Above and Beyond (Twist of Fate Book 4)
Above and beyond is the story of two men broken in different ways finding solace in each other and coming to terms with their pasts. Zach is Lucky's older man crush and has been since he was a teen. Zach is repressed, not in regards to his sexuality, but from a past filled with pain and his own feelings of responsibility and inadequacy that have him keeping secrets and distance from his family. Lucky is his weakness and is part of the reason he never goes home. Lucky is the adopted son of Zack's brother's best friend adding another layer of complicated that is more a sticking point for Zack than Lucky.
What is so endearing about this story is Lucky, he is brave, courageous, smart, kind hearted and loyal. His loving nature and eagerness to please make him seem younger than his twenty years, but his attitude in the face of what he went through as a child before being adopted and his focus on learning to save others, shows that he was a man long before his age reflected it.
Zach is all of the a**hole Lucky often calls him and that Zach calls himself, but Lucky sees beyond that and Zach softens because of who Lucky is. Their story is one of growth more for the older man Zack, but also for Lucky in that he has to come to terms with what he is willing to give of himself to capture the love of his life. Aspects of the plot were so predictable (the stalking part) but it did not take away from the angst and heartache you feel for how broken Zack is and how Lucky is just what he needs to see the hero in himself.
I love these characters. Zack is unlikeable, but in a way the reader knows exactly why he builds the walls he does, even before he reveals the depths of his demons. Lucky is everything, ready to dedicate his life to saving others while coming to terms with feeling like he is unwanted and always in danger of being left or thrown away. This story shows the progression of friendship and love between two broken people who may just be the salvation for the other.
While there was at least a decade age difference, it is not creepy or hard to get past Zach being in his thirties and Lucky being 20. Zack's behavior keeps him safe, until Lucky calls bullshit while finding his own voice. The sex scenes were well done and the action scenes had me on the edge of my seat.
My only critique is the stalking aspect kind of fell flat. It felt like it was a forgotten part of the plot and then poof 3/4 through it is wrapped up off page in a neat bow that we find out about from secondary character. It was just weird and felt more as a convenient plot device rather than a fleshed out, interesting, or important part of the story. This cost this book a star. I truly recommend this messed up, angsty, rough (Zack) at the same time soft (Lucky) story.
One other thing I really liked is the family dynamics in this book on page were written as if they were the norm. With Lucky's two father's and his new twin siblings and Zack's brother and his husband, it felt good to read about queer relationships that didn't have to be justified or categorized. This type of story telling when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation is what we need showing that love is normal and shouldn't need to be explained or written any different than telling the story of a cisgender-straight couple.
Trigger warnings: PTSD/Mental Illness Abuse Stalking violence