Rating: 5 Stars

Publisher: Tatum West

Genre: Gay Romance

Tags: Contemporary, Cop, Mystery, Romance, Series

Length: 239 Pages

Reviewer: Cindi

Purchase At: Amazon.com

Blurb –

I swore I’d never set foot in this town again. But Abingdon needs me. And Kendall Vincent might just get me to stay for good.

I was tired of working the police beat in Northern Cali. Exhausted–my whole body was yearning for a place I hadn’t been in years, my old home. When my mama died, I knew I had to come back, and my new job as police chief sealed the deal.

I got away from heartbreak. From being so tired. From the constant, never-ending world of crime I’d come to know.
In Abingdon, I can relax, see all my old friends from Jackson Academy. Maybe I can even change this place and make it better for all the kids like me. The ones who were different, who needed a place a little bigger and broader than a small mountain town could provide.
I always promised myself I wouldn’t come back.
But Kendall Vincent–he might get me to stay for good. When I’m in his arms, I feel complete, whole again, like a man reborn to the world.

Everything seems perfect, right up until the moment that it’s not.
When two gay kids get hurt bad by a gang of thugs, I realize that Abingdon needs me far more than I thought.
And I’m here to protect the town–and the man–that I’m growing to love.

I’ve survived everything this world has tossed my way–ignorant parents, falling for men who want to play straight, and running a food truck in a town that likes its men butch and its hot dogs bland as all hell.
I even got through chemo and three bone marrow transplants when I was a kid.
But nothing prepared me for meeting Gilman Steele.
Six feet of pure muscle with eyes that shine like gold and a smile I’d like to see every morning for the rest of my life.
I know I’m crazy, but I swear to God almighty that I fell in love with that man of Steele from the first second I laid eyes on him.

There’s a secret I know that could change my relationship with Gil, a lie I’ve been hiding for over a year.
It could threaten Gil’s life here, everything he’s worked for. But justice is justice, and I believe in the Abingdon that Gil wants to create.
When the drama gets worse than I ever imagined, I realize that Gil’s not the only one in danger.
I’m toppling off a bridge and getting sucked down into the murky water of Holston Lake when I know for sure–this isn’t the day I meet my maker.
I didn’t survive everything I’ve been through just to die at the hands of an evil man with a secret far darker than my own.
I’ll make my way back to Gil. He’s mine, now and forever.

This town might not be ready for us, but I am.
And I plan to let the world know it.

Steele My Heart is the first book in the Bridge to Abingdon series. Each book focuses on one amazing couple, and each can be read as a total standalone. There’s lots of steam, a heaping dose of mystery, a dash of insta-love, and a happy ending that’s guaranteed to make your heart melt. There are a few chilling scenes and some ignorant jerks who meet justice in every sense of the word. Gil Steele and Kendall Vincent are the future of Abingdon, and the men who set up the story for the rest of our lovers. Enjoy!

Review –

Gil Steele is a cop in California who’s close to burn out. When he’s told the police chief position is open in his hometown of Abingdon, he takes a chance and applies. He couldn’t wait to get out of the small town once upon a time. Now he’s yearning for his family, the community, and a job that’s not quite as busy and stressful as what he’s dealing with now. When he’s interviewed for the position he’s convinced he won’t get the job. He’s a straight-forward, no nonsense kind of guy and that comes through clearly during the interview process. He also doesn’t hide the fact that he’s gay, not even attempting to cover up a rainbow tat on his arm. If he gets the job he won’t take any b.s. and he’ll do everything in his power to bring the town into the 21st century. The town has made strides since he left home for bigger and better things, but there’s still a lot left to be done yet.

Imagine his surprise when he gets the call saying that he’s the new police chief of Abingdon if he wants the job. He can’t pack his bags quick enough.

Kendall Vincent is a survivor. He survived cancer as a child and is now living his life to the fullest. He owns his own business – Dirty, Hot, & Sweet – a food truck that serves gumbo and other ‘southern’ foods, and I’m not referring to bland hot dogs and burgers. πŸ™‚ He’s a good cook and he’s quite successful.Β He’s working the ‘Busker Fest’ in his food truck when he gets a good look at the town’s new police chief. At first he’s convinced that the big guy is as straight as an arrow. But then the hot chief aims a few flirty looks at Kendall and he’s mentally cheering and hoping for a chance to get the man alone.

When they both show up at a private party after the festival he gets his wish. Holy cow, does he get his wish. They only have a few minutes together before Gil gets a call and has to leave, but I fell head over heels in love with both men in those few minutes. The sex between them throughout the book is amazing, but it isn’t just sex. They immediately fall into something that goes way beyond that. Gil is protective of Kendall from the moment they meet and that only gets stronger as they spend more time together.

Kendall is strong in his own right, having survived what he did as a child and growing up as the only child of a homophobic, bigoted Church of God minister.

This isn’t a ‘rush, rush let’s have sex and then work on maybe having more’ type of relationship. It all comes together at the same time and it’s beautiful. They click right off, though nothing in the story seems rushed. I was thankful for that. I didn’t have to sit through page after page of filler of ‘does he?’ or ‘doesn’t he?’ with these guys. Their feelings – even if they held off on voicing them for awhile – were right there front and center. There was no guessing by either one of how the other one felt. I guess I can say it’s love at first sight – they were both feeling something much stronger than arousal or friendship almost immediately – but it worked so well for these two. I seriously love how it was written.

It’s Gil’s first week on the job and a horrible crime has been dropped in his lap. Two high school boys are brutally attacked at Gil’s old high school. It’s instantly obvious that it’s a hate crime. The more Gil investigates the more bad things happen. The sheriff in the county, a homophobic prick, makes it clear that he has no problem ridding the area of any person who doesn’t fall into his little mold. Those people, of course, are gay people. These types of crimes have been happening for years but witnesses won’t talk, victims suddenly leave town, and fear hangs over the heads of everybody else. Gil makes it his mission to take the sheriff and his cronies down. It’s not just about the town he grew up in. It’s also about his father, sister, and now Kendall.

But then things hit much too close to home and Gil might just lose everything he’s waited his entire life for – right after he found it.

There are other important characters who make up the story. There’s Dillon, Gil’s former military buddy, former lover, and current best friend. The jury is still out for me with Dillon. I didn’t love him very much in this book. His story is next so hopefully that will change.

We have Lizzy Mae, Gil’s hilarious grandmother. I so want to be Lizzy Mae when I grow up. πŸ™‚ She takes no prisoners and doesn’t have a shy bone in her body. She’s perfect.

There’s Nikki, a former classmate of Gil’s who is amazing, and his husband, Fox.

Of course there are the bad guys who were written perfectly. Normally I shy away from small town homophobic type stories, but Steele My Heart wasn’t anything like the others I’ve read – thank goodness. Oh, the homophobes were bad, but they didn’t completely overshadow everything else, mainly Gil and Kendall.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in very long time. There’s mystery, humor, well written sex, and a true romance. I laughed a few times (Lizzy Mae) and I got misty-eyed more than once. I seriously adored both Gil and Kendall.

When I got to the epilogue I groaned to myself. The book had ended beautifully, why did it need more added to it? And then I read it. I can’t say more than this… aww! It couldn’t have ended a better way.

There’s a lot more to the story than what I mention in this review, but I don’t want to say too much and spoil it for other readers. I honestly can’t recommend it enough. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that I know I’ll be reading again. Steele My Heart has just gone on my ‘comfort reads’ list.

This is my first by Tatum West. I’ll be reading A Fighting Chance (#2 in the series) soon – and hoping for the best with Dillon – and seeking out more of her books as they become available. I’m really glad I picked this one up. An outstanding read.