Title: All Stirred Up
Author: Z.A. Maxfield
Publisher: Maxfield Publishing
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: contemporary m/m romance
Length: Novel (173 pdf pages, 46 k words)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 Stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A hotheaded CEO who suffers from PTSD and an easygoing, sharp-as-a-tack psychiatrist find themselves thrown together on a life-altering road trip to themselves and each other.
The Blurb: After Brendan and his mother witness a completely random tragedy, his carefully controlled life begins to fall apart. First he has nightmares and panic attacks, then he loses focus in his daily life. His board of directors insists he undergo rehab at a so-called “relaxation destination” and to make matters worse, they’ve hired newly minted psychiatrist, Dr. Dirk Melovitch, to accompany him.
Dirk, whose job it is to help Brendan learn to relax, walks into the lobby of Brendan’s hotel wearing a borrowed suit with an attitude that rubs Brendan the wrong way from the moment they meet. They head for the airport and their carefully planned itinerary goes out the window, one small setback at a time.
From the airports of New York and Dallas, to the long, lonely highways of Texas and an upscale rehab destination in Santa Fe, Brendan and Dirk each try to gain the upper hand until both find out that it’s not just life that can get a guy All Stirred Up.
The Stirring Series
The Review: Brendan Blankenship visits a street fair with his mother Morgan, a famous actress, when an out of control SUV rushes right into the fair, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Although Brendan manages to save his mother’s life and comes off almost unscathed himself, he can’t forget the horrible pictures, sounds and smells he had to witness. He can’t sleep anymore, he drinks too much and loses touch with reality to a point where his board of directors threaten to take his voting rights away from him in order to save his company, B2 Bio Engeneering.
Shocked by their rude wakeup-call, Brendan finally agrees to go to a rehab center. The board of directors hire a psychiatrist as Brendan’s personal escort for the journey, which is how Dr. Dirk Melovitch comes into play. But the doctor couldn’t be more different from Brendan’s expectations. For one, Dr. Melovitch is young — he is twenty-eight, but doesn’t look old enough to legally buy beer, let alone have all those certificates his references indicate. For another, the psychiatrist is hot — a nuclear fusion reactor, as far as Brendan is concerned. Sparks fly immediately between them, and it doesn’t take long for them to act out on the feeling with a handjob in the airport bathroom. After wards, Dr. Melovitch immediately rescinds Brendan as his patient. However, Dirk has still to get Brendan to their destination, a high-end rehab resort in New Mexico, which makes them awkward travel companions — by car and road, eventually, since Dirk’s chivalry gets them thrown out of one plane and one of Brendan’s panic attacks keep them from boarding another.
During their journey, the awkwardness fades, first turning into comfortable companionship and then into far more as they realize they make a good match in more than merely sexual ways. As a result, they stumble from one slapstick number into the next, mostly because they can’t keep their hands off another. But when they finally arrive at Crystal Reflections, their destination, Brendan learns some disturbing details about Dirk which eventually make it necessary that Dirk leaves Brendan behind.
Alone in the peaceful resort and working with a new psychiatrist, Dr. Carey, Brendan learns to come to terms with his trauma and himself, and is dismissed, a healed and changed man. But before he leaves, he meets Dirk’s father, who gives him a speech about how he isn’t good for Dirk and will destroy his young beloved’s life if he attempts to meet him again. Brendan believes Dirk’s father and doesn’t make an effort to get back in touch with Dirk. It takes the intervention of Brendan’s twin brother Evan, and Evan’s lover Toby, to make Brendan use his own head and follow his heart. Question is now, will it be too late?
There was much to like about this story. For one, it was hilariously funny at times, full of little humorous details, from the hot fruit-on-fruit action, to the woman with the foghorn voice down to Dirk’s “Borat” act.
I also found the medical details well met. PTSD comes in different forms, and the one Brendan has, with the panic attacks, can be triggered by random incidents while the patient can appear otherwise quite functional. But I had problems with almost every doctor/ therapist Brendan was involved with, beginning with Dirk. Except for Dr. Carey, who was a wonderful new-age, old-hippie-soul lady, I couldn’t keep from shaking my head at the unprofessional way Brendan’s various therapists behaved. Bran, the chatty personal trainer? Dr. Senior, all but trying to deceive Brendan into not contacting Dirk again? Beyond unrealistic, especially for a supposedly upscale rehab center like Crystal Reflections.
The way Brendan meekly let himself be subdued by Dirk’s father didn’t fit his presumed character one little bit. He was brilliant during the first part of the book, witty, sharp, emotional and flawed — only to turn into quite the sap towards the end.
I could buy that Dirk, young and inexperienced as he is, would let himself get carried away when he answers Brendan’s insults by using the tools of his trade — intimate inquiries — to get back at him. And once Dirk realizes his feelings for Brendan are anything but neutral, he rescinds immediately; I could forgive his lack of professionalism since I had no substantial problems with his ethics. Still, in the light of a therapist/patient relationship some of their interactions in the beginning made me fear for Brendan’s mental sanity.
Despite those issues — which might not bother other readers — Dirk’s shift from Brendan’s therapist to his travel companion and friend/lover was done smoothly enough to be at least imaginable, if not overly realistic. I found that they made for a nice pairing. After all, there was chemistry between the two almost from the beginning, which in turn lead to several hot action.
This book is a spin off/sequel of Stirring up Trouble, reviewed by Wave here. Evan and Toby make several appearances here, which I liked since I’m their fan. However, I felt as if the misunderstanding/separation of Dirk and Brendan was mostly there in order to give Evan and Toby page time as they are crucial in getting our heroes back together.
The ending was again a bonus point for the book. I love Morgan, Brendan’s and Evan’s mother!
All in all, an entertaining read with two likeable main characters, a colorful supportive cast and a sweet and satisfying HEA. Recommended.