Series: Saints of Denver #0.5
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
We all need a hero...let the Saints of Denver begin
Orlando Frederick knows what it is to be leveled by pain. Instead of focusing on his own, he’s made it his mission to help others: sports stars, wounded war vets, survivors of all kinds. But when Dom, a rugged, damaged, sinfully attractive cop, makes his way into Lando’s physical therapy practice, he might be the biggest challenge yet. Lando loved one stubborn man before and barely survived the fallout. He’s not sure he can do it again.
Dominic Voss is a protector. The police badge he wears is not only his job, it’s his identity, so when he’s sidelined because of an injury, the only thing he cares about is getting back on the force. He expects Lando to mend his body, he just doesn’t realize the trainer will also have him working toward a hell of a lot more. As attraction simmers and flares, Dom sees that Lando needs repair of his own...if only the man will let him close enough to mend what's broken.
I have been waiting for Orlando and Dom’s story! Really, I’ve been waiting for Orlando’s story since I found out about him in Rule and more so after he devastated me in Rome. Then once Dom was introduced in Asa, my fantasy of their HEA took flight. Though Lando’s story was a significant one, he was always a very minor background character, and since I never heard any mention of a book for him in the blogosphere, I never expected his story. Also, since his creator is traditionally published, and well, the number of trad published m/m romances is pretty low, I accepted that my fantasy of this love story would remain just that. So you can imagine how stoked I was when Jay Crownover surprised her fans with the news of Leveled a few weeks ago. There’s no way I wasn’t going to read this!
“The instant I laid eyes on the big, brooding cop, it was like a full body assault. There was nothing easy or comfortable about it.”
Leveled was the love story of Orlando Frederick and Dominic Voss. They met when Dominic sought out Orlando, a renowned physical therapist, to help him recover the physical strength he lost after suffering devastating injuries on the job. In true Crownover style, the chemistry between these two was immediate, and their first scene was filled with the kind of sexually tension that made me keep turning the pages. Dom was game for acting on that chemistry, but Lando was skittish – hesitant because of professional reasons, and terrified for personal ones. Orlando hadn’t felt such an intense pull toward another man since his first love, and after the emotional battle he endured to recover from that heartbreak, he wasn’t quick to act on anything that might become something deeper.
“There was nothing subtle or hidden about Dominic Voss and that forthrightness was irresistible and a balm to the hidden parts of me that were just as broken as his body was.”
This novella packed some potent emotions. I loved seeing Dom and Lando work through their personal struggles, and fight to embrace the hope of a future together. I can’t say that the book will have the same emotional impact for someone who hasn’t read the Marked Men series though. Dom and Lando’s backstories are covered in Leveled, but as this is a short book, I tried to imagine what it would feel like if I’d just been introduced to them, and I don’t know if I’d have been as invested in their story. So I mention the emotions it evoked with that caveat.
Along with the emotional stuff, there was plenty of sexy thrown in. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I like Jay Crowover’s style of romance. It just felt natural. The characters were realistic and her story just flowed, with the right balance of clever dialogue and meaningful introspection. Her stuff went down very smoothly.
Leveled was a great love story, exactly what I wanted for these two characters. Also, I loved catching up with old characters, and getting a small peek into the lives of future ones. I do wish this had been a full-length novel, because, well I always prefer those, but also because I’d have loved more development of Dom and Lando’s pasts as well as more insight into both their psyches. Regardless, I still recommend this to readers who crave sweet love stories and are willing to fall for characters that are a bit different than the ones we’re used to, but just as lovable and inspiring.
P.S. I really wish this book had a different title. I kept singing the Nick Jonas song in my head every time I read the title.