Title: Desires' Guardian
Author: Tempeste O’Riley
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4.5/5 Smooches
Desires Entwined: Book Two
Most people see Chase Manning as the party-boy twink he seems on the surface. Only James, Chase's BFF, knows the depth of his loyalty and the extent of the wounds Chase carries inside. When Chase meets Rhys Sayer, things don’t go well, but he can’t shake his attraction to the huge, sexy man.
Rhys is a man of contradictions and fear—a strange combination for a PI and bodyguard. He's in a bad place emotionally when he sets eyes on Chase for the first time. When Chase puts the moves on him, Rhys insults him, thwarting any possibility of a relationship. Rhys doesn’t see himself as a complicated man, but he dreads the very kind of connection he desires.
Just as they’re trying to overcome their uncertainties, Chase is put in harm’s way. Luckily Rhys and their friends have all the right talents to help Rhys save the man of his dreams.
When readers see Chase Manning in chapter one of Desires' Guardian, they meet a hung over party boy. But the fact that he literally jumps out of bed to go meet his best friend, James, for lunch, gives an insight into his character. Chase is the poster boy for the phrase "don’t judge a book by its cover".
Desires' Guardian is the second book in the Desires Entwined series, and this book is more detailed and the characters more developed than the first book in the series. Although this book could be read as a standalone, it is more engaging if it is read after Designs of Desire. Reading the books in order provides a depth to the plot and characters that would be missed otherwise.
In the first book of the series, readers meet James and his best friend Chase. Although the first book concentrates on James and his budding relationship with Seth Burns, Chase plays a prominent role. Author Tempeste O’Riley does a great job developing Chase’s character. He is multidimensional. On the one hand, he is a bit of a bull dog when it comes to James, but he is vulnerable in many ways, which are explored throughout the pages of this book.
In Designs of Desire, O’Riley established the close bond between James and Chase. In addition to being James’ best friend, Chase has become a protector, mentor and, occasionally, caregiver. Chase knows the abuse his best friend has endured. And, in Desires' Guardian, O’Riley reveals that Chase has his secrets, too. The painting James does of Chase at the beginning of the novel depicts how James views his best friend, but Chase does not see himself that way, and it is clear that he projects a tough façade to avoid being hurt.
Chase’s attraction to Rhys Sayers is off-the-charts, but Chase refuses to get involved and becomes obnoxious around Rhys to avoid showing any vulnerability. Once readers meet Jonathan, Chase’s ex-boyfriend, Chase’s reluctance to get involved with Rhys, or anyone long term, becomes clear.
Chase turned the corner to pull up in front of Zarletti’s. A moment later, a motorcycle passed him. He paused a moment to take in the eye candy: the black and chrome Harley Softail and the tall, wide-shouldered man atop it. When he parked, he realized to whom the bike belonged and frowned, cursing his luck and his reaction.
There Rhys stood, peering at him from beside the motorcycle. Too bad the bike and those looks belong to such an ass hat. Since the man was staring at him so blatantly, Chase decided to return the favor. He took a moment to let his gaze wander from the man’s deep auburn hair and perfect five o’clock shadow to his delicious athletic build, wide shoulders, and the defined pecs his black T-shirt served to accentuate, not hide, even with the leather coat half covering him. Rhys was huge at close to six and a half feet. He continued his perusal down Rhys to his thick, muscled legs and his chunky black leather boots. Chase allowed himself a soft sigh. He took just as long on the return trip, making a true production of it. When his gaze finally landed on Rhys’s deep green eyes again, he smirked, turned, and made sure to put a little extra swish into his hips as he sauntered up the sidewalk to the front doors.
Rhys presents himself as tough, aloof and a bit menacing, but Seth describes Rhys as being a gentle giant. Rhys is clearly attracted to Chase, but the first time the two men meet, Rhys is rude and insulting, and Chase dismisses Rhys as an asshole.
Despite the fact that Rhys wants to keep his distance from Chase, his attraction is undeniable. Chase hits all of Rhys’s buttons, but Rhys has been burned before, and he is not eager to play with fire. Despite his better judgment, Rhys agrees to have Chase work for his PI company.
Rhys took his time parking and dismounting his motorcycle. He hoped to maintain his aloof demeanor, though God knew it was hard to do with Chase standing there waiting on him. Chase was dressed in a light blue button-down shirt with fine dusky blue vertical stripes that conformed to his lean and lithe chest and abs. On his slender hips hung a pair of low-rise black jeans that were faded on the thighs, ones he was certain Chase knew showed off his form well. His black leather belt had a twin, double buckle that matched the leather wrist cuff he always wore.
Rhys’s gaze flicked up to Chase’s face, and he looked into his eyes, mesmerized by the swirling colors framed by thick chestnut lashes. Chase’s eyes were one part blue and three parts green, with the most beautiful flecks of gold in them that seemed to follow the path of where one color merged into the other. He had never seen eyes with two distinct colors like Chase’s, much less with the intricate, almost lace-like patterns throughout the iris. Then he fixed on the silver hoop through the full, pouty bottom lip on the most beautiful, delicate, yet masculine face he had ever seen.
He broke from gazing at Chase with a slow blink, trying desperately to regain his self-control and professionalism.
O’Riley’s writing touches on realism as the two characters struggle with their attraction for each other despite the fact that both are wary of getting involved romantically. The fact that the men are stubborn and lack good communication skills is frustrating, but, again, very realistic.
Rhys lay sprawled across the top step of his back porch later that evening. He looked across the backyard of his house-slash-business, taking in all the little details he and Mark had put into the place. Most people never saw more than the front office, but the back was a lush area with paths, and plants and flowers when it was warm. Not right then, of course, thanks to the dry, cold weather, but he could still envision what it would look like again come spring.
The cold beer in his hand was probably warmer than the outside temperature, but Rhys didn’t care. He had to think, and to do that he needed space that didn’t spark memories from the night before. He had been both wrong and right about Chase, though he wasn’t sure which bothered him more. The man was beyond his dreams and fantasies in bed, but was either hostile to him or ignored him completely outside it. He knew the latter was his own fault for not ’fessing up about why he’d acted like such a douche at the club. That didn’t explain why Chase had run in the middle of the night or why he’d refused both calls and texts.
He wanted to believe the sweet, protective man he had witnessed with James during the stalking was the true person inside, but the clubbing, flamboyant attitude when he didn’t know Rhys was there made him doubt. However, Chase leaving before dawn kept the fear that he was merely a notch on Chase’s bedpost very fresh and real.
The subplot of the story has Rhys and his brother Dal investigating a serious of alleged gay suicides. Rhys believes these crimes are murder, and the investigation becomes more intense as more bodies are discovered. Chase is helping with background research. And, as the investigation builds, it takes a strange twist that not only brings past crashing down on him, but also leaves him vulnerable and puts his life in danger.
Tempeste O’Riley does a wonderful job developing this story. The focus of the story is on the romance between Chase and Rhys, but the subplots in the story reveal the depth with which O’Riley has designed this series. O’Riley’s prose are beautiful and descriptive. The dialogue serves the purpose of moving the story along and providing insights into the characters. O’Riley’s characters are multi-dimensional, strong, vulnerable, and sometimes leave their true selves between the lines of prose and dialogue. The dimensions of the characters are often revealed through subtle actions, and that is what makes this book a great read.
Thank you Tempeste O’Riley for providing a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.