Matchstick Men (NeRdyWYRM’s Review)

review master
Title: Matchstick Men (A Hunter Dane Investigation #2)
Author: Adira August
Publisher: Red Deer Press
Release Date: June 22, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 275 pages
Reviewed by:
Heat Level: 5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

SEX, GAMES & MURDER ~ Want to play?
It was munch night at the most elite underground BDSM club in the Rockies. Relaxed and informal, highlighted by the weekly Matchstick Challenge game.

Detective Sergeant Hunter Dane, reigning champion, looked forward to a relaxing evening to start his 3 days off. A few beers on the deck. An interlude with a sweet sub. Stumping a challenger with a new puzzle. Home early for a decent night’s sleep.

Some people are SO deadly serious about their games.
Now Hunt has a fresh body and a new puzzle to solve in twenty-four hours if he wants to find a killer.

A 48k police procedural with a liberal dose of M/M hotness. Which means our fave full-metal Dom shows up to collect on Hunter’s offer of his … coffer. So to speak.

There are puzzles for the reader and mysteries to be solved. Based on characters introduced in the short story On His Knees. For adults.

It Would Take a Wind Tunnel To Cool Me Off Right Now

wind tunnel

Brows furrowed, my mouth drops open to speak … aaand snaps closed. Drops open … still got nothin’ … snaps closed. Rinse and repeat. I am speechless at how incomprehensibly white-hot these guys were together. If you think an author mentioning D/s play in a blurb or calling a spanking ‘BDSM’ is actually a good representation of BDSM, then you haven’t read this book or its prequel. HO-LY SHIT, this book is sizzling, scorching, walking on the sun hot!

I am intrigued by more than just the seemingly accurate depictions of the BDSM lifestyle. I say ‘seemingly’ because I have no real-life basis for comparison other than the fact that I have read books with really badly portrayed BDSM and my gut can tell the difference. Instinct and education tell me that what the author conveyed here fits the characters’ personalities and predilections, and was in line with how a BDSM relationship between the two men would play out in the real world if things were textbook, i.e., safe, consensual and satisfying to both parties physically and psychologically (as it’s intended to be).

I wanted in Cam’s head. So. Fucking. Bad. I needed a little light to scare away the doom and gloom. At the same time, I’m glad I didn’t get the lightness even though I still wanted Cam’s POV. I know, I’m contradicting myself again. That’s because Dane’s head was a really cold place to be, and it was an intense experience for me with my psychology background. I wanted more of Cam’s POV, but I have to admit Dane’s brain was a fascinating place to be even if I had a hard time connecting with his character.

Honestly, I think that was a calculated move on the author’s part. One of the underlying themes is, after all, Dane’s self-proclaimed inability or unwillingness to connect. Whether the author will ever tell us if there is anything specific causing that state of affairs with Dane or not, I don’t know, but I want to. I have a suspicion about what makes Dane tick; namely that he might be high-functioning autistic. At the very least, his character reads that way to a diagnostician, and it would explain a great deal. Follow along with me while I digress a bit in an attempt to explain my reasoning.

Dane’s inability to easily connect with people, the analytical and immersive way his mind works, the extreme intelligence, incisive observational skills, the puzzle solving, the compartmentalization, and the compulsion for extreme sensory stimulation concurrent with an equally extreme avoidance of emotions and feelings all suggest either sociopathy or autism. Since we know Dane feels, and sometimes feels so much it’s overwhelming, it’s not the former.

Those who fall on the autistic spectrum tend to engage more often in self-harming behaviors in an attempt to replace stimuli and pain they can’t control with stimuli and pain they can. It distracts from the ‘noise’ of the world around them and the rioting emotions inside. Sound like a certain character we know … with a twist?

When Dane gets overwhelmed, instead of self-harming like many autistic people do, his coping strategy (assuming for autism) allows for someone else to make him hurt while he remains in control of the who, the where, the how, and the how much. The pain Dane seeks through BDSM takes him out of his head and helps him get all those prickly, overwhelming and painful emotions under control again. Sound familiar?

The average person hands over control of their body, their physical responses, etc. and it’s cathartic but it’s a ‘scene’. A moment out of time and then real life resumes. The same is true of Dane and any of the other Doms or subs he’s been with, but it’s not that way with Cam. The fact that Dane can and does not only submit to Cam, but completely engage with him (even if it’s short-lived) is indescribably special. And that is exactly what makes their dynamic even more remarkable than what complete submission usually warrants.

If Hunter Dane is, in fact, autistic or something ‘other’, his complete submission to Cam goes beyond total trust and into zebra-striped unicorn territory. Dane thinks he allowed Cam to have his body, his ass, and vanilla sex (ha!). In reality, Dane handed over his heart and soul, he just doesn’t realize it yet. Neither one of them does.

Now, back to the point I was trying to make (waaaay back there) when I diverted to explain why what I’m going to say makes sense. Dane says he can’t connect with people in the ways that are expected (by ‘normal’ people was implied), and I think he truly believes that. Experience and observation have taught him, as smart as he is, that he is ‘separate’ from everyone else and that his actions/reactions are not the ‘norm’ and don’t fit in with what he sees other people doing around him.

However, Dane is also wrong about his ‘inability’ to connect. I think it’s safe(r) to say that Dane is an extremely complex person and he’s right that he can’t connect with just any and everyone, but wrong to assume/believe that he can connect with no one. Someone out there has all the myriad pieces needed to fit with that intensely interesting personality Hunter Dane carries around. An average person wouldn’t have those pieces. Lucky for Dane, Cam does.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be an uphill slog for Cam to convince Dane that a connection with him is something to be desired; that he needs an emotional connection and not just the physical constraints he puts on his emotions by confining his interactions to the BDSM scene, pain, and incidental sexual release. Dane’s not going to know what hit him until it’s too late. Thank the gods! What a bummer that we’ll have to wait to find out. In addition to being hot enough to melt the paint off my walls, this book also left us all in the lurch. Now that was a move I completely agree with. An HEA would have been laughable and an HFN would have been premature given Dane’s headspace.

So … I got more than what I expected out of this read, and any reader will get exactly what they deserve. Food for the brain and the libido. I, for one, appreciate that I got to read a fascinating story with an interesting plot, decent world-building (for any unfamiliar with BDSM), enigmatic and intriguing characters, freaking insanely wicked sex, a little murder and mayhem, some mystery and suspense, and an intense desire to find out what happens next.

I highly recommend this book to anyone in want of a really good story that will give you braingasms and orgasms. Of course, getting my greedy little eyes on some more hotter-than-hell scenes between Cam and Dane is … well, it’s essential. Sign me up for the next one right now. Thank the book gods, this title ended my slump. Finally!

UPDATE: 9/26

I meant to do this a few days after the review posted, but time got away from me. After I got over the book hangover and had a little distance to reflect, I realized this book deserved 5 stars, hands down. The initial 4-star rating was likely a function of the fact that I generally dislike unfinished business. In this case the unfinished business was a must, and I said as much in my review. However, I failed to compute properly in consideration of that. I don’t generally backslide, but the increase is appropriate and deserved in this case.

This review is cross-posted at Goodreads. Other reviews by NeRdyWYRM can be read here.

Hunter Dane Investigation Series

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Galley copy of Matchstick Men provided by Red Deer in exchange of an honest review.


I am a life-long reader and an avid learner. I remember reading books without pictures when I was about four, and raided every title on my parents' full and intimidating book shelves—well, the ones they would let me read, anyway—from then on. Characters written by authors like Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Raymond E. Feist, Mercedes Lackey, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, and Anne McCaffrey were my childhood playmates. Back then, I went nowhere unless I had a book in my hand. While the rest of my generation was shifting from cassettes to CDs and from Atari to Nintendo, Sega, and Playstation, I spent my allowance on Myth & Magic pewter figurines and on books at the Stars and Stripes bookstore. These days I don't have a book in my hand anymore, at least not the printed variety. Instead, it's any device with a Kindle app. I stubbornly held on to the printed page until a military move weighed my book collection in at over a ton. Oops. Sorry-not-sorry, but I did have to exercise some pragmatism in that area, unfortunately. Now I only buy hardbacks from my favorite authors, the classics, or long-running series. Otherwise, I've surrendered to the times and our weight allowance and have gone all digital. I stay strictly on the fiction side of the fence because non-fiction is generally too dry to hold my interest. I was always a scholar, and so have read enough textbook-like titles and required reading for school and college to last me a lifetime, thank you very much. So, non-fiction? No, thanks. However, barring non-fiction and biographies (ewww people), there's not much out there I won't read. I have loved romance novels since I was prepubescent. Something about historicals and anything with horses, i.e., Native American inspired romances just did it for me. My grandmother was appalled that my parents let me read that 'smut' as she called it. I'd already justified my position on being allowed to read those controversial titles with a logical argument that there were a lot of historical facts in those books that couldn't be learned in the classroom alone. And to this day, I maintain that stance. I have learned more from books, specifically romance and fantasy novels, than I ever did in a classroom. ~~wink-wink~~ My dad always said I was too smart for my own good. Looking back, he was probably right! I could logically talk my way into and out of just about anything. It's served me well, but caused me no end of problems, too. That said, despite my love for the romance genre in general and the m/m romance genre in particular, there is little chance that a decent book of any kind will fail to catch my interest, and there's nothing at all I'm unwilling to learn. So bring it on. I hope you enjoy my reviews.
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