Title: Double Blind (Special Delivery #2)
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance/Menage (m/m/m and m/m/m/m)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
A guest review by Lily
Summary review: A wonderfully written story of finding love at the most unexpected of times. Ethan thought his life was just about over and Randy never thought he’d find a love of his own. But when they meet all bets are off in this fast paced and entertaining story. Adding in a couple of best friends and lovers, a casino that’s seen better days and a possible mob connection all set in the exciting city of Vegas made this a must read story that I highly recommend.
Poker player and professional smartass Randy Jansen believes in fate but doesn’t let it rule his life. Whether he’s at the table or between the sheets, Randy always knows the odds, and he only plays the games he can win—until he meets Ethan Ellison. Ethan came to Las Vegas with a broken heart and shattered spirit, and when he sits down at the roulette table with his last five dollars, he means this to be one of his last acts on earth. But Randy ropes him into first one bet, and then another, and then another…. Pretty soon they’re playing poker on the Strip and having the time of their lives—and all this even before Randy gets Ethan into his bed.
But before Ethan can plot out a new course for his life, they’re drafted into the schemes of Randy’s former lover, a tricky gangster who needs a fall guy. To survive, Ethan will have to stop waiting on fate and start making his own luck, and Randy will have to face the demons of his past and accept that to win this round, he’s going to have to put up a big ante. It isn’t money going into the pot this time, either: it’s his heart, and Ethan’s too—because for better or for worse, the game of love has a double blind.
Read about Randy before he meets Ethan in Special Delivery.
Special Delivery Series
This story opens with Randy Jansen watching a man play and lose at the roulette table, over and over again. Watching the video feed with him is his boss Billy Herod and Billy’s godfather, Crabtree. Randy has a well known reputation for being able to read people and he makes a bet with Billy that he knows the man’s story. But within a bit of time after he meets Ethan Ellison, Randy is surprised to learn that he’s lost his bet and as they spend time together his fascination with down on his luck Ethan grows. Before the end of the night both men have surprised the other and their mutual attraction burns hot. After an intense scene in front of the fountains at the Bellagio Randy ends up taking Ethan home with him. Waking up early and heading out for breakfast supplies Randy is surprised when he gets home and finds that his best friends Mitch and Sam have arrived for an early visit.
At this point the story shifts and instead of the focus being solely on Randy and Ethan it now encompasses a mix of characters and relationships as they, along with Mitch and Sam, explore the complexities of friendships, sex with multiple partners and a bit of BDSM kink. Further adding to the mix are Billy and Crabtree and their connections to the mob. There are a few other characters introduced throughout the book that are also good additions to the story. The location of this story, the city of Las Vegas, is wonderfully portrayed and described throughout from the luxurious hotels and casinos to the shabby and more run down sections of the city. Another important part of the story is the game of poker. The author takes time to really show the details of the game and although at times it felt like too much information it nevertheless worked well and was for the most part interesting.
But ultimately it’s the characters that drive this wonderful story. Randy and Ethan are complex and well drawn, opposites in many ways yet they fit together very well. Mitch and Sam, married for two years now, are still very much in love and I really enjoyed their presence in this story. It was wonderful to see how they’ve grown as a couple while still maintaining their relationship with Randy. While I wasn’t too taken with Randy in Special Delivery I really came to love him in this story. The subplot of Sam needing to deal with the loss of his mother years ago and having Randy also benefit from that was nicely done. All four men are flawed in some way, these are not perfect characters at all, and their struggles as they try to get a handle on themselves and their varied relationships was very well written. Aside from a deep friendship Randy, Mitch and Sam also share an ongoing sexual relationship with each other that quickly includes Ethan. There are quite a few menage scenes in the story and they are very hot just as the scenes between Randy and Ethan alone are hot. I did feel at times that the fluidity of the sexual relationships between the four men was a bit unbelievable yet once again it works well within the story.
There are other subplots to the story as well including Ethan’s involvement with Crabtree and Billy’s casino. There is intrigue, suspense and a bit of mystery also. Another fun part of the story focuses on a big event Ethan is planning for the casino. This book has so much going for it and will grab you from page one and not let go. With a mix of great characters and interesting relationships, the wonders of Vegas and the draw of poker as well as the ups and downs of falling in love, this is a story that kept me engaged throughout.
Overall I really enjoyed reading this story but I did have a couple of small issues. My main one is with Ethan. From a down on his luck, ready to end it all man he quickly morphs into a high powered casino executive and a pretty good poker player. He goes from being a man totally in love and really suffering after the end of a long term relationship, which by the way when I read the particulars I didn’t like at all, to quickly falling for someone new and being quite comfortable having sex with that man and his married friends. Added to that is that when his age is revealed it frankly threw me for a loop as I had pictured him to be much younger. I was very surprised with that revelation. Also the passage of time was a bit confusing at times. There is a lot going on in this story and at times it read as if a lot more time had passed than what actually did. A couple of times when time is mentioned it surprised me. That said however these things didn’t take too much away from my enjoyment of the story and may not affect other readers the same.
Double Blind is a very well written book and one that ultimately I really enjoyed reading. The plot is intriguing and exciting, it’s fast paced and has many different subplots that all worked well within the main storyline. The characters are well developed and three dimensional and the relationships explored throughout, whether Randy and Ethan’s, Mitch and Sam’s or the one they all shared together, really drew me in and kept my attention throughout the book. This can be read as a stand alone book but will be better appreciated if read after Special Delivery. I highly recommend Double Blind and look forward to reading more stories by Heidi Cullinan.