Unlike the previous installments in the series, this installment focuses on a different couple - Aaron and Duncan. We've met Aaron in the 3rd installment, he and Jory used to be in a serious relationship. Jory being Jory they stayed friends even though Aaron seemed to want much more from Jory. While in Phoenix in the 6th installment, Sam and Jory meet up with Duncan a Detective helping Sam on his case. Somehow Jory decides to try and match these two together. We don't get much of what happened with the two after their first night together, but from a phone call between Aaron and Jory - Aaron is more that interested which is something Jory haven't seen or heard of before from Aaron. I WAS curious with how things could work out between these two and so I"m happy I got this sort of "spin off" novel of them, not to mention though I LOVE Jory and Sam, the previous installment was too much family oriented for me so getting a couple - no kids included - was a nice break before the last installment of Jory and Sam in the 8th book (though there IS another short novella after which I'm assuming is the absolute last).
Aaron and Duncan have one thing in common - they are both in the closet and both consider staying there for the rest of their lives.. Duncan (our sole POV) being a detective enjoys his job even if he gets hurt A LOT, he doesn't want to be stuck in place (promotion-wise) due to his sexual orientation. He did have one serious relationship in the past but it ended right when his ex Nate decided enough is enough - he wants to live his life on the open, not hiding away. While Nate wasn't the love of Duncan's life he wasn't willing to give another relationship a go,exactly because he didn't see a way he can offer a true relationship to anyone. But seeing Jory and Sam together hurt, he wanted what they have SO BADLY. He had a horrible childhood, his job his only real solace but now he is craving something more - a partner. A true partner.
Jory's "bet" about Aaron paid off beautifully, Aaron have been lonely and bored out of his mind from everyone around him. He wanted Jory because he was different, but he also wanted too many things to change for them to work. He wanted someone who would get him, someone who appreciated him and not used him for his money but won't shy away from his lavish gifts as well. Aaron exudes power, and so he seems like someone who needs to control / dominate his partner and yet, he needed that the same way he wanted to be "handled" a bit himself, which was something that made Duncan so compatible with him. Duncan is rough around the edges, but he too wants sometimes to let everything go and let someone else take care of him. Their duality was a joy to see, especially the way it was forming, for both of them "letting go" was not something they're used to.
There are a lot of ups and downs in this book, mostly with the amount of action, yet it was balanced with the romance story perfectly. We start with Duncan after a guy who killed a kid (also connected to the drug cartel Sam was hunting) when this case is closed Duncan finds himself not only badly hurt but also alone. It seems being with Duncan is not something Aaron can do while being the public figure he is especially when his father is trying to throw him out of his managing position (due to his sexual orientation..). Yet they meet again when a case Duncan is working on (also drug related) brings him to Max (Aaron's brother) and so instead of getting help from Max, Aaron steps in and they play a little undercover together in a resort for the rich who likes to play with BDSM. While I"m not usually a fan, I liked seeing what happened between the two of them there, though I don't see them in the scene as regulars, it's obvious the whole idea of possession was something that spoke to them and yet they are still equal, their dominance keeps switching from one to the other.
Aaron is FUN, something I don't think Duncan used to be.. he lightens up Duncan and lavishes on him (though not THAT much), in return, Duncan gives Aaron what he always craved, a true partner, someone who sees past the money and power, who is his equal in everything that matters. He is not afraid of Aaron, well, maybe at the beginning the amount of cameras following him around DOES shake him up ;) but even that is addressed and works out sweetly in the end.
The work Equal and all the words that mean Strong are here in this review so much because in two words this is how I would describe these two. I loved the way Duncan and Aaron worked especially because they are who they are. In the end everyone wants to be loved, but for both of them, there are very little who can offer what they truly want.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Though it's a sort of a stand alone novel, I don't think it would be a good idea reading it as such because there are mentions of Jory and Sam and so there could be spoilers.. Also, this series is SUCH a favorite all I can say is - GRAB IT AND READ IT - from the beginning til end.
Additional Details: Kindle Ebook, 264 pages, 14 May 2016 / On GoodReads