be: out, proud and drama-free. His politically-aligned family wants to keep him locked in the closet, but Mac just wants to meet the man of his dreams.
One man is as high strung as the other is laid back. A chance meeting brings them together, and one night of passion ignites a fire neither can fight. Their lives are not only miles apart, but as different as day and night. They don’t want to get involved, but they might not be able to keep apart.
I am thankful that I started to read this book after the second book has already been published. Coz, GAWD CLIFFHANGERS!!! I am not a fan of cliffhangers at all but I could not help but love this story. It was this passionate mix of love, lust, denial, emotions with the added ingredient of an ongoing brutal crime which lends a sinister/dangerous backdrop to the story. This story is edgy and passionate with a wide range of characters and multiple POV’s which will never let you stray while reading it.
Mac runs a sports bar in Texas. On his trip to New York, he bumps into Sam, an FBI agent at the airport. And they are both hit by “lust at first sight”. Mac and Sam agrees on a casual one-night stand to sate their over-the-top, animalistic pull for each other. But one night does not seem to be enough. Sam after a failed marriage has never engaged in any relationship more than the casual type and definitely not for more than one day. But this time he is compelled to make exceptions to his rules for Mac. They start a long-distance affair with hook-ups every other week. Sam is convinced that what they have going on is just lust but as he makes more and more changes in his self-erected rules, he becomes steadily unsure if it is as casual as he thinks. As both of their feelings grow deeper they start to yearn for more than the “casual relationship” they have locked themselves into.
While the wild romance/fling is going on, Sam is also engaged in the investigation of a series of brutal killings, all of gay men. His team is frantically trying to unearth more clues and nail the killer before another body drops. This part also plays quite an important role in the whole story. We meet the members of Sam’s team and experience how seamlessly and efficiently they work together. There are many characters here that are interrelated to each other not only personally but also in regards to the crime going on. The crime/investigation is kept in the back-burner for most of the story and there is no conclusion to it in this book. So the result of the investigation also ends in a cliffhanger which frustrated me to no end.
Sam and Mac are the MCs of this story and most of the book revolves around their not-so-casual, push and pull romance. I loved both of them. Sam was definitely the more complicated among the two. He has a burden he has carried most of his life which has impaired him from having a serious relationship with anybody. Hints are given to his past but it is not revealed in this installment. Sam had erected a lot of walls around his heart and he is not comfortable with exposing his feelings to another except for his best friend, Logan. Mac changes a helluva lot in his life. He methodically changes his rules and gets involved more and more with Mac because he could not help it. At times he realizes what he is doing and then lashes out and behaves like an asshole but then again comes back as he is not strong enough to stay away from Mac. Sam had a big, loving heart which he tried very badly to keep under wraps. The outstanding way in which he supports and shelters his sister and nephew was so beautiful. His interactions with his nephew were very sweet and made me love Sam all the more.
Mac on the other hand is a big softie who was perfect to handle all of Sam’s idiosyncrasies. He would always know when to not push Sam and also when to put him in his place. Mac’s family were a nightmare and he had always catered to their wishes and kept his life on hold. But for the first time he is free (against his family’s wishes, of course) to live life as an out and proud gay man. Sam slams into in his life with brutal force and Mac finds himself falling in love knowing Sam would eventually break his heart. But Sam’s rule-breaking and the development of intense feelings between them gives him hope for love. I loved the push and pull between him and Sam immensely. I hated when Sam behaved like an asshole but it always generated from his love for Mac, which gave me hope that he will turn around eventually. Sam never shared a lot about his past with Mac but Mac is still understanding of his rules and his overwhelming need to control his feelings. Mac breaks him down one kiss/mind-blowing, sweaty orgasm at a time and I was hopping around with joy when Sam finally accepts that their relationship is far more complex and deep than a fling.
So though this book is also a crime thriller, the romance takes precedence here. Mac and Sam at the end are shown at the doorstep of something completely new. They have a lot to work through to finally be in a serious monogamous relationship. Unknown to them, they are tied together by people who can give a big blow to their fragile/budding love and I am hoping and praying that they will be strong enough to weather through.
Along with Mac and Sam’s romance, I also look forward to the GFY romance between Mac’s best friend, Remy and Christian. Sasha is another character I am very intrigued about. The danger is looming on several of the characters as the next possible victim of the serial killer and I am totally psyched to follow the story.
Overall, I enjoyed this story very much. The plot is very engaging with a great range of well-developed characters. It has a heady amount of angst with buckets and buckets of passion, the intensity of which will blow your mind. “Kitten” and “Super Sexy Agent’s” romance was perfect and super awesome. They made my list of “favorite m/m couples” of all time. Don’t let the cliffhanger warnings discourage you to read this book. I am sure every reader will love it nonetheless.