Up front, let me say that I loved the premise of this book, I loved the two main characters, and the story. On a superficial level, I also loved the cover. The character development was strong enough for me to get a true sense of each of the main characters, as well as the secondary ones. The pacing was good, enough angst to make me want to click to the next page on my Kindle.
All that should give this book a 4 or 5 star rating but I couldn't do that.
The editing in this book didn't do the author or the story, any favors. I've been there, I know how it feels. An editor should have caught and requested changes on many of the following. Sadly, it is the author's name on a book where the editor has failed to properly edit. That doesn't release the author completely from responsibility, however.
Sticking points for me:
While the sex scenes were hot, they were way overlong and largely repetitive. Page after page of every movement, every gesture, every thought (people don't think that much in throes of passion.) They were cumbersome and gave a good story too much drag. I skimmed over the last three or four completely. Also, the afterglow conversations were, many times, author intrusion, in that the dialogue was unrealistic. Zane - "I followed you into the abyss."
A pet peeve of mine is LONG paragraphs, with dialogue buried within. That situation is abundant throughout. It tends to make the reader skim over them to find the dialogue.
Anyone who knows me, knows I love exposition, but I've seen the light. The above pet peeve was littered with loooong bits of exposition that explained everything in excruciating detail, which was then repeated several times in other places. Too much telling throughout the book, and not enough showing.
The use of euphemisms - channel, alternately ass channel, chute, tunnel, passage, hole, grew old quickly, especially when they flamed, fluttered, flickered, pulsed, shivered, and at two different points, Noah's channel collapsed, which struck me as terribly painful and worthy of ending the session and rushing off to the ER.
Then we had "Knifed his shaft into Zane," "Speared into Zane," "Raw moves sliced through Zane," "Pierced his way into him." These visuals aren't pretty. Dramatic, arguably melodramatic, but not something for a romance novel.
More euphemisms for penis, beyond the usual unfortunate choices - pole, club, shaft, rod. I suppose you could call me a purist, and in and of itself, these aren't terrible, but the cumulative effect forces me to include them. Vein-engorged cock struck me funny. A cock has veins, which are engorged with blood, but a cock isn't engorged with veins.
Do guys really rake, comb (with fingers), brush (with fingers), tunnel fingers, slide fingers, push fingers through their hair, constantly? I've lived a few years, and I've never known any guy to do any of the above, ever. Comb and spray or gel, then keep your hands away from the hair. This affectation is used in romance novels too much and strikes me as unrealistic, unless of course, I don't know guys who like to be unkempt.
The jerky movements of the characters stood out simply by their overuse. Crushed, slammed, punched, dived (dove would have been a better word for flow purposes,)jumped, jerked, etc. At times it seemed like an effort to stand up as they propelled themselves into each other.
Does anyone really "slap his hand" over the mouth of his companion when he doesn't want them to say something? This occurred several times.
Do guys bite their lips or stick out their tongues at someone?
The "banding of tightness in the chest" was overused, as was "lines mapping his face." Phrases like this stand out and because they do, should only be used once per book.
"Eyes, a haze of espresso desire." I understand it, but at first blush, it sounded like, in the middle of lovemaking, he wanted coffee. Not the author's intent.
Also, "The flint in his eyes." Now that's painful! I know Ms. Dane meant a flinty look, but a flint is something tangible - A very hard, fine-grained quartz that sparks when struck with steel. Perhaps different phrasing wouldn't have made the sentence stand out as an impossibility.
Other food references - Mushroom head, espresso colored eyes, black coffee stare, chocolate stare.
Each time the oral sex was over, one or the other of them "spit out his cock." Again not a great visual. And although kneeled is a good word, it's clunky. Knelt would have served better.
"Slashing his lips against Zane's." "Slanting his lips against Noah's." Again, the visuals don't say romance to me.
Guy's hair shouldn't be referred to as tresses (long lock or ringlet of hair) or locks for that matter, which is a long length or curl of hair. Neither guy had long, curly hair and tress and lock are decidedly feminine words.
With the quality of the story, singularly, none is terrible. However, they were because of the grievous repetition.
I've never read Ms. Dane before, but I likely will again. This series, no. I didn't care for Sirus or Gray, who made appearances in this story. They appeared self-centered and childish.
As I said, I loved Janice, Matt, Seth, Duncan, Hailey, and certainly loved Noah and Zane. The requisite villains were villainy, but not over the top. The portrayal of Noah's parents, particularly his father, was touching. Hoyt's questions were realistic and understandable, and while you wanted him to understand his son, the reader could readily understand why he didn't. Noah was understandably flummoxed as to how to explain to Hoyt, and I thought that scene was amazing.
Again, word choice matters. Editing matters. Giving the reader a visual they can understand matters.