Title: Loose Cannon (The Woodbury Boys #1)
Authors: Sidney Bell
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: April 3, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 327
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Released after five years in the system for assault, streetwise Edgar-Allen Church is ready to leave the past behind and finally look to his future. In need of a place to crash, he’s leaning on Miller Quinn. A patient, solidly masculine pillar of strength and support, Miller has always been there for him—except in the one way Church has wanted the most.
With his staunchly conservative upbringing, Miller has been playing it straight his whole life. Now with Church so close again, it’s getting harder to keep his denial intact. As they fumble their way back to friendship after so many years apart, Miller struggles to find the courage to accept who he really is. What he has with Church could be more than desire—it could be love. But it could also mean trouble.
Church’s criminal connections are closing in on the both of them, and more than their hearts are at risk. This time, their very lives are on the line.
“Loose Cannon” is a friends-to-lovers tender romance, a suspenseful mystery featuring Russian mobsters, a story of redemption for the boy who spends five years in the system for an anger-fueled assault, a tale of a lapsed Catholic who struggles with his sexuality in the shadow of his father’s draconian religious views, and it introduces and intertwines the lives and loves of Church, Ghost and Tobias who meet in Woodbury, a juvenile offenders treatment center. Whew … that’s a lot of plot to cover here, but Sidney Bell pulls it all off and makes it appear effortless.
Miller and Church first meet when teenager Church breaks into Miller’s house. Rather than call the cops, Miller befriends Church, helping him survive an abusive home life. When Church ends up in juvy, he meets Tobias (“You think I ended up in Woodbury because my heart broke when the singing, animated birdies weren’t available one day to help me get dressed. Right?”) and Ghost (“delicate and ethereal, and surprisingly, terrifyingly young. He looked defenseless as a baby deer or a fairy princess.”) Tobias is a sweet guy but no one, and I mean NO ONE, fucks with Ghost.
When Church gets out of Woodbury, he needs a job and a safe place to live as conditions of his parole. Ghost calls in a favor and finds Church a job in a bakery (more about this later) and Miller once again opens his house to Church. Bell beautifully shows us the UST between the two, made more heart-rending because Miller thinks he’s straight. And by that I mean Miller’s uber-Catholic father convinced him that you love the sinner but hate the sin, and the sin of homosexuality meant burning in hell eternally:
“Their happiness now will cost them paradise, Miller. It’s tragic, but they’ll burn.” […] But he’d known then that he [Miller] could never tell his father about his realization, his certainty that no loving God would slap his children’s hands for taking an offered happiness.
Miller and Church have a deep connection, friendship and sexual chemistry to burn (and yeah, there’s some steamy sex scenes), but the beauty of their story is the way Bell leads Miller to finally connect with that “tiny perfect hum” inside and gives Church the strength to confront his anger and make amends for the damage it has caused.
Oh, and that bakery job? The owner Matvey Krayev is a nice guy, but his brothers Vasily, Seryozha and Grisha are Bad News, and Mama Krayev is the baddest of them all. What does Mama Krayev want with Ghost and why is she willing to bargain with him? That’s an issue for the next books in the series, but I admire how Bell gives us the barest glimpse of Ghost’s past and tantalizes us with Tobias’ history and makes it all fit into Church’s story without seeming convoluted. I’m giving “Loose Cannons” 4.5 stars and can’t wait for the next book in the series.