Title: Controlled Burn
Author: Erin McLellan
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: August 14, 2017
Page Count: 309
Reviewed by: Gigi
Heat Level: 5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
At eighteen, Joel Smith’s life fell to pieces. His boyfriend died in a car crash while reading a sext from him, the local newspaper outed them both in the aftermath, and his parents got a divorce. Joel did everything possible to outrun his past: he moved to Oklahoma for college, legally changed his name, and started over.
Since then, he hasn’t let anyone get close—not his classmates, not his roommate, and definitely not his hookups. The strategy has served him well for over three years. Why would he change it now?
But Joel doesn’t plan on the articles about his boyfriend’s death being used as a case study in one of his classes. And he doesn’t plan on Paulie McPherson, who is sweet and giving and fun. In Paulie, he finds a home for the first time in years.
But love isn’t simple, and lies have a tendency to get in the way. Joel must figure out if he’ll allow his grief to rule him, or if his connection with Paulie is worth letting all of his walls come tumbling down.
This book has some heavy angst but I think it’s important for readers to know that I am going through my own personal angst right now. My husband was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer so I pretty much cry at the drop of a hat. My definition of angst may be quite different from yours.
Joel is a 21 year-old man whose emotional growth is stunted. He is still living as a teenager, unable to properly grieve the loss of his high school boyfriend. He is lovely and wonderful, but an absolute mess.
Paulie starts off as the emotionally mature 23 year-old. Witty, happy, a great friend, free with his sexuality and his stereotypical femme behavior. You will fall in love with him, I have no doubt.
When these men meet, they begin as friends, which is already a big win for me. They bonded before jumping into bed which made their first sex scene outrageously hot and romantic. Dirty talk and romance? Bonus!
As Joel grows and realizes he needs to let the ghost of his boyfriend go, Paulie gets a turn to be an emotional mess. Here is where the angst comes into play. I ugly cried. I had to read the last 25% of the book with my glasses off because I kept getting them wet. I had a cry-headache for several hours. But every tear was worth the romantic payoff at the end.
Controlled Burn ended with a HFN, but that is very exciting news. Joel and Paulie’s friend Travis will HOPEFULLY get his own book. (Travis is a big, beefy power bottom who likes spankings and has his eye on a ginger cowboy. Yay!) And if he does get his own book, we are sure to see these boys again.
I really loved this book. The sex was hot, the talk was dirty, the emotions heartfelt and the boys delightful. I can highly recommend it to my fellow M/M romance friends.