Title: Block and Strike
Author: Kelly Jensen
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: 6th Jan, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary, Healing, Friends to lovers
Page Count : 266
Reviewed by: PIU
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Jacob Kendricks is three months out of prison, estranged from his daughter, and ready to get his life on track. Taking care of the bum curled up on his doorstep isn’t part of the plan. When he realizes the man has been assaulted, Jake takes him to the hospital, where he learns that Max is his downstairs neighbor… and that he could really use a friend. Keeping Max in the friend-zone would be easier if he wasn’t so damned cute.
Maxwell Wilson has been bullied for years, and the only person who ever cared lives too far away to come to his rescue. Now his upstairs neighbor is offering support. Max remains cautious, suspecting he is little more than a project for the handsome Jake. When he learns Jake has had boyfriends as well as girlfriends, Max has to reevaluate his priorities—and muster the courage to take a chance at love.
Just when a happy future is within their grasp, life knocks them back down. A devastating blow leaves Max lower than ever and Jake wrestling with regret. They both have to find the strength to stand on their own before they can stand together.
More than angsty, overtly emotional stories, I prefer healing/comfort stories and this book delivered on that front perfectly. Both the MCs were broken and suffering in their own way either physically or psychologically. Their pairing helps them in fixing their lives for the better. Both had demons which had ruled their lives in various degrees and their tentative friendship then romance helps them to overcome those and heal in the best possible way.
Jake Kendricks’ biggest enemy is his anger. It had landed him in trouble more times than he could count and his latest outburst lands him in jail for a year. Jake struggles to get his life back together while trying to steer clear of any kinds of trouble that can again cost him his freedom. One night when he finds a man dumped on his doorstep, Jake is reluctant to get involved. But when he sees that the man has been brutally beaten and left for dead, Jake does everything to help him.
Max Wilson has been a punching bag all his life. He has learned early on that fighting back will make his assailants beat him more so he has never resisted and stood up for himself. After one such meaningless beating which leaves him with a major concussion, a black eye and broken ribs, Max finds himself being cared for by his handsome neighbour with whom he has never spoken to. Jake cares for him and initiates a friendship which Max needed very badly. Max has always relied on himself to survive so he is not comfortable with Jake’s attempts to help and friendship. But after a few days of knowing each other, Max gradually starts to trust Jake and also develops a crush on him. But Jake is straight and Max is not sure if his friendship with Jake will survive if he ever reveals his feelings. But what Max doesn’t know is that Jake wants him too.
Jake and Max both had a lot of healing to do and very large demons to fight. Max have been bullied and beaten a lot that has scared him from coming out even when he is living independent of his bigoted father. He has never learned to stand up for himself and it has left him broken and battered emotionally and physically many times. Jake, on the other hand knows how to defend himself and those he loves. His stint in jail has ripped his lovely daughter from his life and he lives with that pain everyday. He is emotionally scarred as he struggles to accept his new life with the help of his loving family.
Both the characters were very raw and real. I sympathized with Jake’s reasons behind his actions which changes his life. I hated Kate for betraying him like that but the result was also necessary to help Jake realize that his fists are not always the answer and that he has an anger issue he needs to work on. He is a solid guy with a protective streak which made me love him completely. He looks out for Max from the start even when Max is reluctant of his friendship. He helps Max gain his self-confidence without being too overbearing. I loved his patience and how he gently but firmly eases himself in Max’s trust circle.
Max is fragile but only physically. Emotionally he is a lion with a spine of steel. He has always been a victim of hatred and due to his asshole father; Max has been conditioned to never standing up for himself and hiding his true self. But he had a fiery will burning behind his frail outer shell. He stands up and faces the world again and again after he is beaten and broken. Jake helps Max in building his much needed confidence and the outcome is stellar. Max struggles but he is a changed individual with a lover, family, friends and a confident self at the end.
The romance is slow-burn which suited this story beautifully. Max does not trust easy so the slow but steady development of his friendship and then romance with Jake was very real and believable. Both wanted more than friendship but they did not want to rock the boat and ruin it all. Jake thinks Max is straight whereas Max thinks the same of Jake. This leads to some delicious, slow-burn anticipation which stokes the fires of the MC’s already heated chemistry.
The ending was perfect. Max’s confession amidst friends and family and a sky full of fireworks is movie worthy. I loved it. I loved Jake and Max’s journey to a sweet and bright future together. Jake’s family was awesome in every which way and I also loved how Jake gets his beloved daughter back in his life again. Everything slots into their right places perfectly at the end. I wanted an epilogue very badly which would have been an excellent addition (and I also wanted the bastards who hit Max to get their due which I feel was really necessary)
Overall, this book is very well-written with solid, believable characters you can connect with. It is emotional, healing with a very fitting HEA. I would definitely recommend this book!