Review: A Mended Man (The Men of Halfway House #4) by Jaime Reese

Detective Aidan Calloway is rock-solid strong. He's a man of justice—loyal to his friends, family, and job—even if it requires bending a law…or two. He shields himself behind an abrasive, fearless facade, until a phone call one night chips his armor and throws his perfectly planned, hollow life into a tailspin.

Jessie Vega is the epitome of optimism. His carefully crafted attitude of hope and positivity protects him from a past filled with too much pain. When a ghost from a dark time resurfaces and nearly breaks him, he must tap into his inner strength or risk losing everything he's worked so hard to build.

But Jessie can't do it alone. He must fight to break through Aidan's ironclad defenses to reveal the heart of the man hiding beneath the tough surface and mend his damaged spirit. Only then can they truly heal and become strong enough to battle the demons that haunt them and threaten their chance to finally be together.

Well, that was a journey. A long journey that covered SO many emotions. It was so well done though that I didn’t take any notice of the page count (or percentage count) as I read. I was way too engaged in the evolution of Aiden and Jessie to even pay attention.

I’ve been hooked on this series since Julian and Matt in A Better Man. I read that one in 2012 and reread it again and again. Julian has always had a special spot in my heart. I love strong protective characters with tough pasts. The characters who take all the hurt and pain and learn what NOT to do from their early experiences. They learn from the crappy hand that life has dealt them and teach themselves to be better men. That’s Julian and now, that is Aiden. In no way is he like Julian, but he has those same core qualities that make me all swoony inside and get me hooked right from the start.

Both Aiden and Jessie have been around in the series for a while and I was as anxious as everyone else for their story. There were glimpses into their lives, but for the most part they were both a mystery until now. There was a lot of story for each of these guys to get through and the author had to balance a lot of backstory while at the same time having them move forward. I really liked how the pace played out. Anything rushed would have cheapened their experiences and their hard won HEA wouldn’t have been nearly as valuable as it was.

The action starts right at page 1 and doesn’t let up for quite some time. When someone from Jessie’s past comes for him and tries to break him, Aiden is there for him and I learned so much about Aiden’s heart in the first third of the book and in a really unique way. His actions in that time showed me everything about his feelings for Jessie and even though Jessie wasn’t an active player in any of the scenes, Aiden’s thoughts about him gave me a ton of insight into Jessie’s character as well.

They’ve both been through their own versions of hell up until this point and had walls they’d built and coping mechanisms to deal that got them through their daily lives. They’re both getting by, but neither of them are really living. The bulk of the book is about, just like the title states, mending. Jessie has been in therapy for some time so he’s got a jump on Aiden in the coping department and thank goodness for that. He knows when to push and when to give space, and mostly he knows what to do to give Aiden peace to heal and a safe space to just be.

While the book is lengthy and full of difficult emotions and experiences, there wasn’t manufactured angst between Aiden and Jessie thankfully. They had to work to be together, no doubt about that and it was not easy, but they didn’t cause any undo drama between each other just because. There was enough baggage for these guys to work through without any of that and any trepidation Aiden (well, mostly Aiden) had was born out of a desire to protect Jessie. But Jessie knew how to work Aiden and take him to a healthy place so he could process and feel loved.

The way the two of them made each other feel was my favorite thing about A Mended Man. There was more than just therapeutic communication going on throughout the book. It was also a slow burn courtship that was really delicious to read. They flirted and opened up to one another in really adorable ways. They settled into daily routines that gave them the comfort and confidence to attempt actual “relationship” stuff and to just try and be a normal couple. I really think all of those little moments gave Aiden the strength and determination he needed to be able to process all of the painful memories to get on the path to mending his heart and soul.

The appearance and references to the other couples from the previous books were welcome moments that made me feel warm and fuzzy. Cole is still his loud and imposing self and his little nuggets of wisdom were spot on and the pure logic of his ramblings drove Aiden crazy. Each character returned with their strongest personality points and they all fit right in at just the right times.

The mystery at the end wrapped up rather quickly given the overall length of the novel, but honestly, I was all about the relationship aspect of the story and it was fine by me.

The HEA Aiden and Jessie earned was a tough one and they earned every little bit of happiness they fought for.

**a copy of this story was provided by the author for an honest review*

For more information on A Mended Man, check it out over on Goodreads.

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