Title: Force of Nature
Series: Coming About, #4
Author: J.K. Hogan
Publisher: Euphoria Press (self)
Release Date: 7/4/17
Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex
Length: 80,000 words
Genre: Romance, contemporary, adventure
Harbor Patrol officer Neal Hesse has had his life turned upside down by a sudden break-up with his partner of ten years. After sleeping his way through Seattle failed to take his mind off his broken heart, he decides to take a leave of absence from work to find himself again. He hires a professional wilderness guide to take him up into the mountains, so he can get away from everything and live off the grid for a few days.
Travis “Rock” McCreary, ex-Army Ranger turned survivalist, hates doing guided excursions, but it’s his primary source of income while he’s working towards getting his own survival show. Working in such a testosterone-fueled profession has forced him so deep into the closet, he feels like he might never see the light of day again, which makes it even harder to put on a friendly face for his happy, normal clients.
When Rock is hired by clumsy city-boy Neal to take him up into the North Cascades for a survival adventure, his patience and his resolve are tested at every turn. He has to teach Neal to survive in the wilderness while fighting an attraction he can’t allow himself to act on. When their trip doesn’t go as planned, Neal’s getaway turns into a true survival situation, and he and Rock are forced to rely on each other to stay alive. If they make it out of the wilderness, can their newfound connection survive in the real world?
On hands and knees, Rock had wedged himself into the back of the alcove between Neal and the stone wall. It was a tight squeeze to fit on the palette together, but they’d lose less warmth that way. He anticipated it wouldn’t get too cold unless the rain clouds broke, but it was better to be safe.
He wrapped his arms around Neal, spooning up behind him as they’d done before, both of them understanding the necessity of it. But because the nature of their…arrangement had changed, he started noticing things. The softness of Neal’s hair tickling his cheek. His sharp, woodsy scent, a mixture of sweat, crisp water, and pine. Hard-packed muscle pressed up against Rock’s chest. A perfectly formed, round ass nestled against…other areas. Rock had to bite his lip hard to keep from getting an erection. That would definitely bring Neal’s attention back to the questions he wanted to ask, and Rock was too tired to talk to Neal about his sexuality tonight. Wait. Did he want to tell Neal he was gay? Could he really trust this man to understand and not judge him for his choices?
“What is it?” Neal said on a sigh.
“You were kind of grumbling to yourself.”
“I was?” Rock was surprised; he hadn’t even noticed. “It’s nothing. Just some stuff on my mind. Nothing to worry about. Go back to sleep.”
“Wasn’t asleep. Can’t. Too early.”
Uh huh. The guy sounded about three seconds from passing out. But then, days out on the trail could do that to you. It could make a person feel so vigorous and alive, they couldn’t possibly settle down to sleep, especially on the ground. Then their body realizes how battered and exhausted it is and just shuts down.
Neal was fighting it valiantly, though.
“I’m tired, but not that tired. Seriously, Travis, we need to talk. You can start with the nickname thing. Why does me calling you Travis get you hard enough to pound nails?”
Rock sighed. It looked like he wasn’t going to be able to avoid a personal conversation. Damn, but Neal was tenacious. “I guess it’s because my friends gave me the nickname before all my YouTube videos and shit, before I was semi-famous. But somehow it carried over once all that started happening, people picked it up, and Rena advised me to roll with it because it was kind of like a brand. The more ironclad my brand was, the better I’d look to a network when I tried to get my own show. Sometimes…I just miss being plain old Travis. So when you call me that…it’s like you see me. I get to be him again, with you. Only with you.”
Neal looked over his shoulder at Rock, his expression unreadable. But just as quickly, it cleared, and he licked his lips suggestively. “There’s nothing plain about Travis.”
Rock snorted. “You’re ridiculous.”
“I’ve heard that once or twice.” He faced away from Rock again, and his breathing slowed. Rock thought he might’ve gone to sleep, but then he spoke again. “So, seriously. I need some answers. Are you gay? Bi? Taking a walk on the gay side to escape a boring sex life with your girlfriend? What? I mean, all those digs about me being gay, but then I lose my temper and freak out on you…and the way you take my cock…” Neal broke off and shuddered. “What’s the deal?”
Sighing, Rock rubbed his face in Neal’s short hair, absorbing the unabashedly male scent of him. “I’m gay. Always known it. It’s just not something I talk about. Ever. I didn’t ask to be this way. I just wanted a simple life, where I did what I was supposed to do and got the things that I needed. I didn’t ask to be different. I didn’t ask to have these urges. But the one thing I can do is control them.”
“Control them? Like it’s a symptom of some incurable disease. And that’s a life for you? That makes you happy?” Neal asked. There was no judgment in his voice, just bewilderment.
“Being out here in the wild makes me happy. It’s why I do what I do. Everything else, well, it just is what it is, I guess.”
“That’s…really sad,” Neal said.
He was completely sincere. He wasn’t looking down on Rock, he honestly felt bad for him—not that Rock wanted his pity, but it was better than condemnation.
“Wouldn’t it be so much better if you could just…” Neal began, “be who you are and not…not worry about being different? Like, who the fuck even cares, and if they do, why the fuck do we care about them?”
“I don’t live in that world, Neal.”
“There’s only one world, Travis.” There was a bit of a bite to his tone. “It’s the only one we got, make of it what you will. So you might as well do what you want because life’s too damn short.”
“You wouldn’t understand,” Rock said in a gruff voice.
“The hell I wouldn’t.”
“I was in the military during DADT,” Rock explained. “And now… Now I’m in an industry full of good ol’ boys and redneck heroes. They’re not going to watch a show where some homo tries to teach them how to survive!”
“You think I don’t know what it’s like to be in a homophobic, straight-dominated profession?” Neal’s voice was incredulous. “I’m a cop, Travis.”
Well, he did have a point. Still, Rock had one too, and he couldn’t concede this one. “Yeah, in Seattle. You could be in, like, Alabama or something.”
“Seattle is very progressive and largely gay-friendly, I’ll give you that. But the police force isn’t, regardless of what you might think. I’m only recently out at work—and I only came out in support of Bennett, who was seen with his boyfriend by some fellow officers—and it has not been all roses and rainbows, let me tell you.”
Rock went immediately into defense mode. “Somebody’s giving you trouble?” he growled.
Neal just laughed it off. “Down boy! Although that growly thing…very hot. I’m usually a total top, but you could convince me to do all kinds of things with that voice.”
And just like that, the conversation was totally derailed. It moved on to more lighthearted topics, like Neal’s sister graduating college and his friends getting married. Rock knew he hadn’t heard the last of the “so what if you’re gay” discussion, but he was glad to have a temporary reprieve.
Rock smiled against Neal’s hair during a brief lull in the chat. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d enjoyed talking to someone this much. Intending to tell Neal as much, he leaned over but realized he was passed out cold…well, sleeping. He was dead to the world. Rock couldn’t blame him. It had been a long day of difficult hiking and a long evening of strenuous fucking—something he tried not to think too much about, because if he got hard now, he’d never get to sleep.
Even as he had the thought, he was overtaken by a huge yawn. With a sigh, Rock curled up against Neal’s back, absorbing the heat from his big body, cocooned inside their little stone shelter. His last thought before he drifted off was, as trail beds went, it wasn’t that far off from perfect.
|There are things I really enjoyed in this book and things that I didn't. |
First off, that cover and that blurb will really suck you in.
I highly enjoyed the adventure aspect of this book. Neal's life was a bit turned upside down after his partner of 10 years decided to move across the country. Being surrounded by his friends who were so happy (not that he wasn't happy for them) just made him feel even more bad about himself and his situation. He decides to take a guided wilderness tour in the Cascades.
I think the author did a great job describing everything about the tour. The scenery, the drop-in, the gear and terminology, it all felt legit. I also liked how she broke the chapters up in sections as to where they were.. The twists and turns that happen to both characters will have you on the edge of your seat.
Things went downhill for me after Neal had "come out" and thought Rock was emasculating him. Neal kind of snaps and sort of forced himself on Rock. The fact that Rock is a beefy dude and could have stopped it at any time, and also seemed to be into the "forcefulness", is what kept me going. I just felt it seemed over the top to break down like that. I also didn't feel any real chemistry between these two, even though they were constantly at each other whenever they stopped for breaks, etc...
(which I did end up skipping over a few scenes)
I loved Rock's grumpy ass as the wilderness guide and the fact that Neal was kind of a clutz on land. But together, I wasn't really feeling them. I almost kind of wished this hadn't been a romance and stayed on the lines of an epic adventure, because that part as done so well.
I like where Rock ended up in his career as well. He stayed true to himself while still doing what he loves to do. He still kept his YouTube fans and then some, and not having to play puppet for some Network while staying shoved in the closet.
Meet the Author
J.K. Hogan has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, magic happened. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her stories as she writes them. J.K. is hoping to one day have a little something for everyone, so she’s branched out from m/f paranormal romance and added m/m contemporary romance. Who knows what’s next?
J.K. resides in North Carolina, where she was born and raised. A true southern girl at heart, she lives in the country with her husband and two sons, a cat, and two champion agility dogs. If she isn’t on the agility field, J.K. can often be found chasing waterfalls in the mountains with her husband, or down in front at a blues concert. In addition to writing, she enjoys training and competing in dog sports, spending time with her large southern family, camping, boating and, of course, reading! For more information, please visit www.jkhogan.com.
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