Book Review – Unguarded by Jay Hogan


Release Date: May 6, 2021
Buy Link | Goodreads | Vino & Veritas Page | Series Links

Blurb:

I fled Boston and my cheating jerk of an ex with three hundred dollars and a lip gloss in my pocket. Waking up the next day in Burlington, Vermont, with a crick in my back and a frozen ass wasn’t exactly in the plan. If there was one. Which there wasn’t. Story of my life.

Three hours later and I’ve been hired as temporary help in the local veterinary and grooming clinic, which is kind of impressive since I know zip about animals and even less about grooming. But one thing I do know—I’m crushing hard on the sexy, absent-minded vet I work for.

My life is a hot mess. The last thing I need is another relationship. Emmett pushes all my buttons, but he isn’t out. He’s overwhelmed with a business to run and a son to look after and the kind of domestic life I never thought I wanted.

I should walk away.

But Emmett believes in me, and I might just be starting to believe in myself. As different as we are, is it possible we’re exactly what the other needs?

Review

I’m already a huge fan of this author, and loved this book. Tai and Emmett are both caring, wonderful men who need to move forward with their lives, but for different reasons. The mix of attraction, friendship, drama, action, and family hit my reading spot perfectly, and I was sad when the book finished.

I loved how complex these guys are. Tai’s hooking up with the horrible ex, Dion, is tied into his personality, rather than just being a huge mistake. Just as Emmett falling hard and fast is part of his. I really liked his late wife’s role in the story. It’s very obvious that Emmett was madly in love with her, and she’s missed, and I liked how Tai takes the time to not only listen to Emmett talk about her, but that he wants to know about her as she was such a huge part of Emmett’s life. I loved both Emmett and Tai, and how Tai bonds with Leo, Emmett’s son. I enjoyed the scenes of them interacting. I thought Emmett’s being bi was very well written, including some of the assumptions that go along with people discovering that Emmett is now with Tai.

Ivy is wonderful in the way she supports Emmett, yet doesn’t take any nonsense from him. I also loved Tai’s parents, and their role in the story. They’re wonderfully supportive, yet know Tai so well. This is very much a story about family, which I think is one of its strengths. Jasper, and Briar at the bookshop also feel really real, and left me wanting to read more about them. I liked Lu’s parents, and thought they showed why Emmett was so in love with their daughter. Emmett’s father also rocks, and I liked that although his mother had a lot to learn, it doesn’t define her totally as a character, and she is able to move forward. I was very happy with how the storyline with Dion panned out, and the wonderful drama/action scenes with him. Go Emmett!

Sassy, Gus, and Max steal every scene they are, which is only right.

I also loved the setting and have enjoyed every book in this world I’ve read so far. Every scene was easy to visualise, and I loved how real the vet scenes felt. Although there’s drama and some angst in this story, there’s a good sized dollop of humour too.

I’d recommend reading the bonus epilogue as it rounds out an already wonderful HEA.

5 out of 5 stars.

Excerpt

The final client of the morning was a grumbling, overweight Pekingese cross named Charles, with an attitude to rival Genghis Khan and an owner who refused to come in with her dog because she didn’t want the nippy little demon to associate her with any discomfort.

Under instruction from Ivy, Tai had the growling, muzzled dog wrapped in a towel and pinioned against his stomach, his expression caught somewhere between are-you-fucking-kidding-me and abject terror.

I told him what we were about to do and he stared at me in wide-eyed disbelief. “You did not just say you were going to milk this little guy’s anal glands?”

I swallowed a laugh. “I believe those were my exact words.”

His gaze flicked down to the squirming dog, then back up. “Do I even want to ask why?”

I shrugged and pulled on some gloves. “The anal glands are two little sacs on either side of the rectum. Normally they get expressed every time the dog poops. Helps mark his territory.”

“Oh. My. God.” Tai rolled his eyes dramatically. “I think I dated a guy like that once.”

Ivy snorted while I grappled with an influx of images involving Tai with another guy and that whole territorial marking thing. I snapped the second glove on my wrist like an elastic band, hoping the pain might shock some sense into me.

It didn’t.

Tai got his freak under control and tucked Charles firmly back against his stomach. It was the first time I’d ever been jealous of the mutt.

“I know I’m going to regret asking this,” he said, wrinkling his nose. “But what happens when things don’t get expressed, on the whole anal-gland front? And I can’t believe I just said that.”

“Welcome to my world.” Ivy appeared from the supply room.

I caught Tai’s eye and waggled my eyebrows. He was hella fun to tease. “I’m so glad you asked that question. If they don’t get expressed naturally, not helped by poor diet and excess weight, then the glands can block and get smelly and painful. They can even form an abscess that can burst onto the skin.”

Tai’s mouth dropped open in horror. “Holy crap. And also—another date of mine.”

I gave a strangled laugh and realized I hadn’t had so much fun at work since . . . well yeah, it had been a while.

“Damn, that’s disgusting. The poor thing.” Tai lifted Charles to smooch him safely around the back of his ears. “We need to talk about your diet young man,” he cooed to the dog who, miracle of miracles, appeared to calm. “Fiber is the key, plus plenty of water and attention to timing. Clean, screened, and fit for a queen.” He glanced up with a wicked grin. “Right, Mr. Vet?”

Ivy coughed loudly, while every semi-functioning neuron in my body focused on only one thing that shall not be mentioned.

“I, yeah . . . I guess,” I managed to croak. “Although maybe not the screening thing, not for dogs.”

Tai lifted Charles to eyeball him. “Safety first.”

Ivy joined us at the table. “Okay, you two. Let’s get this done so I can spritz the room. Keep a firm grip,” she told Tai.

His eyes widened. “This is going to smell worse than I thought, isn’t it?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Think fishy.”

Tai got a tight hold on the wriggling dog. “Huh? Not my first guess. Okay, I’m ready. I have to say, it feels a little like an initiation.”

I flashed him an encouraging smile. “You’ll be fine. Now hold that tail up.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew, and sure enough—

He snorted. “Not the first time I’ve been told that.”

I shook my head, gently squeezed, and . . .

“Whoa.” He gave a long blink and jerked his head around and out of the way. “Ewww, Charles. That’s some nasty shit right there.”

I grinned from ear to ear, pretty much as I had from the minute Tai had walked into my clinic. I was so fucked.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at https://annebarwell.wordpress.com
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