If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll know I’m a big fan of the Men of Haven series for the underlying themes of family and doing what’s right. You might also have noticed I’ve expressed concern about the edge of risque behavior they mention but which occurs off screen. Well, that’s thrown out the window with Axel and Lizzy’s story.
I state this up front because I’m not the only one leery. I didn’t quit the book because Morgan is a talented writer, and she brings the emotional connections to life during those scenes. While Lizzy is introduced to this behavior in the book, Axel makes sure he has consent and takes care to confirm she’s still willing at all points. It also doesn’t go into any of the violent aspects beyond a bit of rope. It’s not my thing, but thanks to the writing, I was able to accept it was theirs even though the dominance play was very much front and center in detailed description.
Nor was this the only way Down & Dirty differs from the rest of the series. Instead of discovering Lizzy is in imminent danger and helping her solve the problem, the trouble rose from her past. When the psychological abuse became physical back then, her good friend Rex pulled her out, but the effects still linger.
What starts as a revenge plot turns a little more current as her ex-manager and lover tries the same tricks. Axel is not one to stand back and let this happen, but the brothers do their homework. They find a way to make the man pay not just for his crimes against a younger Lizzy but also those he continues to perpetuate.
While it is different in those two aspects, otherwise, the book holds to the same principles as the rest of the series. They have a family of choice that supports and backs them. This is true even before Lizzy is willing to admit she’s bonded with Axel because of her history with the ex-manager. The brothers even adopt her friend Rex because he’s as much or more her family than anyone with blood ties.
The mothers take Lizzy under their protection, attempting to make up for everything she’d been denied in her family life. Lizzy growing comfortable with female friends is lovely as is her acceptance of how she trusts Axel’s character no matter what appears to be going on. That trust is confirmed in the best way possible at the climax, solving the one niggling aspect of the series for me in a beautiful way. I’ll say only that accepting the friendship of the other women in the Haven group is one of many changes she makes. You must read the book to find out the others.
It’s a testament to the strength and complexity of the characters and the story that I enjoyed this novel despite it going a little beyond my comfort zone. Rhenna Morgan could have lost me here, but she has not. It’s a beautiful story that asks a lot of both Axel and Lizzy while giving the Haven family another chance to demonstrate how family should come together and do the right thing. They protect their own members, but also help any others affected by the same wrongdoing. The series holds true to its themes and offers clear examples of making the right choices even when they are tough ones.
P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.