Every time I start a review for a ZA Maxfield book I feel like I need to disclaim my intense LOVE for her stories. So, just for the sake of tradition, I will state that ZAM has not ever written anything I haven’t loved. This book is no exception. Actually this one might be in my opinion some of her best writing. My stomach was in knots the whole time. The tone in this story is dark and dreary, with a mystery that kept my stomach in knots from beginning to end. The characters were a mixed bag of personalities that ranged from ethereal, to strange, to deeply twisted. The tone, the setting and the humans in this book all flowed though. It was bleak, but it was also very easy to connect with the heroes. Dare and Finn are a mess, so much baggage yet all I wanted for them was to be able to have at least a chance, just a chance for some happiness.
For this book I selected a wine from Oregon wine country, the Rascal Pinot Noir is a pretty light red wine. Not too full, but still flavorful, definitely a red that can be enjoyed even in the warm summer weather. It goes for about $10 a bottle which is a pretty nice deal. For food I decided to make a quick and easy meal. I figure neither of these two guys have much interest in the kitchen, so I went with something easy and flavorful. I made a Sweet & Sour Stir Fry that you can make with pretty much any kind of protein or even just veggies. Served on top of rice it’s a fast and filling meal.
You can never go home…Dare only wishes that were true. Dare was a guy who lost his anchor after the inexplicable suicide of his father, and from then on he just drifted. Sometimes he let his dick mess things up for him, sometimes he let his drinking do it. The kid who had it all together growing up in Palladian, Oregon was not the man that came back to the little town after essentially destroying his career as a homicide detective in Seattle. He’s to come home in shame to Palladian to take a job he only got as a favor to his father memory at the local police department. Dare has failed everything and everyone in his life. Especially Finn Fowler.
Finn the little kid Dare rescued from a bully back from elementary school and protected fiercely for the next four years. Finn who he walked away form without a single word for the next fifteen. Finn the only thing in Palladian that had even a hint of home. Finn he’s always been a yearning in Dare. The things he feels for Finn, he’s never felt for anyone else. He wants to protect Finn, to save him. But he failed his friend when he left him without a second glance, and the Finn that he’s found is not the Finn that he left. This man is harder and darker and has secrets. SO MANY secrets. He’s also had a lot harder life than he deserved. Finn has gone through so much, it’s made him cynical it seems and so shut off. The only thing he seems to care about is his aunt who is in the last stages of cancer. Dare wants to help, he needs to step up, but he is such a mess himself. It seems like everything in his life went off the rails the day his father took his own life and it never got back on track. Maybe if he finds out once and for all what really happened to his father than the dark cloud over his life could dispel. Just seems the more he uncovers the less he understands.
I think this book is some of ZAM’s best writing. One thing I enjoy more and more with everyone of her books is that her stories and her men are not subscribed to any sort of formula. So even though I recognize her brand, the stories feel new. When ZAM does a darker story, her men are flawed yes, but they are also incredibly easy to empathize with. Because they are broken in ways we can all relate to. Dare and Finn were easy to love and even easier to root for. Palladian was also an incredibly rich setting, there is a saying in Spanish “Pueblo Chico, Infierno Grande…Small Town, Big Hell” and that in a few words was Palladian. A town that thrived on secrets, lies, gossip and pettiness to a level of gluttony where it was literally eating it’s young. What a place. I hope we get to visit Palladian again, because the drama in that town definitely captured my interest. It was like a blend between Wisteria Lane and Twin Peaks. Very intriguing place Palladian was.
This book was solid. A hefty mystery which kept me guessing, very interesting characters, a love story that although was not high on the romance it had plenty of depth to make my heart ache at the right moments. The writing itself was pretty wonderful too.
Home the Hard Way is out today from Riptide Publishing and is available for purchase here.
Sweet and Sour Stir Fry Recipe
1 cup of rice (cook according to intructions)
2 cups of chopped veggies (I used onions, baby corn, brocoli, carrots, bell peppers and mushrooms)
1 cup of shrimp (you can use any other protein you want like chicken or beef)
1 clove of garlic minced
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp agave nectar/brown sugar
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
3 teaspoons of cornstarch
Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl stir until the are well blended and set aside. In a large hot skillet saute the garlic for a minute, add the protein and stir until it is cooked. Remove the protein and set aside, in the same pan add a bit of sesame seed oil and saute the veggies for about two minutes.
Add the sauce to the skillet and stir for a minute. When the sauce starts to thicken add the protein and simmer on low for a couple minutes. Serve over white rice and enjoy with your glass of wine!
Hope you enjoy the book, the meal and the wine!
Cheers and Happy Reading!