The Gardeners (Jia’s review)

Title: The Gardeners (Those Who Dare #1)
Author: Brenda Cothern
Publisher: Wench Publishing
Release Date: September 13th 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 320
Reviewed by: Jia
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5


Growing up as part of the Mancini mob clan in Chicago was all Tony Bricker and Max Hixson ever knew since the time they were seven. They were trained by their uncle, the Don, of the Mancini family and he dubbed them his Gardeners.

They were more than just best friends, they were chosen brothers and not only loved their jobs as Mancini enforcers, but were damn good at it.
Until, Max changed everything three years ago. Their friendship shattered and Max fled to Michigan to do his uncle’s work. Now he’s been called back to Chicago and once more paired with his former best friend, chosen brother, and the one man he’d always loved.

Now, both men must address what happened between them three years ago in order to do the job only they can do: recover their cousin Val from the O’Reilly clan.

This book contains M/M sexual situations, extreme mobster violence, and references to sexual abuse. If this is a trigger for you, please do not read.

I thoroughly enjoyed Brick’s (Tony) and Hix’s (Max) interactions through the whole book, they are among my favourite characters so far this year. The author did a splendid job making me connect with and like the characters, to cheer for them even though their business is torturing people, and they do take pride in their work.

Hix was called back to work with Brick after three years of absence in order to get Uncle Anthony’s niece back. Brick feels betrayed by Hix and they don’t know if they can move past what happened three years ago. I really like how well they know and work with each other even after having been apart for three years. We didn’t get much presence of Uncle Anthony and he felt rather flat because of it, as well as I kept wondering if the man only had Brick and Hix working as enforcers for him. They felt kind of isolated since Uncle Anthony must have more working for him considering his area is rather large.

The niece, Valentina Russo, or Val, felt like a selfish princess who didn’t listen very well, with the blatant disregard she showed when they told her she had to obey. Except for being told how sweet and innocent she was, at least five years ago, by Brick and Hix, there was mostly anger from her side, which I can understand but I couldn’t connect with her because of her behaviour. Instead she merely annoyed me a lot. In the ending it was a lot of Val in everything Brick and Hix did except for the sexy times. I did feel the link between Brick, Hix and Val was a little weak considering the fact they only met a few summers since they lived in different countries and the last time they saw her she was sixteen. Still they see her as a sister. But of course it may only be me.

The Gardeners is written in third person narrative alternating between Brick and Hix. It’s easy to become a little confused since the perspectives change quite fast sometimes, but after I stumbled on the first quick perspective change and needed to reread, I got used to it.
I also got confused about the names of Tony and Anthony. Just be sure to remember Tony or Brick (real name Anthony) Bricker as well as Max, Hix, Hixson, and then there’s Uncle Anthony who’s the boss. There were repetitions in the text I could have done without and a few times there were explanations in the text which made me feel like I was a minor who needed the extra clarification.

I really liked the plot and the protagonists a lot. There’s both action and romance in a good combination, the torture the Gardeners inflict is rather explicit so be aware of the warning stated beneath the blurb.

The book leaves off with an exciting promise of more in Training for Revenge which I can’t wait to read.

Those Who Dare series

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Galley copy of The Gardeners provided by the author in exchange of an honest review.


Reading, to me, is as close to an addiction as one can come without crossing the line... completely. I read a lot, and many different genres. I'd love to hear if my reviews helped you, so feel free to comment :)