Dare Buckley has come home—or at least, he’s come back to Palladian, the small town he left as a teenager. After a major lapse in judgment forced him to resign from the Seattle PD, Palladian is the only place that’ll hire him. There’s one benefit to hitting rock bottom, though: the chance to investigate the mystery of his father’s suicide.
Dare also gets to reacquaint himself with Finn Fowler, whose childhood hero worship ended in uncomfortable silence when Dare moved away. But Finn isn’t the same little kid Dare once protected. He’s grown into an attractive, enigmatic stranger who neither wants nor needs what Dare has to offer.
In fact, Dare soon realizes that Finn’s keeping secrets—his own and the town’s. And he doesn’t seem to care that Dare needs answers. The atmosphere in Palladian, like its namesake river, appears placid, but dark currents churn underneath. When danger closes in, Dare must pit his ingenuity against his heart, and find his way home the hard way.
This is one of those books that I honestly had to wrap my head around before I reviewed it. This was a tough one. It was a great read, but some parts of it weren’t easy to read. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Dare had made some mistakes, both in his career and in his personal life. Finn was broken. Dare kind of knew that going in, but he had no idea to what extent. He still saw Finn as the young boy that he felt the need to protect. A lot had happened since then. They both had to come to terms with who they once were and meld them together with the men that they had become. Not an easy task and the circumstances Z.A. Maxfield created for them in Home the Hard Way didn’t make it any easier.
Dare spent most of the story trying to prove himself. He couldn’t afford to screw things up again. Finn spent most of the story trying to protect himself. The rest of the time he spent protecting the people around him. He never let his guard down. He kept a protective wall around himself. He was detached and that was one thing that Dare couldn’t handle. That and the fact that he couldn’t wrap his head around the Finn he once knew and the Finn that he found when he came back.
The twists and turns in Home the Hard Way nearly tore them apart and they weren’t easy on the reader either. I spent a lot of my time reading this story trying to figure out exactly how this could end in a good way for any of the characters. I also spent a fair amount of time being mad at the wrong characters. Nothing is exactly as it seems, ever, and that’s especially true for Palladian. This is not a book for the faint of heart. I tagged it ‘tough issues’ for a reason. It’s not an easy read, no… but it is well worth it, honest.