A guest review by Jenre
A great character based, romantic suspense which follows an ex-mercenary who finds that his gardener pushes all his kink buttons.
Karl Blake’s good at a lot of things: killing bad guys, rescuing hostages…and looting priceless diamonds, but when a bullet ends his career as a mercenary he discovers that he’s really bad at living in a huge house with nothing to do. A shy, oddly sexy gardener with an unexpected liking for rough sex seems just what the doctor ordered for his boredom. But Adam’s got secrets that make Karl’s seem mundane, and if the two of them are going to find a future together, there’s a lot more to deal with than dandelions in the lawn.
With the past and the present combining to push them apart, betrayal, hurt, and mistrust around every corner, the two of them need to focus less on labels and more on what they are to each other.
Because a rose by any other name…
Before I begin, I just want to point out that there is a sort of spoiler to do with the first part of the book in this review. The reveal happens so early on (p27), and the rest of the book is so dependent on it, that I can’t avoid it in this review. If you are going to read this book and really don’t want to know, then I suggest you stop reading here. Otherwise carry on!
Karl is a ex-mercenary, forced to retire at 37 due to a bullet in the leg. After selling his company to what turns out to be a ruthless colleague, Karl settles into his new life cushioned by the profits from looted diamonds. Aiden is an undercover FBI agent sent to find out whether Karl still has connections to his former unit, now gone rogue under the new owner. Part of his job is to gain Karl’s trust through seduction, something that Aiden feels uncomfortable about, especially because he is in a relationship with another man, Scott. Aiden tries desperately to divorce his work from his home life, but when it turns out that Karl can give him what Scott cannot – rough demanding sex – Aiden is torn between his duty to Scott and their dull sex life or the new, exciting relationship he is finding with Karl. Added to that is the fact that Karl thinks that Aiden is Adam, his shy and sweet new gardener and Aiden is looking at a whole heap of lies and trouble.
Those of you who cannot tolerate infidelity in their books have probably already stopped reading. The first part of the book does involve Aiden ‘cheating’ on Scott, his doctor lover. I didn’t mind this because it was obviously part of his job, plus it also caused a fair amount of anguish in Aiden. Another reason why it didn’t bother me was because it isn’t long before it becomes obvious that Aiden and Scott are not suited to each other. Aiden is an engaging hero, he’s young enough within the bureau that he’s still a bit green and willing to put himself forward, but he’s also got enough experience to be a convincing actor in his role as Adam. I liked the way that the authors showed the switch in Aiden as he adopted his role, and also how ‘Adam’ can still be seen later in the book once he becomes Aiden again. I wasn’t sure at first whether I would like Karl. There’s a brashness about him which I found quite abrasive at first. His former occupation also isn’t the most sympathetic, nor is that fact that he has skirted the edges of what is lawful. Having said that, after a while I did find myself warming to him. I think it helped that he wasn’t infallible, both by being fooled by ‘Adam’ and physically with his healing leg wound; and that generally he’s got a sense of what is morally right, even if he turns a blind eye to illegalities. Karl also has a delightful dry sense of humour and to my surprise I began to enjoy the parts from Karl’s point of view more than I did Aiden’s. The two men complemented each other, and not just sexually, as both men find what they need in the other – in Karl’s case something to focus on and take away his boredom, and in the case of Aiden an opening up to a new way of life. The book worked at its best when the focus was on the two heroes, their blossoming relationship, and the fall out from all the lies that build as the book progresses. I enjoyed following this relationship, the surprise that both men feel about how well they get on, and how compatible they are sexually, and felt that the romance was the strongest part of the book.
Towards the end of the book, the plot moves away from focusing on the two men and Aiden’s growing discomfort about Scott into a more action based suspense plot. Whilst this still worked, I did feel that the last part of the book dragged a little as other characters are brought in. The final action piece was exciting but didn’t quite fit with what had been quite an emotionally intense, rather than action, book up to that point. This is only a minor niggle though, and I expect that some readers will like that the plot widened out from being focused just on the heroes, as it did provide a variety of setting and allow Aiden and Karl to see each other with the blinkers off.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed Truthful Change. I like books which focus on character development and there was certainly a lot of that in this book. The sex scenes are a little rough in nature, but as that is the whole point of Karl and Aiden’s sexual relationship, then I felt that worked, especially as the way they explore that side of their sexual kinks was an interesting and unusual concept. If you’re not bothered by infidelity, or characters who spend time lying to each other, and you like strong, but fallible, characters and engaging plots then this book is for you.