Title: Max and Finn (Men of Smithfield #2)
Author: LB Gregg
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: 87 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
Lax. That was the initial conclusion enigmatic security specialist Max Douglas had drawn of Michael “Finn” Finnegan—Dalton Prep’s beloved English teacher. When Max arrives at Smithfield’s exclusive boarding school to protect a high profile student against a mysterious stalker, he’s hell bent on enforcing his style of leadership on students and teachers alike. Warring tempers turn to passionate lovemaking between the former marine and the easy going drama coach. But danger is closer than either man expects and all too quickly violence rocks the homey campus—putting both men at risk.
Men of Smithfield Series
Cover Me is the third novella in LB Gregg’s ‘Men of Smithfield’ series. It takes place, not in the town of Smithfield itself, but in an exclusive preparatory school for the children of the rich and famous, situated on the outskirts of the town. This lent itself to rather an insular setting which was perfect for this story of stalkers and scary goings on in the small community of the school.
The story begins with a scene set a few months before the start of the main story with an all action scene between Michael ‘Finn’ and Max, a security firm owner and brother of a lazy teen Finn is tutoring to get some extra holiday pay. Finn is attracted to Max and so throws caution to the wind and seduces him in his office only to be rejected afterwards. Fast forward to the start of the new term and one of Finn’s students, Hemmi, who is the teenage son of a famous Hollywood actor, is under threat by a man stalking his father. To Finn’s complete horror, the man drafted in as security for Hemmi is none other than Max. There is immediate tension between the two men as they fight their attraction to one another whilst trying to keep Hemmi safe.
There were quite a few things I liked about this novella. Firstly the characters of the two heroes were not quite as you would expect. Max is an ex-marine who keeps an impassive face for most of the time. You would think that he would also be quite lacking in emotion as well, but no, Max’s gruff exterior hides the heart of a romantic. We are never told explicitly, just given hints, but it seems that Max has been in love and suffered loss in the past. When Finn comes along he breaks through that loss and it isn’t long before the tough ex-marine is confessing his feelings and showing a tenderness that belies his tough outer image. Finn on the other hand is an artistic English/Drama teacher so you would expect him to be all fine at sharing emotions. Well you would be wrong because Finn has a fear of commitment and a fear of opening up his feelings to others in case he is hurt. He hides any emotions behind a prickly sarcastic front and it takes a long time before Max can get past that to discover what Finn really feels. I liked this inversion of stereotype. It made the characters more realistic and human. Another area of Finn and Max’s relationship which worked well was in the progression of the sex scenes from the first hot scene through to the last loving scene. I really feel that LB Gregg has improved on her writing of sex scenes a great deal since her first novella. The final sex scene of this book was one of the most beautiful, tender sex scenes that I’ve read in a while. It was packed with emotional intensity and said more in a few actions than pages of dialogue could have done.
Another part of the book that I liked was the unusual setting of the school. The author spends a lot of time describing the atmosphere of teens around the campus. There isn’t much focus on lessons and the day to day running of the school, but there is a lot about how Finn fits into the school in his responsibility as dorm supervisor and general friend to the young men in his dorm. The descriptions of sweaty bodies, general chaos and mess in the dorm house was realistic and rather amusing. This description is also necessary when the book moves into the stalker theme. Finn is unable to see how anyone he knows and likes within his dorm would threaten or harm Hemmi. In fact, it is Finn’s inability to see what is happening under his nose which leads to trouble at the end of the book. The descriptions of the grounds around the school, especially in connection with the autumn season were lovingly done and gave the impression (as was with the previous books) of the great love the author has for New England and Connecticut.
A final part of the book which worked well was the way that each student was individual. It would have been so easy to make the student body just a huge teenage hybrid, but LB Gregg ensures that each student who features in the book has a definite ‘voice’ be it that of Eric who constantly questions everything; or Laura, the girlfriend of Hemmi, shooting dagger eyes at a girl who gets close to Hemmi; or Hemmi himself, a mix of mischievousness and seriousness in his feelings about being guarded by Max. I really got the feeling that the characters of the teenagers were just as important as those of the adults, more so because they affect Finn’s life to a great extent.
There were some parts that didn’t work so well. I guessed the mystery almost from the beginning and felt that it could have been done in a more subtle way. Although the end was tense and rather alarming, it seemed like too much of a great step and I wished there had been a bit more groundlaying done on that particular character ( I’m being vague because I don’t want to give away spoilers). Also there was one sex scene in the middle of the book which just started in a rather jarring manner and again, I wished there had been more subtlety in the lead up to that scene.
Overall, I’ve been impressed with the progression of LB Gregg’s writing. I’ve been following her career with interest ever since the release of her first novella, Gobsmacked. Cover Me contains all the sparkling wit and humour I’ve come to expect from this author but there is also a depth of maturity in her writing which is more evident in this story. Overall, I’d recommend Cover Me as a great, entertaining short read with interesting characters.